While Jekyl & Hyde has connotations too negative to apply to the overachieving men's lacrosse team (5-2, 2-0 Ivy), the analogy is apt as they have shown two very different incarnations.
Following the weekend shoot-out in New York when the laxmen triumphed 18-16 over Cornell, the Crimson proved that it can win games with its defense as well.
On the strength of senior captain Rob Lyng's 13 saves in goal, a revitalized Crimson defense held the red-hot 11th ranked Brown Bears (3-5, 0-2 ivy) to just two goals through three quarters on its way to a 7-6 upset yesterday at Ohiri field.
"It was a great job by my defense," Lyng said. "We've been talking all year about packing it in and forcing the outside shots. They did a great job of pressuring the shooters and I was really able to see the ball well coming from the outside."
The defensive showing was more than great--it was inspiring. The man-down team was able to kill the first ten penalties without any inside penetration, and they worked the clear to perfection, failing to get the ball across midfield only once in 13 attempts.
While the defense was getting the job done on its end of the field, the high-powered Crimson offense was hardly stagnant. In fact, Harvard moved to a slowed down, control offense that allowed them to maintain possession for a majority of the game.
"[The offense] held on to the ball, they slowed it down," Lyng said. "Honestly, the best defense is a patient offense and that's what we had today."
The Crimson got onto the board three minutes into the first quarter when junior midfielder Owen Leary backed in from behind the cage and executed a pretty inside roll to beat Brown keeper Greg Cattrano (8 saves) down low to give Harvard the 1-0 lead.
After 10 minutes of trading outstanding defensive stands on both ends, Leary uncorked a rip from just below the restraining box that beat Cattrano off his stick-side hip and put the Crimson up by two.
The Bears, fresh off a victory over 3rd ranked Syracuse and a close loss to 1st ranked Princeton, tried to struggle back when they scored two unanswered goals in the first four minutes of the second period to knot the score at two apiece.
But the Crimson quickly rallied as the Bevilacqua brothers, Lou and Jim, finished on two consecutive man-up opportunities.
They each took a feed from junior Doug Crofton and, on almost identical shots, blew it by Cattrano from about ten yards out.
These man-up goals started a 4-0 Harvard run that gave the Crimson the lead for good. This run was highlighted by Lyng's assist to Jim Bevilacqua's empty net transition goal.
This marked the senior keeper's second career point, and it came immediately following his length-of-the-field sling that closed the door on the Big Red last Saturday.
The Bears refused to go down quietly as Brown scored three goals in the final six minutes to pull within one.
But the Crimson survived the scare and escaped with the upset intact, maintaining its share of the Ivy League lead.
The big win went a long way in erasing past inconsistencies, but the laxmen are still looking to former loses, most notably their 10-9 overtime defeat at the hands of upstart Hartford, for motivation.
"We struggled against Hartford, and that was a game that will be on our conscience the whole rest of the season," Lyng said. "Losing that game forces us not to take any one for granted. And this was a really good Brown team. Coming off that big win in Syracuse, you know they're hot. So you've got to be just as hot and practice twice as hard. That's what we did, and it paid off."
The Crimson will have little time to enjoy the victory.
This weekend they travel to Princeton, N.J. where they face the top-ranked undefeated Tigers (6-0, 2-0 Ivy) in a battle for league supremacy.
In order to emerge victorious from that contest the laxmen will have to show both their faces; that flashy and explosive offense as well as the newly awakened stingy defense.
G: Brown--Satin 2, Collard, Lyle, Dent, Dewick; Harvard--Leary 2, J. Bevilacqua 2, Crofton, L. Bevilacqua, Chupalla. A: Brown--Frood, Dewick, Sheridan; Harvard--Crofton 2, Ferrucci, Lyng, Leary, L. Bevilacqua. S: Brown--Cattrano 8; Harvard--Lyng 13, Chen 0.