Several things were unusual about the Harvard men’s and women’s lacrosse teams’ exhibition matchups from this past weekend. For one, the contests were played in October, nearly five months before the lacrosse season officially kicks off.
But what may have been even more out of the ordinary were the Crimson’s two opponents—the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams.
Saturday night through Sunday afternoon, Harvard played host to the U.S. Lacrosse Stars and Stripes Weekend, an annual event that pits college teams against the U.S. Senior National Teams.
While both Crimson squads came up short in their exhibition matches—the men losing, 17-12, on Sunday afternoon, and the women falling, 17-4, Saturday night—players, fans, and coaches were happy that Harvard had the opportunity to host some of the world’s top talent.
“I think first off, it was an unbelievable opportunity,” said Crimson men’s coach Chris Wojcik ’96. “[The U.S. Men’s National Team] only plays five or six college teams, so just to be in that select group of colleges and to get that opportunity was a great experience for our kids. Most Division I players never get that chance.”
And the Crimson players capitalized on that chance, hanging with the national team until late in the contest, which took place at Harvard Stadium in front of more than 1,000 fans.
Throughout the first 48 minutes of play, neither team was able to pull ahead, as the score was knotted at 11 with less than 12 minutes on the clock.
While Harvard never led in the contest, the squad managed to keep it tight by responding with timely scores, thanks in large part to the efforts of co-captain Dean Gibbons, who finished with four goals and two assists in the first three quarters of play.
After the national team’s Chazz Woodson put his team up by two in the final seconds of the third quarter, the Crimson responded once again, evening the score at 11 with back-to-back scores from junior co-captain Kevin Vaughan and senior Matt Hull early in the fourth.
But Team USA quickly rebounded, finding the back of the net again less than two minutes later to take the 12-11 lead. This time, Harvard was unable to respond, as the national team went on a 6-0 run over the next 11 minutes of play to pull out the victory.
“I was really happy with the intensity and the effort,” Wojcik said. “We go into each game preparing to win, but I think there was a bigger picture. We’re disappointed that we lost, but I’m happy, and I’m proud of how the team played.”
U.S. midfielders Max Seibald and Paul Rabil—two key pieces of the national squad that won the 2010 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship in July—led their team once again, notching five and four scores, respectively.
On the women’s side, the Crimson also had its hands full with a group of national stars in its matchup played under the lights at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium.
Jillian Byers—the NCAA’s second leading scorer from 2009—and Danielle Spencer—the third leading scorer from the Northwestern team that reached the 2010 NCAA championship—combined for seven scores to lead the U.S. to the 17-4 win.
Harvard sophomore Micaela Cyr scored twice for the Crimson, but the national team’s aggressive defense and solid play in goal made it difficult for Harvard to generate much scoring.