The Crimson laxmen suffered through a slow first quarter, falling behing the Middlebury College Panthers 3-2, but stormed back for a convincing 13-4 victory, in yesterday's home opener at the Business School Field.
Harvard's superior talent and stick-work overpowered Middlebury's Division II-III players. "Middlebury could not sustain the pressure of our pace," coach Bob Scalise said after the game.
Senior attackman Mike Faught scored the first of five goals on the afternoon into an open net when midfielder Peter Predun checked the ball away from Middlebury goalie Paul Scheufele and fed Faught to tie the game at 3-3 at 3:11 of the second period.
Faught connected just a minute and a half later to give Harvard a lead it never relinquished. David Wigglesworth sprung the breaking Faught, who waltzed in alone and beat Scheufele to the far side.
The Crimson offense then went to town for three straight goals by Predun, Wigglesworth and Faught to stretch the advantage to 7-3 before Panther mid-fielder Bill Erdman scored Middlebury's final goal of the game at 12:28 of the period two.
The prettiest goal of the game, Faught's third tally of the first half, exemplified the Harvard offense's precision passing. Freshman middle Matt Fee cleared the ball from the defensive zone, then drilled a pass to a sprinting Terry Trusty who in turn fed attackman Norman Forbush at the point of the fast break alignment. Forbush hit Faught in front with a quick pass, and bingo, a picture-perfect goal.
Harvard outscored Middlebury 6-0 in the second half with swift movement and excellent ball control. Faught scored twice in the second half, Predun grabbed his second and third goals of the contest, while Jamie Egasti tallied once and Mike Ward, starting his frist game at attack, got his second of the game.
Freshman Forbush has developed into the Crimson's best feeder at attack, supplying the punch the attack had so sorely lacked last week against John Hopkins. Forbush assisted on four Harvard goals, in addition to collecting one of his own in the first period. He now leads the Crimson in that department with seven. Overall, Harvard assisted 12 of their 13 goals yesterday, a statistic revealing improved teamwork.
"The key thing is that the offense is improving. We were able to break with the ball. We scored three fast break goals. We moved the ball better, smoother. I don't think we are going to lose on this field," co-captain Jamie Egasti said after the game.
While it did take the Crimson offense 15 minutes to click, the defense started cranking at the opening whistle. Sophomore Haywood Miller frustrated the Middlebury attackman with menacing checks, and teamed with Frank Prezioso and Scott Pink in a clearing tandem that the Panthers could not contain.
After holding the Panthers to four goals, the Harvard defense has limited its opponents to just 13 in the last three games. Much of the credit for the defensive stinginess must go to defensive coordinator Ted Marchell.
Middlebury jumped to a 1-0 lead at 57 seconds of the first period as the Crimson lacked intensity in the early going. Harvard came to life in the second when Faught started his goal scoring barrage, a sign that Faught and the rest of the attack were finally ready to roll.
The Crimson face Pennsylvania Saturday at home in the next step towards the NCAA playoffs.
GOALS: Harvard--Faught 5, Predun 3, Ward 2, Egasti 1, N. Forbush 1, Wigglesworth 1. Middlebury--Heffernan 2, Nichols 1, Erdman 1. ASSISTS: Harvard-N Forbush 4, Nelson 2, Predun 2, Faught 1, Fee 1, Trusty 1, Wigglesworth 1. Middlebury--Gifford 2, Manning 1.
Saves: First (H) 6, Freedberg (H) 2.
Scheufele (M) 7.