It may just be possible. With each gusty victory, Harvard's hustling men's lacrosse team moves coach Bob Scalise just a little closer to his until now elusive dream--a spot among the top eight in the national rankings and the accompanying berth in the NCAA playoffs.
The Crimson intimidated a scrappy Yale team Saturday at the Business School Field, scooping, shoving and finally shooting its way to a 13-9 victory. That makes an impressive string of six wins in a row for the stickmen, whose only two losses to date this season have come at the hands of a pair of genuine lax heavyweights-- Johns Hopkins and Cornell (by the agonizing score of 5-3).
When the coaches association--which establishes the rankings--considers the Crimson's record along with the fact that Brown (whom Harvard victimized in OT a week ago) dumped UMass last week, the Crimson should come up with the top spot in this week's New England poll. All of which means that the playoff question will probably be settled when the Crimson and the Minutemen square off here in Cambridge on May 2.
The above scenario depends, of course, on Harvard's ability to get by its remaining Ivy opponents (especially Princeton this Saturday), which might not be all that easy a task in light of the brief scare provided by the Elis. The Crimson started things off reasonably well when studly freshman attackman Norman Forbush hit his brother Bill for a goal in the first minute of play, and co-captain Jamie Egasti made it 2-0 a few minutes later with his tenth tally of the year. But before the Crimson could get any ideas about cooling out on a spring Saturday, Yale's John Piazza and Mike Devlin packed two goals into 1:11 to tie it at dueces.
When the indefatigable Dave Wigglesworth (11 ground balls in the game) was sent off for holding a minute later, the Elis jumped ahead on the extraman goal by Piazza.
That, however, was before the Crimson broke out the really big guns. By the end of the period, Harvard's leading scorer, All-American attackman Mike Faught, had sandwiched his 28th and 29th goals of the season around a fast-break tally by shifty Mike Ward to give the Crimson a 5-3 edge.
Faught rippled the net four times in all, thrice after feeds from the still-improving but already stellar younger Forbush. The Crimson's fast break play often ends up with Faught--described by his own goalie Kenny First as "a Howitzer"--facing the goalie alone out in front of the net: your basic foregone conclusion.
Second period goals from Faught, Norman Forbush (2), Gordie Nelson, and Wigglesworth--the latter on an assist from Terry Trusty, who moved up to a regular midfield shift--kept the Crimson comfortably ahead. 10-5, at the half.
Despite Harvard's manifest riding and clearing superiority, hard luck (Gordie Nelson hit the post three times to give him a total of seven pipe shots in two games) and Eli perseverance combined to shut out the Crimson in the third period, while Yale crept back to a slight 10-7 deficit.
Gerry Kelleher finally broke the dry spell midway through the last period, however, before Faught and Ward added late goals to round out the Harvard scoring and douse any lingering Yalie hopes.