A final spurt of defensive effort made all the difference in the Harvard men’s lacrosse game Friday night. The Crimson (10-5, 5-1 Ivy) battled Yale (9-5, 3-3) for the second time this week, but this time a bid in the Ivy League tournament final was up for grabs. This time around, No. 1-seed Harvard topped the No. 4-seed Bulldogs, 10-9, at Harvard Stadium.
In the fourth period, Harvard forced five turnovers, scooped up eight ground balls, and kept the Yale team to just one goal in the final 15 minutes of play.
“They got some points here and there, but I thought that we came out of that huddle at the end of the third coming into the fourth [and] really locked it down defensively,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “Jake [Gambitsky] stepped up, made some big saves, and really inspired our defense to step up and make big plays to really turn the game in our favor.”
Despite the Bulldogs grabbing the lead early in the first and third quarters, the junior goaltender made crucial saves late in the third and throughout the fourth. The goalie also tallied one interception,which put an end to Yale’s three-goal streak.
“Something I’ve continued to try to improve on as a goalie is trying to stay poised,” Gambitsky said. “It’s that next one mentality: you let a goal in, you have to be ready for the next one.”
Gambitsky totaled 10 saves on the night, seven of which came in the second half of play. The game marks his tenth game of the spring with at least ten saves to his name.
“The defense just gave me shots that I could stop towards the end,” Gambitsky said. “What this defensive group is really good at is staying poised and making plays when we need to, and I think a lot of that stems from the chemistry.”
The Crimson defense kept star Bulldog players at bay for most of the night. Yale’s Brandon Mangan had two points with a goal and an assist, while leading scorer Conrad Oberbeck scored three goals in the first half but was silenced for the rest of the match.
“[Oberbeck and Mangan] are great players,” Wojcik said. “We really believe in and really trust our close defense. Tonight, [sophomore] Bobby Duvnjak was primarily responsible for Overbeck and [classmate] Stephen Jahelka for Mangan. We don’t expect to ever shut them down completely. We just want to try to limit what they can do.”
The win marks the Crimson’s fourth game in a row in which one goal separated the victor from the loser.
“We have been trying to extend our season,” co-captain Pete Schwartz said. “And these are the games that are really important. These are must-win games for us.”
The Crimson defeated Yale last week in an 11-10 victory, and clinched a berth to the Ivy League tournament with a victory over Princeton a week prior.
“We have been in some pressure situations in the past couple of weeks,” Gambitsky said.
But Harvard’s offense, like the defense, knew when and how to execute to add to the team’s win count. The Crimson displayed its versatility in the attacking end of the field, with five Harvard players finding the back of the net.
Schwartz shot for three goals and tallied one assist, while sophomores Ian Ardrey Devin Dwyer had another standout game, with Ardrey tying Schwartz with three goals, and Dwyer passing for five assists.
“Devin had an excellent game,” Wojcik said. “He is our quarterback behind our goal, and I think he is as good of a distributor as anyone in the country. He has excellent vision to see the field, see the open lanes, and be able to deliver the pass.”
Dwyer now totals 35 assists, a handful of which have been to Schwartz, who after the night’s game leads the team with 24 goals.
“[Playing with Dwyer] has been awesome for me,” Schwartz said. “I am a guy that likes to shoot the ball, and he is a player that can put it on my stick from 15 or 20 yards [away].”
The Crimson, which remains undefeated at home, will face off against Penn on Sunday for the tournament win. Penn remains the only Ivy competitor to top Harvard this season.
“We love playing at home in front of our home crowd…and it’s been working out for us,” Dwyer said. “Sunday will be another great opportunity for us in front of friends and family, and we are really excited for it.”
—Staff writer Caroline L. Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.