The Harvard men's lacrosse team was a no-ends sort of squad this season.
Rather than set any specific goals for the year, like, for example, an Ivy League championship, the team (5-8 overall, 2-4 Ivy) focused on qualitative goals, aiming to develop its young talent.
"We weren't obsessed with ends so much as means," senior captain Mike Porter says. "The goal was to get better, period. If other things were going to happen, they would happen. We just focused on getting better for the future, on setting the stage for next year."
In trying to realize that goal, the team was an unambiguous success.
Offensively, a number of younger players got valuable experience and even carried the team, as evidenced in the fact that all four of the squad's top scorers--sophomore Mike Eckert (16 goals, 40 assists), sophomore Chris Wojcik (27 goals, 13 assists), junior Steve Gaffney (25 goals, nine assists) and junior Jamie Ames (29 goals, one assist)--were non-seniors.
Defensively, younger players formed the core of the starting unit and, although they struggled at first, gradually improved throughout the year.
"The younger players undoubtedly meshed well into the system," Porter says. "Their progress throughout the year was greater than that of any team members I've seen since I've been here."
while the team's progress was impressive, its results, the ends of its means-oriented efforts, were less inspiring.
In truth, the team's play was at best spotty.
On some occasions it was very impressive, perhaps giving indication of just how good it might be with more experience.
At other times, however, it painfully showed what a lack of experience can do to a team.
Unfortunately, in the end, the latter moments proved more numerous.
The season started off on a relatively good note. The team opened the year with a nice 11-7 win at Army, and then, after dropping a 12-11 overtime decision to Boston College in weather conditions alternating between hail and snow, traveled to Philadelphia to nab in impressive 14-13 overtime win over a tough Quaker squad.
At that point in the season, the team began talking about national rankings. It was ranked as high as 17th at the time, and was looking to advance even higher.
That sort of general optimism continued to flow through its next two games.
First, over spring break, the Crimson battled nobody in a 13-6 loss to seventh-ranked Duke in Raleigh, N.C., a loss which ironically only seemed to affirm the team's top-20 status.
And second, in one of the veritable highlights of the season, the team beat a solid Vermont squad, 10-7.
From there no out, though, as the team dug into the heart of its Ivy League schedule, any improvement was almost strictly intrinsic, undetectable in scores or wins and losses.
Immediately the team dropped four games in a row--to Brown, 16-7; eventual national champion Princeton, 16-6; Massachusetts, 18-17; and Yale, 14-9.
Then, after squeaking past New Hampshire, 11-10, and creaming Cornell, 16-6, the Crimson ended its season with losses to C.W. Post, 11-9, and Dartmouth, 12-11.
The team's efforts brought it a seventh-place finish in the league, a finish slightly deceiving because of an unusually successful reservoir of talent in the league. Princeton, for example, the eventual NCAA champion, could only muster a second-place finish behind Brown.
"Of course, we would've like to finish a little bit higher, and we had our share of problems--particularly on defense for a good part of the year, but we're pleased," Porter says. "The league was really tough, and, aside from that, it was a good transition year. That is exactly what we had hoped for."
Ivy League: 2-4
Key Players: Mike Eckert (6 goals, 14 assists), Chris Wojcik (15 goals, 5 assists), Steve Gaffney (14 goals, 4 assists)
Seniors: Mike Agrillo, Matt Camp, Charlie Gay, Mike Porter