As a young player growing up in North Carolina, Andrew Crawford (OF) dreamed of having the opportunity to play on the world’s largest graduate school soccer stage, the Texas Winter Classic. Despite the unpredictable Boston weather, Crawford and his teammates of the Harvard Business School soccer team were able to escape over a foot of snow and head to Austin, TX where the team went undefeated to bring home the first major soccer title that the Shad trophy case has seen since Sisqo’s Thong Song was playing on your Sony Walkman. The championship symbolizes the first title for the graduating class of 2008 and marks the end of the “final four” curse that has plagued them throughout their two year career.

Due to the snow delay, the team left a day late and drove directly from the Austin airport to their first game on Saturday. Signs of fatigue and jetlag were more than apparent in the scoreless first 30 minutes of play against the University of Chicago. Co-President Steven Whittingham (OC), whose managerial talents when sober border on Phil Jackson’s, inserted Jon Bunt (OC), the team’s perennial star at left out, who provided the needed lift for the team when he risked the shape of his beautifully sculpted hair by playing a beautiful header across the box to Gregg Gullinson (NC) who converted for the team’s first goal of the tournament. After recovering from his patented devastating warm-up routine, Jamie Parker (NA) let loose and scored three second half goals. HBS ended up winning the game 4-0.

Not more than 60 minutes after the conclusion of their first game, the team was tested by a scrappy Duke Alumni team. This time the team was at full strength, as the flights of the remaining members, Andrew Ferrer (ND), Adam Flake (NC), Carles Cros Segura (NC), Hadi “the Hair” Moussa (OH), Fernando Prieto (OI), Ali “Private” Palmer (OG) and Bryan “Flash” Batista (OH) finally arrived. Midfielder, Paul Attia (OG), was unable to make it out of Boston due to the weather. The late arrivers provided a much needed boost, putting together an excellent second half. The team prevailed with goals from Jay Davis (OC), Parker, and Cros Segura, winning the game 3-0. With the two wins under their belt from Saturday, the team finished first in their group and drew a tough Duke Fuqua team in the first round of the elimination games on Sunday

Parker commented about the team’s performance, “our offense really came together this tournament. I don’t know who came up with the idea to take the “I” out of “TEAM,” but that was smart.real smart. It all starts before the game when I lead the team in warm-ups and it finishes after the game with a full team cool-down. Everyone buys into it and it just makes you feel good to be part of a group that is so committed to each other.”

Marshall Tyler (OI), part-time goalkeeper, full-time fun boy, captained the team’s Saturday night activities along with the backup to the backup of the backup goalie David Moeller (OC). Marshall commented, “I didn’t want the team to be tired for the elimination round on Sunday and I know that performance can often be impaired by oversleeping and under-hydrating. Luckily we were able to avoid this problem. Furthermore, if the game comes down to penalty kicks I like to be a step slow so I can see where the guy is shooting before I commit. I knew I had to put in a big night to be ready for any overtime games on Sunday.”

Surprisingly, the team again came out flat in their 8:30am game against Duke Fuqua, with the scored tied 0-0 for most of the game. Private Palmer, making a strong case for an eventual promotion, made several excellent runs which changed the pace of the game and started tilting things in Harvard’s favor. With three minutes left, Davis gave fans a show by nut-megging a Duke defender near the left corner flag and playing a ball across the middle, where he found his section-mate Sheldon Wong (OC), who outran his defender to put the ball in the back of the net. Ironically, Wong’s mother, Yvonne (who made the trip from Los Angeles with Sheldon’s father, George) decided to sleep in for the quarterfinal game and missed her son’s game-winner. “Sheldon’s productivity has gone down substantially since his days as 17 year old.on and off the field. He’s been blaming everything on grade disclosure. The boy doesn’t even phone home any more. So I told him I thought I wouldn’t be missing much if I slept in,” Mrs. Wong later said. The final stamp on the victory was a monstrous slide tackle from Erik “I don’t drink out of trophies” Snyder (NC). The always physical Snyder said, “a lot of people talk about winning every 50-50 ball, my goal was to win every 20-80 ball in the tournament.cleats up.” Snyder is currently the leading candidate for the coveted “HBS Soccer Humanitarian of the year” award.

With the championship in sight, the HBS team faced a Kellogg team that has gone undefeated in the past two years, winning every tournament they have entered and sending out emails that somehow find their way back to the HBS squad after each tournament victory. Seeking revenge for the loss suffered at UCLA in the semi-finals, the HBS team hit a speed bump when Kellogg scored two minutes in to the game off of a controversial free kick from the excellent referees. After the goal, an angry Miguel Vodrazka Miranda (OH) told a visibly frustrated Kevin Yttre (OD), “We are not going to lose this damn game. I am from Portugal where we do things like speak Portuguese. We ain’t going out like that.” Within minutes the HBS team bounced back when the youthful Flake (who was born after Jaime Parker had his learner’s permit), drove a beautiful corner kick that was driven home by Vodrazka Miranda. After the goal, the referee asked Davis if he scored the goal and, in typical Section C fashion, Davis replied with a “YES,” taking all credit away from Vodrazka Miranda.

Two key match-ups in the game were midfielder Gale “Shnookums” Clark (OE) versus Kellogg’s superstar stopper and Flake against their standout center midfielder. Clark overcame a childhood addiction to weight gainer, a standout performance from the referees and a penchant for missing the team van to hand in an outstanding performance.

With tensions building and the game still tied at 1-1, HBS squad received a huge lift when Co-Captain, Yttre, drove a ball from midfield off a free kick that beat the Kellogg keeper and put the Crimson on top 2-1. Yttre, who can bore even the deaf with glory stories from his Wisconsin schoolboy days, began his awkward Deion Sanders high-stepping impression at midfield and sprinted into the arms of keeper, Charles Huang (NJ). Huang, who has a tattoo of a soccer goal across his back to motivate himself, made a key save minutes later and Harvard’s defense remained strong in the waning moments of the game, receiving strong efforts from Derek Brown (NA), Garrett Smith (OD) and Moussa. Smith somehow pulled himself away from his year at the Kennedy school (where he has taken advantage of the more favorable female ratio to find a partner) join the team in Austin, commenting, “It was a tough call, but I figured a long weekend of community service in Austin mentoring young players like Flake would be worth missing out on the exciting guest speakers like the sub-Ambassador to Monrovia that we are always bringing to campus.” The win over Kellogg advanced HBS to the finals where they would face a deep and energized MIT team.

The game against cross-town rival MIT started quickly, as Crawford overcame his childhood fear of sharing by assisting an early goal to Parker only minutes into the game. After another goal from Parker, the team went into half-time leading 2-0. A strong second half performance from Gavin “Smart Guy” Sathianathan (OE), Batista, Ferrer, Smith and Bunt sealed the victory, and the tournament for HBS.

After two full days of competitive soccer, co-president Whittingham, accepted the tournament trophy, and following a longstanding HBS tradition, awarded the Tournament MVP Award to the most un-athletic guy on th
e team, Kevin Yttre. The team then retreated to the Hula Hut for some well deserved drinks. Despite his loquacious nature, Flake was quite the hit with the locals including several off-duty dancers that asked to have their picture taken with the young gun.

The team celebrated the championship that night in true Austin style by visiting a local BBQ restaurant for some light refreshments. Surprisingly the team was asked to leave the restaurant despite being exemplary guests and even offering the waiters the opportunity to drink out of the trophy. The forced end to the night made a fitting end to a fantastic weekend in Austin. The RC’s will look to defend their title next year, but they will have to contend with a strong HBS Alumni team that promises to make the trip for years to come.

March 10, 2008
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