UNC-Duke. Auburn-Alabama. Kentucky-Louisville.
Oftentimes the best rivalries are between intrastate competitors, especially when both teams are among the nation’s elite.
Such will be the case tomorrow afternoon when the No. 12 Harvard men’s lacrosse team takes on No. 18 Massachusetts at 1 pm at Garber Field in Amherst.
“It’s definitely a rivalry within the state,” sophomore attackman Jeff Cohen said. “They’re also one of the top teams in the country, and we’re trying to climb the ladder to be one of the top teams in the country as well.”
In its second game against a nationally-ranked opponent this season, the Crimson will be looking to build on its 9-7 victory against Holy Cross last Saturday.
To win, Harvard’s defense will have to contain a high-powered Minutemen offense that has averaged 14.5 goals per game on the year and has outshot opponents 168-130 on the season.
“I think our D will really have to step it up this week,” senior defenseman Billy Geist said.
In net trying to stop the Massachusetts attack will either be freshman Harry Krieger or sophomore Christian Coates.
Coates picked up the win against Canisus in the season opener, giving up just four goals in 45 minutes of playing time, but he struggled in allowing 13 goals in a loss against No. 14 Georgetown his next time out. Head coach John Tillman gave Krieger his first career start against the Crusaders, and he gave up seven goals and earned the victory.
Cohen said the starter will be determined by practice performance this week, but no matter who’s in net, the team will be ready to go.
“We’re confident in either of them,” he said.
Whoever is in goal will be focused on stopping the Minutemen’s best weapon, senior midfielder Bobby Hayes, a 2010 Preseason All-New England selection who already has 11 goals on the year.
Joining him on the attack will be junior Ryan Hantverk, who has nine goals, and sophomore Art Kell, who has eight.
Harvard, meanwhile, will hope for another strong game from junior attackman Dean Gibbons, who had four goals against Holy Cross, giving him a team-best ten on the season. Cohen is second on the team with eight.
If Harvard is going to keep up with Massachusetts’ high scoring offense, it will likely need to amass more than the nine goals it managed against the Crusaders. That means the rest of the attack—junior Matt Hull, sophomores Kevin Vaughn and Dan McDermott, and a group of freshman—will need to bring their best efforts.