It was a tale of two halves when the Harvard men’s lacrosse team took on Brown at Soldiers Field on Saturday night for both teams’ Ivy League opener.
Despite ending the first 30 minutes of play tied with the Bears (3-2, 0-1 Ivy), the Crimson (4-2, 1-0 Ivy) ultimately ended the match with a 16-10 win, outscoring the visitors eight to two in the final half of play.
“Brown played really well offensively in the first half, [and] we had a couple breakouts, but it was mostly back and forth,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “But after halftime we kept our composure and we just really kept our process and our game plan and didn’t change anything. We just came out fired up and made some big plays that changed the game [in the] third quarter.”
While the Crimson was tied with Brown three times in the first half, Harvard returned to the field in the third quarter of play and outscored Brown, 5-0, with five different Crimson players finding the back of the net.
The home team ended the night with a total of eight different goal scorers, not uncommon for this season’s new and improved Crimson attacking unit.
“We are very selfless offensively,” Wojcik said. “The players trust each other, and they share the ball and move the ball really well. Tonight we showed that we don’t rely on just one player, but it’s all about the six players on the field.”
Coming off of a 15-7 victory at Georgetown last Saturday in which nine different Crimson players got on the board, Harvard had three different players score hat tricks against the Bears: sophomore attackmen Devin Dwyer and Will Walker, and veteran midfielder Daniel Eipp.
“In the past couple weeks of practice, we have been playing as a cohesive unit,” Eipp said. “A lot of people got on the scoreboard, which is awesome. We have a really deep bench.”
While the game plan for Harvard changed very little after intermission, the Crimson defense, led by junior Jake Gambitsky in goal, stepped up its game in the second half and stonewalled the Brown offense. Harvard allowed just two goals for 16 attempts after the break.
“I am really proud of Jake because of how well he played in that second half. It’s really difficult to play the goalie position, and when you give up eight goals in the first half it is difficult to regroup,” Wojcik said. “It is a testament to his mental testament and character. He was able to wipe the slate clean and make a huge save that really was the turning point of the game in the third quarter.”
Gambitsky, who tallied a career high 18 saves last week against the Hoyas earning him Ivy League Player of the Week, recorded nine saves in the second half of play. His defensive unit’s improvement over the course of the match was notable as well.
“Defense really buckled down [in the second half],” Eipp said. “We tried to be really smart on offense in the second half and not take dumb shots…. We cut down on [Brown’s] fast break opportunities on offense, which really allowed the defense to see them coming and force them to take bad shots.”
The Crimson kept the Bear’s high point scorers almost silent. Brown’s Sam Hurster and Dylan Molloy had each registered 13 points, but only Hurster got the ball past Gambitsky twice in the first half to help Brown go into the break tied with the Crimson. A strong Harvard defense prevented either of the two players from finding the back of the net in the second half.
“I was very happy with our energy and our effort, and how hard we played all over the field to get the win,” Wojcik said. “Brown had some strong attacking plays in the first half, but in the second half we really kept our composure."
The competition marks Harvard’s first Ancient Eight matchup this season, and after a tough loss last year against the Bears, the Crimson was especially pleased with the night’s triumph.
“The Ivy League is so strong, and it is incredibly important to get a good seed going into the tournament,” Eipp said. “Last year we lost to Brown [11-9] after being up most of the game, so this is definitely a big win for us. After this win, I think we are all really excited for our Ivy games going forward.”
—Staff writer Caroline L. Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.