Of the eight at-large bids to the NCAA lacrosse tournament, the first seven went to traditional powerhouses Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Virginia. That left one spot remaining, with Hofstra and Harvard vying for the all-important opportunity.
The selection committee chose Harvard.
“There’s always some anxiety as you wait like that,” Crimson coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “But you can tell how much these guys love lacrosse by how excited they were to keep playing lacrosse together for another week.”
No. 13 Harvard (10-6, 5-1 Ivy) will play No. 5 Notre Dame (9-5, 2-3 ACC), the automatic qualifier from the Atlantic Coast Conference, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in South Bend, Ind. The first-round contest can be viewed on ESPNU.
This season marks the first time that the Crimson has advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, when the team lost to Syracuse in the first round.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1971, Harvard has made it just five times, never surviving past the quarterfinals.
Notre Dame comes into the matchup riding a three-game win streak, including impressive victories over second-seeded Syracuse and seventh-seeded Maryland.
But Harvard has also been hot as of late, as the Crimson has won five out of its last seven games, with the two losses both coming to fourth-seeded Penn.
Defense has been critical to Harvard’s success all season. In each of the team’s wins, the Crimson held its opponent to 10 goals or fewer.
Harvard even tends to slow the game down on the offensive end, setting up the attack and creating chances through team offense as opposed to individual efforts.
In its most recent loss, however, the Crimson held Penn to seven goals but only managed to score five. The setback in the Ivy League championship game was the first time all season that Harvard posted a shots-on-goal rate lower than 50 percent, as the 45.9 percent mark was well below the season average of 61.8 percent.
“We play as a team,” said defenseman and co-captain Joe Petrucci. “We are going to be ready to support our guys all over the field.”
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has won its last two games in shootouts, 15-14 over Syracuse and 18-17 over Army.
Much of the reason for the two high-scoring contests can be attributed to the Fighting Irish pushing the ball in transition, creating fast break opportunities for their offense and quick possessions.
“[Notre Dame] is excellent in transition and between the lines,” Wojcik said. “They generate offense that way and ride really hard on the other side, so we need to be very good in transition as well.”