After an evenly-fought first half in which it trailed by as many as two goals, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team exploded for five unanswered goals in the third quarter, cruising to a 14-9 victory at Holy Cross on Tuesday evening.
Senior attackman Jeff Cohen scored five goals in the win, while sophomore attackman Daniel Eipp posted his second consecutive hat trick to add to three assists.
The No. 15 Crimson (2-0), which went into halftime clinging to a 7-6 lead, came out firing in the pivotal third frame. Co-captain Kevin Vaughan put Harvard ahead, 8-6, just over two minutes into the half on an assist from Eipp. Eipp earned another assist two minutes later as Cohen added to the Crimson’s lead.
Vaughan struck again with seven minutes to play in the quarter, and Cohen scored an unassisted goal three minutes afterwards to put Harvard ahead, 11-6.
In the last minute of the third frame, junior attackman Jack Walter capped off the dominant quarter with a man-down goal, one of his two, and the Crimson lead stretched to six.
The Crusaders’ (1-2) hope for a fourth-quarter comeback never materialized. After another goal from Eipp, junior midfielder Jack Curran broke Holy Cross’s scoring drought with nine minutes left to play in the game. But it was too little, too late. The Crusaders scored twice more in the waning minutes to pull within five goals, but the game was already out of reach.
“We had a little trouble adjusting to their offense early on,” Harvard coach Chris Wocjik said. “They were able to score a few goals on us in the first and second quarters. But I thought we adjusted, and our defense really stepped up in the third quarter, and we were able to pull away.”
Freshman attackman Keegan Michael opened the scoring 30 seconds into the game with his first career goal. Cohen followed suit just over a minute later, and the Crimson looked to be in control with a 2-0 lead.
Holy Cross responded minutes later, scoring two goals of its own within 90 seconds of each other. Walker answered quickly with a goal assisted by freshman midfielder Sean Mahon to put Harvard ahead, 3-2.
The back-and-forth play continued as the Crusaders added two more goals on consecutive possessions to grab their first lead. Eipp scored an unassisted goal at the end of the quarter to even the score.
The Crimson again fell behind at the start of the second quarter. Crusaders’ sophomore attackman John Daugherty scored an unassisted goal two minutes into the frame, and minutes later junior midfielder Myles Gillespie stretched the Harvard deficit to two with his second goal of the evening.
But it was all Crimson from there. The Crusaders’ attack was stifled by a Harvard defense that allowed four combined shots in the second and third quarters. Down 6-4 with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half, the Crimson began a scoring spree that spanned three periods and resulted in nine unanswered goals.
“I think our defense raised its level of play and limited any good looks for Holy Cross,” Wocjik said, “And that gave our offense a boost. They moved the ball really well and generated high-percentage shots.”
Cohen scored an unassisted goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the second frame to pull the Crimson within one, and Eipp tied the score at six soon after. Michael scored a man-up goal with just over a minute to play, and Harvard entered the half up by one.
What was a closely contested battle in the first half became a one-team show in the third quarter. Holy Cross was shut out in the period and only mustered two shots. After scoring five goals in the frame, Harvard added one more at the beginning of the final period, building a 13-6 lead that would prove insurmountable.
“We came out of halftime and guys started making plays.” Vaughan said. “When one person makes a play, everybody feeds off of that.”
The Crimson outshot its opponent, 46-26, for the game, while junior Harry Krieger made eight saves in goal.
Cohen surpassed 100 career goals with his five-goal performance; his 101 goals are 6th-best all time for Harvard. He also has a team-best seven goals on the season and is currently tied for 7th in the nation with 3.5 goals per game.
—Staff writer James M. Acer can be reached at email@example.com.