With the spring vacation losses to independents Hofstra and Adelphi, the Crimson stickmen have probably kissed their NCAA tournament hopes goodbye. Fortunately, another matter of importance, the Ivy League title chase, is just now starting to heat up.
Brown invades the Business School Field this afternoon with a lot hanging in the balance. First, Harvard badly needs a win over the Bruins to thrust itself back into the battle for league honors.
Beyond that, the Brown game has a special meaning for the Harvard coaching staff. Crimson head man Bob Scalise played for the Bruins between 1969 and 1971, garnering All-American honors and a national scoring title. Two springs after Scalise graduated, Crimson assistant Jeff Wagner captained the 1973 Bruin squad, the only team to break Cornell's hold on the Ivy title in the last seven years.
Bar Mitzvah as Coach
After he graduated, before moving to Harvard, Scalise was an assistant to his old coach Cliff Stevenson, who is in his seventeenth year at the Bruin helm. Beating his mentor would signify a coming of age for Scalise as coach. He missed the chance the first time he tried when he ordered his team to run wind sprints just before the game. They tired after building an early lead and lost, 14-12. Last spring Harvard rallied for a six-goal halftime deficit to take the game into overtime, but finally bowed out, 14-10.
Here's how Brown and the other Ivy League squads shape up this time around: CORNELL: The Big Red won the national championship last year, is ranked first in the polls this year, and is riding a 20-game winning streak. The team was hurt by graduation, but you have to remember that since 1969, while the great players have come and gone, Cornell has gone 45-1 in the Ivy League, winning six of the last seven titles. The latest great to move on is National Player of the Year Mike French (65-40-105), who led the nation in scoring each of his three years at Cornell, setting a new NCAA record each time. Also picking up a sheepskin was the less heralded but equally deadly Jon Levine (48-16-64), along with All-American midfielder Bill Marino.
But Eamon McEneaney (20-61-81), who succeeds French as the best attackman in the nation, returns to run an offense that will feature new faces but the same old explosiveness. All-American goalie Dan Mackesey is back to head an experienced, ironclad defense.
Cornell lacrosse fans need not worry; the 1977 edition will be good--very good. And the Big Red, which beat Harvard last year in Cambridge, 21-7, will be waiting for the Crimson in Ithaca on April 20.
PENN: Coach Jim Adams returns only a small nucleus of lettermen, but they are good ones. Three All-Ivy stars, middie Mike Page, attackman Pete Hollis and defenseman Don DelGiorno, head the list.
With last Saturday's 11-9 triumph over the Crimson, the Quakers stayed undefeated and earned fourth place in the national poll. Penn travels to Ithaca four days after Harvard for a game that might well decide this year's race.
Princeton Has No Discipline
PRINCETON: According to most observers, Scalise included, the Tigers have had plenty of talent the last few years, but have lacked the discipline to win big. That shortcoming may have been rectified with the arrival of a new coach, Mike Hanna, who helped Navy to five straight NCAA tournament berths as an assistant.
Now that French has left McEneaney alone at Cornell, Hanna has the best one-two attack punch in the Ivy League: Second-team All-American Wickie Sollers (49-19-68) and his All-Ivy sidekick Dave Tickner (34-32-66). Both players will undoubtedly break the school's career scoring record by midseason.
The highlight of Scalise's young coaching career came here in Cambridge against the Tigers last spring, when Harvard came from behind to win, 11-10. However, the edge must go to Princeton this spring because the game is down there.
HARVARD: Scalise has an exceedingly young but talented squad that has looked ragged so far this season. But with a solid effort in the close loss to Penn, and the 12-0 burst that destroyed B.C. Wednesday night, the team seems to be finding itself.
And now is just in time, because Harvard must face Brown and Cornell in the next five days. If the stickmen are going to make any noise this year, they had better start today.
BROWN: In 1976, Brown lost the New England Championship to UMass, 15-10, and the Ivy League title to Cornell, 10-5, but won all but one of the rest of its games to make the NCAA tourney.
Since then, however, six of the seven Bruin laxmen who earned All-Ivy mention last year have graduated, and Stevenson's inexperienced squad has struggled so far this year, going 2-2.
Sophomore attackman Jon Meister, the third brother to play at Brown in recent years, has emerged as this year's big gun.
The Brown squad that visits Cambridge today is not as good as the one that edged Harvard last season in Providence, and this time the Crimson has both the home advantage and the revenge factor on its side.
DARTMOUTH: Nine freshmen earned letters for the Big Green last year while Dartmouth was going 7-5 against a weak schedule for its first winning season in more than a decade.
Attackman Jeff Hickey and Steve O'Neill, dangerous as rookies, should be even better this year. Four different players have been bidding for the goalie job; freshman Charlie Moore, a high school teammate of Harvard's Mike Ward, is currently getting the nod.
The only Ivy League team the Crimson has managed to beat each of the last two years, Dartmouth, is still clearly a step behind the best five teams in the loop, but it is a dark horse capable of pulling off an upset along the way. Harvard travels to Hanover on May 14, hoping that won't be the day it happens.
Yale Has No Talent
YALE: The Elis went 0-6 in the league last spring, and lost most of what little talent they did have to graduation. The only strong point should be the defense, where goalie John Sager returns with two solid defensemen, Mike Burns and Brad Gano, playing in front o him.
Harvard wasted Yale in New Heaven last year, 14-6, and should have an even easier time of it this year back in Cambridge on April 23.
Just as it has every year since the late '60s, this season's Ivy chase boils down to "Can anybody beat Cornell?" The Big Red is the clear favorite again this spring, and any of four squads--Penn, Princeton, Harvard or Brown--could emerge as the leading challenger.
Based on their 11-9 triumph over Harvard and impressive, undefeated play outside the conference, the Quakers get the early nod as Best of the Rest. Today's contest, Harvard vs. Brown, will be another step toward unscrambling the many contenders.