Laxmen Manhandle Hapless Elis, 17-7
Last season the Harvard men's lacrosse team finished with an 11-3 record, a share of the Ivy League championship, and a berth in the NCAA playoffs. This year there will be no 11-3 record, no Ivy laurels, and certainly no playoff invitation.
Last season the Harvard men's lacrosse team broke into double figures in ten of its 14 games, winning nine of them. This year the team went through its first six games with nary a double-figure performance, turning in a paltry 1-5 record along the way.
Saturday afternoon, however, the Crimson started what may be a season-long turnaround. Middle Rich Doyle (four goals), and attackmen J.J. Nullet (three) and Norm Forbush (three) took advantage of a new offensive strategy to tally in double-digits all by themselves and carry Harvard to a 17-7 shellacking of Yale at the Business School Field.
The game, never in doubt after Harvard jumped out to leads of 5-0 and 12-2, improves the Crimson's overall record to 2-5, and evens its Ivy mark at 2-2. Yale drops to 5-6 overall (0-4 in the Ivies).
Doyle, now the team's leading scorer with eight goals and 12 total points, credits the resurgence of Harvard's heretofore suspect offense to the new system implemented by coach Bob Scalise during last week's practice. The system stresses a lot more passing and a lot more movement without the ball.
"We're running a more patterned, disciplined offense now," Doyle said yesterday. "By giving the people without the ball something to do, the defensive players off the ball are concerned with us, and the guy with the ball can go one-on-one with his man."
It puts the opposing team into an individual defense rather than a team defense."
Witness Gary Pedroni's consecutive first period goals as evidence of the new system's scoring power. Each came on a play where the other Harvard attacks and middles cleared out around the crease and Pedroni circled from behind the net and right in on Eli goalie Dan Liu.
At 2:40 of the opening stanza, with Harvard holding a 1-0 lead, Pedroni looped around the backside of the net, dodged the defenders, then whirled and fired the ball past Liu. And at 5:53 Pedroni carbon copied his first score right up to the shot, which he jump-hooked into the net for a 3-0 Harvard lead.
Increased ball movement also ignited the Crimson's fast-break offense, as the ball went quickly from defensemen to middle to an attack waiting behind the net, ready to feed the wings. Doyle, Nullet and Forbush all benefited from the newly-created fast-break situations.
For freshman Nullet, it was his third straight three-goal game, a pretty good count considering he didn't get much playing time until the first game in the string, an 8-5 win over Penn. And his nine goals lead the team.
"J.J. is a real smart player," Doyle said. "He's ready to shoot when you give him the ball. And he scores when he gets the ball in front."
Even in victory, the Crimson had its weak moments. After totally dominating the first half, as Crimson defenders Haywood Miller. Frank Prezioso and Chris Esmonde rarely allow the Elis a shot, and Crimson goaltender Tim Pendergast stopped all but two of the Eli drives. Harvard crumbled in the latter half of the third quarter.
The Crimson scored four goals in the first six minutes of the period, but then watched as the Elis equaled that output with four straight markers to close out the quarter, all against Harvard's backup goaltender, T.J. Woel.
"We have to keep up a high level of play for longer," Doyle said. "We have trouble playing well for the whole game. We played well for 45 minutes, but not for 60."