Today is Ricky Nelson's 29th birthday, but many of us are probably so caught up in the exciting race for the Ivy League lacrosse title that we have hardly given any thought to old Rick in the last few days. Rick, however, likes sports almost as much as his guitar and his Brylcreem, so he'd probably understand.
Crimson midfielder Bruce Regan, an honorable mention All-American last spring, said a couple of weeks ago before the Brown game that if Harvard lost to the Bruins, the league championship would be out of reach. It would be the second loss of the season, and in fact, Harvard did lose that game, but now a share of the first place appears possible for the Crimson.
Realistic analysts would not predict such a cheery outcome for coach Bruce Munro's team, but the Harvard's 13-12 upset win over the previously unbeaten Tigers last Saturday has admittedly thrown the race into confusion. There are now two teams with one loss, and three teams who have dropped two decisions.
Harvard's hopes rest a good deal on Cornell. The Big Red, champs last year and runner-up in 1967, has yet to play Princeton and Brown, the two teams who have only lost once. But a parallel with Rick Nelson may be drawn here: Cornell's lacrosse team is not what it used to be. The defending champs were routed by Harvard, 12-4, and succumbed to Penn, 7-6.
But suddenly, Cornell has won an Ivy League game. The Big Red dumped Yale, 12-9, Saturday after scoring seven consecutive goals in the middle of the game. Eli coach Dick Corrigan said, "We gave the game away by making too many mistakes and not picking up ground balls." That, however, is a typical Yalie line after an unexpected loss, and all losses at Yale are unexpected from the Elis' point of view. They said the same type of thing after last fall's Harvard-Yale football game.
The more logical explanation of Cornell's win Saturday at New Haven is the improvement of the Big Red Team. Corrigan hinted at this possibility when he said, "But give some credit to their goaltender, Bob Rule. He made 27 saves, and many were in turning point situations."
The defense was the preseason questionmark for Cornell since both Butch Hilliard and Henry Gompf had been graduated. Hilliard was first team All-American goalie, and Gompf was on the third team. Only three of last year's lettermen on defense were returning. So it has been up to sophomore Rule and his colleagues to develop quickly, and now it appears that they may be ready. Another sophomore who has helped the team is midfielder Brian McCutcheon.
Thus, Cornell can play the role of the spoiler, and if it can somehow down both Princeton and Brown, and beat cellar-dweller Dartmouth, the Big Red could be one of five teams to share the title. Unlikely, but possible. Curt Gowdy immortalized the words: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Brown will be seeking revenge on Cornell. Last year, both teams were 5-0 before they squared off at Ithaca. The Big Red notched an exciting 11-10 win to take the title and drop the Bruins into second place.
The Cornell-Brown contest is this weekend in Providence, and Cornell meets the Tigers seven days later in Ithaca, away from the exhuberant fans at Princeton. The Big Red can do Penn, Harvard, and themselves, the three teams who have lost twice, two big favors by winning these games. Even if Cornell can win one, it would be appreciated.
To get back to the subject at hand, Harvard has two contests left on its schedule. The Crimson is favored to beat both Dartmouth and Yale, but in these days of uncertainty, neither win is assured.
The Indians pose a minimal threat as they seek their first league win since 1966. Preseason publications indicated that the Dartmouth objective this spring was improvement, but this improvement has not been realized as yet. The anemic Dartmouth offense has been averaging less than four goals a game.
Yale will be a little more of a challenge since the Bulldogs topped Dartmouth, 7-5. Unfortunately, Brian Dowling plays baseball, and the Elis are weak at midfield. A team with sub par middies rarely does well. Yale is conforming to this rule, but reports indicate that the boys have a lot of spirit. Harvard plays Dartmouth Saturday, and the match against Yale is a week later at home.
Fortunately, the Crimson now appears to be picking up momentum after a slow start. A number of the injured players are back, and the sophomores have gained valuable experience. Another positive factor is the third midfield line of Charlie Scott, Bucky Hayes, and Ted Rumsey. These three saw limited action in early-season games, but Munro used them frequently in the Princeton game, and the strategy worked as the first two lines did not tire so much in the second half.
After scoring four goals and one assist against Princeton, Crimson attackman John Ince is now tied with Tiger sophomore Pete Johnsen for the Ivy scoring lead with 20 points. Ince, a junior who won the league scoring title last year with 23 points, has collected nine goals and 11 assists. Brown's Bob Anthony is third with 16 points.
Ince now has 95 career points including his performances in non-league games to rank eighth on Harvard's all-time list, tied with Tink Gunnoe '64. He needs seven more to move into sole position of fifth place.