Facing the team that had eliminated his squad from postseason contention in last year’s regular season finale, Harvard men’s lacrosse co-captain Dean Gibbons decided that this time around, he didn’t want his season—or his collegiate career—to be over quite yet.
It was a tone Gibbons set early on his Senior Day, and his teammates responded. In so doing, the Crimson lived to play another day, earning a bid to the Ivy League Tournament with a 9-5 victory over No. 14 Yale on Saturday.
With the win, Harvard (9-5, 3-3 Ivy) earned the No. 3 seed in the four-team bracket—while bumping the Bulldogs (10-3, 3-3) down to the four-spot—and will play No. 2 Penn in the first round of the tournament in Ithaca, N.Y., on Friday.
“The Yale game is a huge game regardless of the Ivy Tournament implications,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “With the old rivalry, there was a lot of emotion, a lot of energy and effort in this game. We played really hard and left it on the field; I don’t think there was one point today when I wasn’t happy with the effort.”
After falling behind by at least a two-goal deficit to begin its three previous Ancient Eight contests, Gibbons got the Crimson an early lead in the must-win match Saturday. With 5:23 left in the opening period, senior Matt Hull came around the net and hit his classmate in front, and Gibbons beat Yale goaltender Jonathan Falcone with a line-drive shot to put Harvard up, 1-0.
Later in the quarter, Falcone blocked three consecutive attempts by Harvard sophomore Jack Doyle, but junior Jeff Cohen was able to put back the rebound off the third shot to double the Crimson advantage.
“[The early lead] was nice,” Wojcik said. “I think we’ve had a real problem starting [in the past].”
Harvard sophomore goaltender Harry Krieger held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for most of the period, until he was beaten by Yale’s Jack Flaherty with just 28 seconds remaining.
But in the second quarter, Krieger would hold the shutout for all 15 minutes, making six saves in the process. Yale replacement goalie Jack Meyer matched him stop-for-stop until 2:49, when Gibbons fought his way towards the goal through contact and beat Meyer while falling forward, giving the Crimson a 3-1 lead heading into the half.
“I got lucky early and was able to find the back of the net,” said Gibbons, who finished the year second in the Ivy League with 53 points. “The other guys stepped up and kind of made my job easy.”
Harvard added to its advantage 12:38 into the third, when Doyle took a pass from Gibbons, wound up, and fired past Meyer to make it 4-1. But seven seconds later, the Elis responded, when Cole Yeager picked up a post-faceoff groundball, ran through the Crimson zone with little opposition, and beat Krieger low.
At 6:38, Yale’s Matt Gibson came from behind the net and scored, and under a minute later Flaherty tied the game at four by squeezing through two hits before beating Krieger.
But Harvard would dominate the remainder of the game offensively.
With 2:37 left in the third, junior co-captain Kevin Vaughan took an outlet pass, sprinted half the field, and fired past Meyer in transition to put the Crimson back ahead. Under a minute later, Vaughan cut towards the net, took a pass from Gibbons, and scored again to put Harvard up by two.
Yale cut the lead to one at 11:17, when Mark Dobrosky beat Krieger off a cross-field pass, but the Harvard goalie would shut the Elis out the rest of the way.