Adelphi Poses 'Immense' Challenge to Struggling Laxmen
If the Harvard men's lacrosse team knows one thing going into today's matchup against Adelphi University, it knows that this game is big.
Or, as Tri-Captain Dan O'Sullivan says, "immense."
This game has always been singularly important for both teams; it is both an intercollegiate and personal rivalry. Adelphi (2-4) consistently fields aggressive, nationally competitive squads, drawing most of its players from the same fertile lacrosse grounds of Long Island that have spawned many Crimson standouts.
For many Harvard players a trip back to Garden City, N.Y. is more than another game in a busy April schedule--it is a trip home, a time to meet old friends and, more importantly, renew old rivalries.
Last year, the Panthers visited Ohiri and, though the two teams battled for most of the game, were unable to knock off the then seventh-ranked Crimson.
But, this year, the game holds even greater significance than it has in the past.
After a ten day layoff, the Crimson (2-4 overall, 1-1 Ivy) now begins a brutal schedule, playing two games a week for the rest of the season. And the opponents lying in wait are an ominous bunch. Brown. Yale. Massachusetts. Princeton.
Any hopes of an NCAA bid depend on Harvard winning every one of its next six games. But it needs momentum to do that, and, in this disappointing season, momentum has been hard to come by.
The crimson is coming off a poor performance against Vermont a week and a half ago when Harvard, riding the crest of a shocking upset over Pennsylvania three days earlier, got a surprise of its own, falling to the Catamounts 7-6.
After the victory over the Quakers, the momentum seemed to have shifted the Crimson's way, closing off a rocky beginning. But in Vermont, the problems--primarily an erratic and tentative offense--came to a head.
If the Crimson wants to gain the confidence and poise it so desperately needs in the coming weeks, it must win today.
"There are no two ways about this," O'Sullivan said. "It's just got to happen. Everybody's got to step in and realize that."
Fortunately for Harvard, Adelphi is also struggling. Coming off a solid 8-6 season last year, the Panthers are a young and inexperienced team with only one senior starter. And they, too, are coming off a tough overtime loss to a traditionally weak Villanova, 11-10.
But Harvard knows well enough that being the favorite can hurt more than it can help: the Crimson got a scare from Boston College and a shot in the arm from the Catamounts. The laxmen will have to play tight defense against a potentially explosive Panther attack if they hope to bring a win back to Cambridge.
Adelphi is led by versatile attacker Tom Aiello, termed the team's "quarterback" by Coach Jack Doherty. The junior from Massapequa, N.Y. tallied four assists in last year's loss against Harvard and has garnered 13 points in the team's first five games.
The Crimson must also watch out for Tom Naglieri, who leads Adelphi with 15 points, and Paul Vlachos, a solid junior midfielder.
To shut down the Panther offense, the Crimson will put junior defender Mike Tauckus on Aiello. Tauckus will use his 6-ft., 195-lb. frame to check the wiley Panther, discouraging him from charging the cage.
Coach Scott Anderson will give goalie duties for the game to senior Dan "Rocky" Chepaitis. Regular starter Chris Miller will sit out for the game.
The Crimson's main task, however, will come on offense. Throughout the season, Harvard has been unable to mount a consistent attack, relying primarily on the playmaking and point-producing prowess of prolific senior Mick Cavouti.
If it hopes to defeat Adelphi and establish itself for the rest of the season, the Crimson must get stronger production from its other attackers and from its midfield line.
Paul Faust, Tim Reilly, Mike Porter, and O'Sullivan must all contribute on offense.
"We can't wait for somebody to initiate the offense," O'Sullivan said. "I think what's going to make the difference is scoring from the top and the midfield. It has to be balanced. We really didn't do that against Vermont."