The Harvard men’s lacrosse team commences its season with a matchup against No. 7/5 Massachusetts (2-0) this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Harvard Stadium. After completing the 2012 season with a 6-8 record, the Crimson looks to begin 2013 with a home victory.
“I think our strength coming in right now is our attitude,” captain Jason Gonos said. “We have been working hard this off-season to address a lot of the weaknesses we’ve had in the past…we had a lot to improve all over the field. Even addressing all those things, I think the main thing we’ve improved is our attitude, our confidence. We work hard every day, we come every day to set the bar higher.”
Although Harvard is just beginning its regular season, the Minutemen are coming off of a 12-11 upset of No. 7/4 North Carolina this past weekend. UMass’s first win came in its season opener against Army, in which it toppled the Black Knights, 16-9.
“[UMass is] a great team,” Gonos said. “They’re a physical team, and they work hard in between the lines. Whatever they do, they do it really well. They’ve proven that they deserve to be highly ranked in their first two games.”
Last season, the Minutemen finished 15-1, with its first and only loss coming in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Colgate. UMass has historically dominated the Crimson, with an overall record of 30-13.
“They really took it to us [last season],” junior attackman Danny Eipp said. “It was one of the more embarrassing games for us, especially with them being one of our biggest rivals, so Coach made this our first game on purpose…I think we’re going to match their intensity.”
Gonos leads Harvard on defense after a season filled with career-high numbers. The senior picked up 33 groundballs and forced 14 turnovers during the 2012 season. The NCAA chose Gonos as a candidate for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award, an honor given to only 19 other college lacrosse players.
“[Gonos is] the best leader I’ve ever had and faced in my sports career,” Eipp said. “He really sets the tone…to be completely honest with you, I’ve never been on a team I feel more confident in. Our mindset this year is really positive, and no one cares who does well as long as the team succeeds.”
The New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association selected three players from each of the competing squads for preseason All-NEILA honors. Harvard’s selections included Eipp, senior midfielder Alex White, and freshman attackman Devin Dwyer. Eipp has made an appearance on the All-Ivy team twice during his three years, as well as ending last year with 42 points, the team’s second-highest total.
As a midfielder, White was a key component on the Crimson offense, notching five goals and collecting 19 groundballs in his junior campaign.
Harvard must deal with the loss of two high-scoring graduates, attackman Jeff Cohen and midfielder Kevin Vaughn. Cohen tallied a team-high 48 goals in 2012, while Vaughn led the squad with 19 assists.
“Last season we had a lot of great players, so it’s really hard to see your top scorers leave and graduate, but this year so many guys have stepped up in all different positions and all different ways,” Gonos said. “We’ve really kind of come together as a team, playing great team offense, great team defense, and really supporting each other all over the field.”
Along with Eipp, three other upperclassmen look to repeat successful seasons on offense. Seniors Jack Walker and Ryan Stevens put up seven and five goals respectively for the Crimson, while junior Carl Zimmerman posted five goals and six assists this past spring.
The freshmen bring new talent to the team, with Dwyer and Bobby Duvnjak ranking as Inside Lacrosse’s No. 4 attackman and No. 2 defenseman recruits, respectively. NEILA also named Dwyer the preseason Rookie of the Year.
The Crimson men’s lacrosse schedule features two nationally-televised games, with contests against No. 13/14 Duke on NBC Sports Network on March 30 and against No. 14/13 Princeton on ESPNU on April 19.
“We’ve yet to play a game this year,” Gonos said. “We’ve been so excited for this game—we’ve really been looking forward to it—so I think it’ll be all about settling down, managing our emotions, and making sure we execute.”
—Staff writer Kelley Guinn McArtor can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kgmcrimson.