By virtue of its Ivy League regular season title, the men’s lacrosse team will play host to the Ivy League Tournament this weekend with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
The four-team bracket kicks off on Friday at Harvard Stadium, when second-seeded Cornell (11-3, 5-1 Ivy) will take on third-seeded Penn (9-3, 4-2).
Following that contest, top-seeded Harvard (9-5, 5-1) will take on fourth-seeded Yale (9-4, 3-3) under the lights in a rematch of the game that clinched a share of the Ancient Eight regular season title for the Crimson, its first since 1990.
“Our defense has got to try to stop their offense; they’re really good offensively,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “There’s really nothing that we’re trying to do differently [from the last meeting], just trying to do everything that we do better.”
While Harvard’s 11-10 win over the Bulldogs last week was certainly historic, the upcoming game between the two archrivals could prove even more significant.
With both teams currently on the bubble for potential bids into the NCAA Tournament, the loser of Friday’s game will likely be denied a place in the 18-team field.
This win-or-go-home atmosphere only serves to increase the stakes of the matchup in what has been one of the strongest years for the conference in recent memory.
All four tournament teams are ranked in the top 20 nationally, and while the Crimson may have earned the first seed in the league tournament, its number 12 ranking in the latest national poll makes it just the third-best team in the Ivy League in the eyes of the media.
Although different scenarios abound, the only sure way for Harvard to earn itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament will be to win the Ivy League Tournament and thereby capture the league’s automatic qualifier.
While the league as a whole has an outside chance to receive as many as three bids, the scenario remains unlikely, given the surplus of quality teams around the nation vying for a berth in postseason play.
The last time the Ivy League had three teams in the NCAA Tournamentfield was 2009, when Brown, Princeton, and Cornell represented the Ancient Eight.
Given the parity of the league this year, home-field advantage may prove crucial for Harvard as it attempts to capture the conference tournament for the first time in the event’s five-year history.
The Crimson earned the right to host by sharing the regular season league title with Cornell and beating the Bid Red head-to-head, 14-9, in Ithaca earlier this season.
Harvard has been unstoppable at home this season, going 6-0 with an average margin of victory of more than five goals.
But the quality of the teams it hosted does not match the quality of the teams it played on the road. The Crimson’s home opponents have a combined record of 27-52 this season, while its away opponents have a cumulative record of 67-38.