UPDATED: March 6, 2017 at 9:19 p.m.
The Harvard men’s lacrosse team rallied behind a dominant defensive effort in the second half to beat the Vermont Catamounts (3-3) by a score of 13-10. For the second straight season, the Crimson improved to 4-0.
In the decisive fourth quarter, Harvard controlled all facets of play. With the Crimson holding a 10-9 lead, sophomore defenseman John Butler caused a turnover. Then tri-captain and senior defenseman Ryan Norton seized the ball and went coast to coast to pot his first goal of the season, putting the Crimson ahead by two.
“I was fortunate to get the ball, and I just ran as fast as I could,” said Norton. “When you have offensive threats like Morgan Cheek, Timmy Edmonds, and Ryan Graff, the defensemen are hugging their guys a little bit, so I was fortunate enough to get open down there and put it away.”
Harvard hadn’t allowed opponents into double figures entering Saturday’s matchup, and it looked like that streak might survive despite allowing nine first-half goals. But Vermont’s Dawes Milchling scored the Catamounts’ 10th goal with 2:48 to play.
However, that shot made little difference, as aided by Norton’s full-field jaunt, the hosts had already put the game to bed.
“[Norton] made a huge play in transition,” head coach Chris Wojcik said. “That goal really helped propel us to get a little breathing room and helped us separate to win this game.”
Playing inside the bubble at Harvard Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Harvard’s junior attackman Morgan Cheek drew first blood 55 seconds into play, and senior captain Sean Coleman added one of his own minutes later to put the Crimson two ahead.
Harvard’s early offensive production has been a major boon through four games.
“We came out really strong with good energy,” Wojcik said. “We moved the ball well and were really hitting our shots, but we got a little too comfortable. We started taking shots that weren’t the best shots we could get. We started taking the first thing, and their goalie made some saves.”
Cheek, the nation’s second-leading point scorer per game, needed only one half to extend his streak of hat tricks to four games. He scored his third goal with 6:16 to play in the second quarter.
Cheek finished the game with five goals and one assist, slightly below his 6.75 points-per-game average.
Vermont would fight back, though. The Catamounts’ offense was cranking on all cylinders from the outside, connecting on numerous shots from beyond 10 yards in the first half, as Harvard struggled to limit Vermont’s time and room. The Catamounts responded with six goals in the second quarter, including three unanswered to end the half.
Vermont lea 9-6 heading into the break.
“They were better on the ground and facing off in the first half,” Wojcik said. “They really dominated possession…. They moved the ball well and hit their shots. At halftime we challenged our team to be better on the ground, to take pride obviously playing on our home field.”