To become Ivy League champions for the first time since 1990, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team will have to put the past behind it and defeat No. 13 Yale on Saturday in New Haven.
“We are very excited about this game,” co-captain Joe Petrucci said. “Obviously, Harvard-Yale is a huge rivalry, and we will be playing for an Ivy League championship. It’s something the senior class hasn’t done in their careers here, so it’s really exciting.”
The past seasons have witnessed even matchups between the Crimson (8-5, 4-1 Ivy) and the Bulldogs (9-3, 3-2). Yale came away from the 2013 contest with an 11-10 victory that clinched a spot in the Ancient Eight tournament, while Harvard ended the season empty-handed.
The New Haven squad ultimately went on to win the tournament last year and appear in the NCAA Tournament, where Yale advanced to second round play before eventually falling to Syracuse by one goal.
“If we win this game we…earn the right to host the Ivy League tournament,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “We earned our spot into the tournament, and now we just need to lock up the championship.”
The Crimson remains undefeated at home, so appearing at Harvard Stadium in the tournament would undoubtedly give the Crimson an advantage.
But before focusing on their standing in the tournament, the players must first find a way to maneuver against a tough Yale team on the road.
“They’re a team that we don’t like, and they don’t like us,” Petrucci said. “It’s always a dogfight.”
This year, the Crimson will have to defeat noteworthy Bulldog attackmen and a formidable talent in faceoffs.
“[Yale’s faceoff man] Dylan Levings is as good as anyone out there,” Wojcik said. “He gets them the ball and allows them to control the pace and tone of a game.”
So far this season, Levings has posted a 59 percent overall faceoff percentage, a 65 percent conference percentage, and 82 ground ball pickups. Indeed, the 2013 Ivy League tournament MVP will be a worthy opponent for veteran Crimson faceoff man, senior Gabriel Mendola.
“Faceoff is one of the most important aspects of the game, but it is also one of the least predictable aspects of the game,” Wojcik said. “All I know is we have a great faceoff guy in Gabe Mendola, and they have a great faceoff guy in Dylan.”
Mendola has performed well this season, scrambling for 55 percent of faceoffs and earning an Ivy League Player of the Week award following his pickup of 20-of-26 faceoffs at the midline against the previously undefeated Cornell.
“Brandon Mangan and Conrad Overbeck are [also] outstanding [Yale] players,” Wojcik said. “We will really have to watch out for them.”
Mangan and Overbeck, with 39 and 43 points for the season, respectively, may pose a threat to the strong Crimson defense led by junior goalkeeper Jake Gambitsky.