Over the weekend, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team lost to Brown, 13-11, marking the Crimson’s eighth straight defeat to Ivy rivals Brown, Cornell, and Princeton.
But an even more improbable streak was extended during the loss to the Bears. Sophomore attack Jeff Cohen scored four goals to lead Harvard and had two goals and an assist earlier in the week in a win against Colgate. This performance earned Cohen New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Player of the Week honors, his second such award of his career.
Wednesday afternoon the Harvard men’s lacrosse team faced a non-conference opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas, in a televised contest played at Georgetown. The Crimson is poised to be a top team this year, returning its leading scorers from last season and welcoming one of the most talented freshmen classes of any team in the nation. Harvard fell to the Hoyas on Wednesday, but the Crimson’s offense was relentless, especially in the closing minutes when it tallied four goals in two minutes en route to falling by one, 13-12.
That Harvard will have a strong offense again this year is certainly expected, but I, for one, have been wondering what the condition of their defensive line will be after graduating several starters including goalie, Joe Pike '08. If senior Ben Smith’s early season contributions are any indication of how the defense will play, then I’d say the defensive line is going to be very solid this year.
In the first two games of the season, Smith has already tallied two goals for the Crimson. Smith scored against Canisius in the season opener at Harvard last Saturday. His score came after the defense pushed the ball up field and carried the action into the offensive zone, creating an opportunity for Smith to have a shot on net. After three years on the roster and plenty of game action in the past few seasons, this was Smith’s first collegiate goal. The goal was not a fluke or a stroke of luck by any means though. On Wednesday, in the tough battle with the Hoyas, Smith again netted a goal.
Smith's versatility on the field perhaps indicates some untapped potential to his game. Whatever the cause of his newfound ability to drive to the goal, it is certainly a harbinger of great things to come for both Smith and the rest of Coach Tillman’s defense.
If football season seems like it took place a decade ago, or if you can’t understand the multiple tie-breaker scenarios in men’s basketball, here’s something to get excited about: men’s lacrosse.
After four straight losing seasons from 2005-2008, Harvard coach John Tillman led his squad to an 8-5 overall record in 2009, including a signature win at No. 5 Duke in the season opener. While last year the Crimson may have had the fortune of flying under the radar, every squad will have its date with Harvard circled on this season's calendar. The Crimson is ranked No. 12 in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll, but it won’t catch any breaks throughout the season, as Ivy foes Cornell, Princeton, and Brown also broke the top 20. If you haven’t noticed yet, this is one of the only sports in which the Ivy League can lay claim to being the nation’s premier conference.
With the season opener just ten days away, look for Harvard to have a breakthrough offensive year to help its young defense and alleviate the loss of goalie Joe Pike. Sophomore attack Jeff Cohen was the Crimson’s leading scorer last season with 34 goals, good for seventh nationally in goals per game. Junior attack Dean Gibbons was right behind him with 21 goals, and the freshman duo of Jack Doyle and Peter Schwartz, part of a top-three national recruiting class, will be expected to make an impact early.
The Crimson will host Canisius in its season opener Saturday, February 27th, at Cumnock Turf.