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Harvard's win over Stanford signaled growth

Published: September 16, 2010
A little less than a year ago, Brian Rogers – then a wide-eyed freshman – helped lead a burgeoning Harvard program into a marquee match at top 10-ranked Connecticut.

It was a moment to be seized for both player and school, with Rogers looking to stamp his name on the national map and Harvard coveting more respect in the soccer world.

It would end up a major turning point on both counts.

Not because Harvard prevailed - please, they got hammered 4-0 and Rogers froze like Encino Man.

But because the match, as disappointing as it may have been, was a glimpse into where Rogers and the Crimson were destined to go with a little time and growth.

harvard mens college soccer player brian rogersBrian Rogers
“It was by far the most hostile environment that I had ever played in,” Rogers said. “We were humbled and that’s one match I have to say that the nerves got the better of me.”

That’s also the last match where Rogers can say that.

Harvard lost just one remaining regular season game that season, on their way to the Ivy League title, and advanced to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament.

As for Rogers, he finished second on the team with 18 points and six goals while being named the conference Rookie of the Year.

They’re growing together, you see. Harvard, as the underappreciated program surmised as an academic sanctuary and little else, and Rogers as the 6-foot-2 striker perfectly suited to take the team into a new realm.

“Something we talk a lot about is getting more national respect,” Rogers said. “One of our goals is to make people think about our soccer program when they think of Harvard and not just academics. Every game we feel we have something to prove.”

The Crimson started proving early in 2010 with a season-opening 2-1 win against Pac-10 powerhouse Stanford.

Rogers scored the game-winner in that one and he leads the team in goals thus far. The former Albertson SC club player also leads in other ways.

He often observes the deer-in-headlights look in some of his freshman teammates; the one he knows well from that night a year ago. His constant encouragement is a calming influence to his group and part of the maturation he’s enjoying in his sophomore year.

“The biggest difference is mental,” said Rogers, of the leap from year one to two. “Last year before a lot of games I really didn’t know what to expect, now I have an understanding of each game and it gives me confidence. As a team we know we can compete against anyone and I feel like I can go against any defense.”

Arguably the best player in an Ivy League Conference that boasts standouts like Paul Grandstrand, Antoine Hoppenot, Josh Walburn, Daniel Keat and Mark Linnville, Rogers is a fearless attacker.

He’s at his best with the ball at his feet when he can turn and run, challenging a defender face-to-face.

Though national acknowledgment has come slow, the credentials of Harvard (#17 in the latest TopDrawerSoccer.com ranking) are right in front of your face.  

The Crimson has reached four straight NCAA Tournaments, something not every top school can boast. And while reaching a fifth would be nice, the team has its goals set a bit higher.

“We would like to make it further than the 16 in the NCAA Tournament this year,” Rogers said. We’re starting to get more respect, but at this point, in order to go to the next level we have to start consistently beating the bigger programs.”

They’re getting closer.

Harvard was sent back to Connecticut last week, the site of last season’s meltdown, to play the No. 12 Huskies.

But this time, they came out with a 1-1 tie and Rogers led the team in shots.

They’re definitely getting closer.
 
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