Throughout its season, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team has shown flashes of brilliance, pushing multiple nationally ranked teams to the brink of defeat. The Crimson did just that against No. 15 Yale on Saturday afternoon, but—as was the case against No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Cornell—Harvard could not finish the job, losing by one goal.
In the teams’ regular season finale, the Bulldogs (9-4, 4-2 Ivy) defeated the Crimson, 11-10, at Harvard Stadium. With the loss, Harvard (6-8, 2-4) concludes its second consecutive season without an Ivy League Tournament bid.
A goal from senior attacker Jack Walker with 36.6 seconds left in regulation pulled the Crimson within one. Off the next faceoff, senior Bulldog attacker Kirby Zdrill was immediately called for holding to give Harvard its first man-up opportunity of the game and a chance to extend its season.
“I honestly thought we were going to tie the game up and go to overtime,” Crimson captain Jason Gonos said. “Our man-up’s been great this year.”
But Yale goalkeeper Eric Natale made two saves in the final half-minute to secure the win for the Bulldogs. Six seconds into the man-up, the sophomore blocked a close-range shot from Harvard senior attackman Henry Mumford. The Crimson recovered the ball and cycled it to sophomore midfielder Murphy Vandervelde, who unleashed a final 10-yard shot that found the goalkeeper’s stick.
With the win, Yale clinched the second seed of the Ivy League Tournament, which will be held next week in Ithaca, N.Y. Harvard, which finishes the regular season tied with Brown for fifth place in the conference, needed a victory Saturday to crack into the top four tournament-qualifying teams.
On Senior Day, attackman Ian Ardrey led the Crimson with four goals. The freshman entered the game with only five career goals.
“I thought [Ardrey] moved really well off ball and was finding seams in their defense,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said.
Junior attackman Peter Schwartz also recorded a hat-trick for Harvard with three of the team’s first four strikes as the Crimson dominated possession early in the contest. Harvard jumped out to a 3-1 lead by the end of the first quarter, but big Bulldog runs in the middle two frames allowed the visitors to pull ahead and hold on.
Yale opened the second quarter with its first of four man-up goals with a strike from sophomore midfielder Shane Thornton. The Bulldogs had six man-up opportunities on the day before Harvard received its first at the end of regulation.
Schwartz responded just over a minute later with his third goal of the game, but Yale proceeded to go on a 3-0 run. The run culminated in a strike from Zdrill, who faked a pass to the top of the box before rolling to the crease for a go-ahead goal. The senior finished the afternoon with a team-high four goals.
After Ardrey’s second goal tied the game at five with two minutes left in the first half, the Bulldogs enjoyed a 4-0 run to start the third quarter. Yale scored four times in less than three minutes, including two from Zdrill less than a minute apart, to take a 9-5 lead. The Bulldogs’ last two goals of the run were on the man-up as the Crimson’s frustration began to show with one-minute penalties to junior defender Joe Petrucci and senior faceoff specialist Rick Molé.
“They were capitalizing on a couple of our mistakes,” Gonos said. “They had the momentum in the second and third quarter, and it took us a little too long to get our momentum back.”
Harvard finished the game on a run of its own, outscoring Yale, 5-2, over the game’s final 20 minutes. The Crimson’s comeback was sparked by two late-third quarter goals less than 15 seconds apart by Ardrey and senior attackman Alex White, who finished with two goals.
In the final frame, Molé won all five faceoffs for the Crimson to finish the day 18-for-24 in faceoffs. Two goals from Ardrey and a goal from Walker cut the Bulldogs’ advantage to one, 11-10. Walker’s shot with just fewer than 40 seconds left appeared to catch the leg of Natale before trickling across the goal line.
But the visiting goaltender would not miss again with two final stops down the stretch. After the game, Wojcik reflected on the Crimson’s season.
“We never quit. I thought we got better as the year went on,” Wojcik said. “Maybe throw the Princeton game out, but we got better as the year went on. We just came up short.”
Yale will meet Penn in the first round of the Ivy League Tournament on Friday. Top-seeded Cornell will play Princeton.
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.