The Harvard men’s lacrosse team (5-4, 2-0 Ivy) struggled throughout its game against third-ranked Duke (9-2, 2-1 ACC) on Saturday, falling behind early and never getting a shot to come back.
The Crimson came into the game riding momentum from a strong win over Ancient Eight rival Dartmouth, looking to improve its resume as NCAA tournament selection approaches.
Unfortunately for Harvard, the Blue Devils came ready to play from the outset at Koskinen Stadium, jumping out to an early lead and continuing on to win, 17-11.
“In order to win this game, we were going to have to be absolutely outstanding,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “And that wasn’t the case. We were on our heels a lot, especially defensively, and we just didn’t play our best game.”
Duke managed to score only eight seconds into the game taking an easy lead, but the Crimson bounced back quickly. Only a minute later, sophomore midfielder Sean McDonagh scored to tie the game, assisted by classmate attackman Devin Dwyer. Four minutes later, Dwyer assisted the Crimson’s leading scorer and sophomore attackman Will Walker to put Harvard up by one and looking to extend its lead.
But from there, it was all Duke.
First, attackman Christian Walsh scored with just over eight minutes remaining in the quarter. Then, following a Harvard penalty, attackman Jordan Wolf capitalized on the man-up opportunity. Walsh then scored again, followed by another extra-man goal for Duke, scored by midfielder Myles Jones. Jones’s tally gave the Blue Devils a 5-2 lead.
“We got outplayed, particularly in the possession game,” Wojcik said. “Lacrosse is a game of spurts of momentum. It is tough to come back when we would score, but then lose the faceoff and not get a chance to rest our defense, but when they would score, they’d usually get another chance to keep going.”
Senior midfielder Daniel Eipp answered for the Crimson off another assist from Dwyer, to end Duke’s five-goal run, but the damage had already been done. Harvard would be unable to keep up with the Blue Devils for the rest of the game.
The onslaught resumed quickly, as Wolf and Jones scored once and twice respectively, followed by a score from attackman Case Matheis to put Duke up by six goals with only three minutes left in the first half.
“Against a team like that we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes,” co-captain Joe Petrucci said. “We couldn’t seem to get anything to click, and everything they did worked out.”
Walker managed to score for the Crimson off an assist from sophomore defenseman Stephen Jahelka, but Walsh quickly responded for the Blue Devils with only eight seconds remaining in the half to put his team up, 10-4, heading into the break.
By halftime, Harvard had been thoroughly dominated by its opponent. Harvard had taken 12 shots to Duke’s 25, had gone 5-15 on faceoffs, and was losing the ground ball battle, 13-17. The Crimson had also committed two more penalties than the Blue Devils, both of which resulted in scores.
Whereas Harvard’s four goals were all assisted, Duke was relying on superior individual skills to score. Only two of the team’s ten goals were assisted, as the Blue Devil scorers were able to beat their defenders by themselves and draw extra defenders to create easy chances.
“A number of their goals came from drawing us into a slide, then passing the ball around for an easy dodge on the back side,” Wojcik said. “We weren’t really able to defend the ball well on some of those plays.”
In the second half, the Crimson was able to keep pace with Duke, but was never able to gain any ground. The teams alternated goals through the third quarter, as Dwyer, Walker, and sophomore attackman Ian Ardrey notched scores for Harvard, each of which was preceded by a Duke goal.
The Blue Devils then opened up the fourth quarter with three straight goals to effectively ice the match at 16-7 with seven minutes remaining. Before the game could end, however, co-captain Peter Schwartz scored twice, as well as Walker again for his fourth goal, and junior midfielder Murphy Vandervelde.
Schwartz finished with two goals and two assists and Dwyer tallied one goal and three assists, joining Walker on top for the Crimson with four points.
“This was a missed opportunity for us to get a top five win and move us into a position for an at large birth,” Wojcik said. “But either way, we play some of the best teams in the country, and that will help us play our best lacrosse down the stretch.”
—Staff writer Theo Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.