It was all Crimson, all game as the Harvard men’s lacrosse team (1-1) defeated Holy Cross (0-3, 0-1 Patriot League), 17-9, for its first win of the season. The Crimson began their first home match of the season with four straight goals and never trailed in the win.
“From the opening whistle were really strong,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “We were first to the ball, had crisp passes, and were first to score.”
Harvard, thanks to its opening run, played every uninjured player in the matchup and 11 different Crimson players found the back of the net during the match.
“We had an impressive number of goal scorers in today’s victory,” Wojcik said. “[This] is a true testament to the players sharing the ball and playing great team offense.”
Sophomore attacker Deke Burns led all scorers, driving the ball past the Crusader goalie four times for his first career hat trick. While Burns was unable to tally a point against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst defense last weekend in a 8-4 loss, he ended the night with five points to his name.
“I think Deke had a very good game,” Wojcik said. “He was really sharp with his passing and his finishing and moving the ball.”
Burns finished the night with a perfectly thrown pass to sophomore and long stick midfielder Jack Breit. Breit put it past Holy Cross goalie Peter Hines for his second score of the game late in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 15-8.
“Breit provided a really big spark for us between the lines,” Wojcik said. “It’s impressive as a [midfielder] to score a couple of goals. And Pete Schwartz just consistently leads our team from midfield.”
Captain Peter Schwartz, who led the team in goals Saturday against UMass, was only able to capitalize once against the Crusaders, but tied for the team lead with two assists. The Crimson netted12 goals from sophomores, with Will Walker notching a hat trick and Sean Mahon, Sean McDonagh, and Brendan Newman chipping in one apiece.
“Coming out of UMass it was really important for us to rise to the occasion offensively,” Burns said. “We wanted to score a lot of goals in the first quarter, and I think we accomplished that.”
While Wojcik said that the offense, which struggled in the Crimson’s opening game, showed improvement when facing the Crusaders, the coach pointed to the defense’s struggles to block a number of Holy Cross attacking drives as a possible area of improvement.
“I think Holy Cross was able to just expose the little things of our defense’s weaknesses,” Wojcik said. “There were a few times when maybe we could’ve slid or done something a little better, and they made us pay. They are a really good team, and the last three years we have had trouble stopping them. They’re a very good offense, and I think we just need to be a little more in sync defensively.”
The Crimson benefited from 18 Crusader turnovers, helping to offset a 16-13 margin on faceoffs. Harvard won 60 percent of the ground balls on the day and converted half of its man up opportunities.
Last season, the Crusaders came within four goals of Harvard before ultimately losing, 16-12. On Tuesday, the Holy Cross attack proved to once again be a challenge for the Crimson defensemen. Junior Crusader captain Terry McKenna, with nine points on the season, scored four goals against Harvard’s back line.
Although Wojcik was quick to praise McKenna, he noted the improvement by junior goalkeeper Jake Gambitsky, who gave up eight goals on just 19 shots against UMass on Saturday.
“Terry McKenna is a top middy in the entire country,” Wojcik said. “But I thought Jake was very good in goal.”
Gambitsky, who spent the bulk of the time in goal for Holy Cross, ended the night with 10 saves and came away with big two ground balls. Wojcik said that before the team’s next matchup against Albany next Saturday, the team has to shore up its defense.
“We get back tomorrow and clean up some of the mistakes we made,” Wojcik said. “[Albany] has a good offense and a good goalie. We will clean up some of the mistakes made and just build on our overall good team performance from today.”
Though the Crimson will return on the road to take on Albany, Burns said the team enjoyed its brief one-game homestand. For the entire season, the Crimson will play just six games at home. “It’s always great to be home,” Burns said. “We love playing for our own fans on our own field, and it felt great to get the win today.”
—Staff writer Caroline L. Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.