Plagued by a scoreless third quarter, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team suffered a 13-10 loss to No. 6/7 North Carolina at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday night.
After a tight first half that ended with the Crimson trailing, 6-5, the Tar Heels scored four goals in the opening six minutes of the second stanza to extend their lead to 10-5. Two of the North Carolina goals came on the extra-man, as the Harvard defense committed a pair of costly one-minute penalties early in the period.
Three of the Tar Heels’ four goals in the quarter came during a 38-second span that saw Walker Chafee rifle back-to-back shots past Harvard junior goalie Jake Gambitsky. Chad Tutton followed those efforts up eight seconds later with a goal of his own.
“Carolina outplayed us in a key stretch, and that wound up being the difference in the game,” Crimson coach Chris Wojcik said. “It was really a back-and-forth game throughout, other than [that] key stretch early in the third quarter that ultimately cost us the game.”
Harvard grabbed the lead early on, recording the first two goals of the contest as North Carolina struggled to find its game offensively. Captain Peter Schwartz and fellow senior Carl Zimmerman both capitalized on feeds from sophomore Devin Dwyer to put the Crimson ahead.
But the Tar Heels soon established a rhythm and closed the frame with three straight goals. Despite allowing the Crimson to tie the game at three on a strike from sophomore Sean Mahon, North Carolina regained the lead less than a minute later and held it for the rest of the game.
“It’s disappointing, but I thought our effort was great,” Wojcik said. “We played hard. They’re very good all over the field.”
The Tar Heels came into the matchup ranked sixth nationally in the latest media poll, so Harvard understood the challenge it faced going on the road against one of the most talented and athletic squads in the country.
“Coach Wojcik said this in the beginning of the season, [and] he’s always told us you’ve got to schedule the hardest opponents week in and week out,” captain Joe Petrucci said. “Playing a team with as much skill and athleticism as UNC will definitely pay dividends down the road with our Ivy League schedule.”
Indeed, the Ancient Eight promises to be especially competitive this season, as four of the seven Ivy League teams are currently ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation.
Despite struggling in face-offs throughout the first half, securing just five of thirteen draws, the Crimson rebounded late in the game, going 9-of-14 in the second stanza. Six of Harvard’s wins came on violations by the Tar Heels, who were also called twice for 30-second penalties as a result.
“We were really confident in our whole face-off unit,” Wojcik said. “In particular, [freshman] Austin Williams played a really good game…. He was able to figure out their guy, and he really did a great job helping us get possession from face-offs.”
Williams helped spark Harvard’s three-goal run to begin the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to two. The two teams proceeded to trade goals before North Carolina sealed the victory with an empty net strike from Ryan Creighton.
Dwyer led the Crimson offense with four assists, as he consistently set up his teammates with accurate feeds.
“[Dwyer has] been playing great,” Petrucci said. “I think the best thing about Devin is he makes everybody around him better. He’s an extremely good feeder, he has excellent vision, [and] he’s always distributing the ball.”
Despite missing the first four games of the year due to injury, Dwyer leads the Crimson in assists with 11 so far this season.
Harvard employed a balanced attack against North Carolina, as seven different players tallied scores in the contest. Mahon, Zimmerman, and senior Daniel Eipp all netted two goals for the Crimson.
“Obviously, we’re upset with the result,” Petrucci said. “We lost the game and at the end of the day that’s what’s most important. I think it was clear from the beginning that we wanted the game more. Obviously, they’re a top five team and hanging with them is nice. But we want to win those games.”