On a chilly night at Harvard Stadium, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team narrowly suffered a 15-13 loss to No. 8 Albany. Having dropped four of its last five, the Crimson must rekindle its initial momentum, as the team chugs into the heart of its Ivy League schedule next weekend.
“The team gave an outstanding effort,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik said. “I thought we had a great competitive spirit. We fought and really hustled throughout the 60 minutes. We certainly gave our all, and made a number of plays, but you've got to credit Albany—they're an excellent team. Overall, the way the team came out, and as hard as we played, there's a lot of positives to build on. We played as hard as we have all year. I saw the team coming together and really fighting for each other and having each other's back. I thought it was great to see.”
Harvard put up a valiant effort against one of the nation’s top squads. The Great Danes (7-1, 2-0 America East Conference) struggled to separate from a pesky Crimson bunch (5-4, 1-1 Ivy League), as the back-and-forth battle featured six ties, and neither team ever held a lead greater than two.
With 4:57 left to play, junior midfielder Joe Lang fired home his second goal of the night to bring the Crimson within one. However, losing all five crucial faceoffs in the fourth quarter derailed Harvard's comeback attempt. Albany's Jakob Patterson scored the final goal of the game—his third of the night—with 3:37 remaining to give the Great Danes a two-goal cushion which they would carry to the buzzer.
“The offense has been battling for us,” tri-captain Ryan Norton said. “But defensively we had to do a little more, and we just couldn't get it done. In the past couple games, we went down, you didn't see the fight that we had today−really believing we were going to win in the fourth quarter, but obviously we didn't put it together in the end there.”
Albany's high-powered offense entered the game averaging 16.5 goals per game, the highest total in college lacrosse. Harvard held the guests to 15, which was the team’s second-lowest mark of the season and the lowest since the Great Danes dropped their season opener at No. 4 Syracuse, 10-9. Albany had scored 17 or more goals in each of its past six contests.
Despite its faceoff woes, Harvard came up with 22 stops on Wednesday, retaining possession the hard way, and staying within arm’s length the whole night. Those stops were, in large part, due to the strong play of junior goalie Robert Shaw, who has recorded a save percentage above 50 percent in all but two games this season.
In games in which Shaw has played all 60 minutes (eight of his team’s nine contests), opposing goaltenders have tallied more saves than him just once. The Canton, Mass. native made four critical saves, including two on the doorstep, in the fourth quarter to keep Harvard's hopes alive. Shaw and company limited Albany's Connor Fields, who leads the nation in scoring with 4.28 goals per game, to just one tally on the evening.
The Crimson held the lead twice in the first half behind three goals from its offensive stalwart, junior attackman Morgan Cheek. He notched his seventh hat trick of the season with 5:38 to play in the second quarter. Fellow linemate and classmate, Tim Edmonds, recorded his first multi-goal game of the season, capturing a hat trick of his own.
Harvard's curse at the faceoff X reared its ugly head once again on Wednesday. At times this season, Harvard's opponents have found themselves playing make-it-take-it, and Wednesday's 18.75 winning percentage in faceoffs was rock-bottom for the Crimson. The 6-for-32 effort dipped the Crimson's average to 37.3 percent on the season, the lowest faceoff percentage a Wojcik team has had since he ascended to the helm nearly seven years ago. Winning and faceoff percentage are certainly correlated, evidenced by Harvard’s 31.3 percent clip over the past five games after posting a 45.4 percent mark in its four wins to start the season.
“We'll keep doing what we do−throwing, catching, ground balls, offense and defense, riding, and clearing,” Wojcik said. “So, there's nothing we're going to really change other than just trying to get better each day. I think that was a really well played game by both teams, and Albany just made a couple more plays.”
—Staff writer Will V. Robbins can be reached at email@example.com.
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