When the Holy Cross Crusaders (0-4) took an early 4-1 lead on the No. 11 Harvard men’s lacrosse team (2-1) this past Saturday, it seemed as though the usual spark between Crimson players was less than a glimmer and hopes for a victory were dim. But an late offensive charge, coupled with a refocused defense that allowed only three goals in the final three quarters, pushed Harvard to a gritty 9-7 victory over the Crusaders.
The Crimson met Bay State rival Holy Cross Saturday afternoon at Holy Cross Field in front of nearly 600 fans. Harvard was coming off of an emotional road matchup against the No. 14 Georgetown Hoyas on Wednesday that was a constant battle for the lead, but ultimately left the Crimson one goal short of victory.
Harvard jumped out to a 1-0 lead against the Crusaders, scoring after only 1:01 of play with a goal by senior attack Jason Duboe. But aside from Duboe’s early tally, Holy Cross dominated the rest of the first quarter, netting four goals in just over three minutes of play.
“I don’t know if it was actually the physical exhaustion [from our game against Georgetown] or what,” senior defenseman Ben Smith said. “But we definitely came out a little flatter, and we weren’t following the game plan as well as we should have.”
Harvard finally responded to the Crusaders’ onslaught of goals when sophomore attack Jeff Cohen scored with 6:42 on the clock. Then, with less than a minute to go in the first quarter, junior attack Dean Gibbons added his first of what would be four goals in the game, bringing the Crimson to within one of Holy Cross. Harvard battled back to end the quarter down just 4-3.
“The coaching staff stayed positive,” Duboe said. “They basically told us, ‘This isn’t going to be easy, and the magic isn’t there today. So, you’re basically going to have to grind out a win, and that’s just the way it is.’”
Cohen and Gibbons continued to spearhead Harvard’s offense in the second quarter. Cohen first tallied a goal with 11:42 to go. Senior attack Travis Burr joined in the scoring action as well, adding a goal of his own with 9:10 left in the quarter. Gibbons then sent two shots past the Crusader goalie, scoring first with 2:24 to go and then again with just one second left in the half.
“When our offense plays together, everyone is moving the ball, and we just follow the game plan,” Smith said. “Nobody is trying to be selfish or do it themselves—opportunities pop up. Dean and Jeff and Jason are all very opportunistic players, and when they get those opportunities, good things will happen.”
In the second quarter, the Crimson defense dug its heels in a little deeper against what had been an aggressive Holy Cross attack in the first. The Harvard defense held Holy Cross scoreless in the second quarter and ended the half with a 7-4 lead.
“Our defense did a good job of playing very successfully and getting balls off of the ground,” Duboe said. “This just gave us [on offense] some more opportunities with the ball.”
After the first quarter the Crimson defense—led by freshman goalie Harry Krieger, who made his first collegiate start against Holy Cross—held the Crusaders to only three goals in the remaining three quarters of play. Krieger made seven saves in the win, while Smith, senior defenseman Billy Geist, freshman midfielder Jeff Molinari and freshman midfielder Alex White each picked up three ground balls to keep the offensive motion heading upfield.
“[Holy Cross] had been getting a lot of shots from right in the middle, at the crease, which puts our goalie in a tough spot when they’re only shooting from three yards away,” Smith said. “We started making them take some outside shots, started playing each man up more, and causing some turnovers that then gave our offense opportunities.”
Holy Cross attack Chris Smirti opened the second half with two goals, but sophomore Terry White and Gibbons responded for the Crimson with a tally each before the end of the third quarter.
Entering the final quarter of play, Harvard held a three-goal advantage over Holy Cross, 9-6. The Crusaders would add just one more goal before the end of the game, allowing Harvard to hang onto a 9-7 victory despite not scoring in the fourth quarter.
—Staff writer Jessica L. Flakne can be reached at email@example.com.