Entering spring break, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team found itself riding a four-game win streak to begin the season. On consecutive Saturdays, the Crimson suffered setbacks against one of the nation’s top teams in Penn State and an Ivy League foe in Brown. Harvard dropped its league opener for the third consecutive season.
BROWN 13, HARVARD 8
Despite a second-half surge, the Crimson fell to Brown (2-3, 1-0 Ivy League) in Providence on Saturday afternoon. The loss marks Harvard’s second in a row after starting the season 4-0.
After the Crimson junior Peter Blynn drew first blood 2:34 into play, the Bears pounced, scoring three unanswered en route to a dominating first period of play. Harvard found itself in a 6-2 hole after the first quarter, and trailed 10-4 at the half.
“We came out flat and did not execute,” senior tri-captain Ryan Norton said. “Every game is a learning experience, and our past two games are no different.”
Harvard’s defense, led by Norton, responded well in the second half, holding Brown scoreless in the third quarter, ultimately allowing only three goals after the break.
Plagued by a season-high 26 turnovers, the Crimson’s offense struggled to find its rhythm all afternoon. Coming into Saturday, Harvard hadn’t tallied more than 16 turnovers in five previous games this season. The Crimson managed five goals after halftime, but its 15 second-half turnovers, including a dismal 10 in the third quarter, stymied any hopes of surmounting a comeback.
“We have a lot to work on going forward,” Norton said, “And we are eager to compete against another strong opponent [Boston University] on Tuesday.”
PENN STATE 15, HARVARD, 12
Penn State (8-0) handed Harvard (4-2, 0-1 Ivy) its first loss of the season, winning a hard-fought battle in the bubble by a score of 15-12. The Nittany Lions thwarted the Crimson’s bid for its first 5-0 start since 2000.
Another arctic day in Cambridge moved the game indoors for the second time this season.
“I thought our team gave a great effort,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik said. “I thought we fought all game, and I was happy with the way we responded when we went down in the second half. So, in terms of our intangibles, I was proud.”
Harvard looked to regain the same second half mojo that helped the Crimson rally to beat Vermont a week prior, but it wasn’t meant to be. After junior attackman J.T. Palladino scored the opening goal of the half, an upset was brewing in the bubble. The return of Palladino from injury provided a critical added dose of offensive production. Penn State responded with four unanswered goals in the final 7:25 of the quarter, dashing Harvard’s hopes to stay unbeaten.
“It was good to get J.T. back in his first game of the season,” Wojcik said. “He really helped complement Morgan [Cheek], who has led our offense—scoring a hat trick and a couple of assists. We need more of that from other players, as well, but it’s good to have him back. I thought he helped us finish some plays.”
Harvard controlled just 8 of 31 faceoffs (25.8%) on Saturday afternoon, the lowest single game percentage in its last 11 games, dating back to last year’s April contest against Cornell. Through the Nittany Lions’ first eight games, their freshman faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri has won 68% at the X. Harvard has won 41.8% thus far. Last year, only four teams made the NCAA Tournament with a faceoff percentage below 50% (Towson at 48.1%, Yale at 49.2%, Notre Dame at 49.3%, and Albany at 49.5%).
Penn State’s ability to limit junior attackman Morgan Cheek proved to be a difference maker. The Nittany Lions held Cheek to just three points, atypical considering his season average of nearly six points per contest.
“We’ve just got to keep getting better,” Wojcik said. “Yesterday was a benchmark of where we are against what people consider a top-five team—we had our chances to win the game…We need to continue to get better in all areas. I don’t think we played great in any particular area, so we’re going to keep trying to get better at facing off, and our team offense and defense.”
—Staff writer Will V. Robbins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.