John Ince had to settle for second in Ivy League scoring this spring. The fellow he edged for the scoring total last year, Mark Webster, scored 16 points in his final two games to go right by Princeton's Pete Johnsen and Ince with a final total of 31 compared to Ince's 27. But I'm probably more upset about it than he is. I told him last week that Webster needed six points to tie him, and Webster had one game left. Ince shrugged his shoulders and told me not to bother getting excited about it, in other words, "Who cares?" Cornell showed no mercy on Dartmouth, crushing the Indians, 22-3. Webster took advantage of his scoring opportunities as he put in seven goals and three assists.
Both players repeated on the All-Ivy first team after being the only sophomores named to it last year. Maybe next spring Ince will regain the crown. Or perhaps Johnsen will win it. On the other hand, maybe coach Bruce Munro will. Ince and Johnsen played together at Garden City High School on Long Island and were the two super scorers earlier this season before Webster rallied.
Ince plays squash, too. It's remarkable that he had never played before coming to Harvard, and this winter competed at number four and number six on the best collegiate team in the nation. Some of the explanation has to be natural ability and the excellent coaching of Corey Wynn and Jack Barnaby. But probably the main reason for his squash success is determination, trite as it may seem. Ince really works at trying to improve. One of his teammates said that he didn't really have great finesse or a soft touch, but that he more than made up for it by running all over the court and returning almost every shot until his opponent blew it. Using this approach, Ince compiled an 8-2 record last winter. It'd be surprising if he isn't even better next year.
Ince Feeds the Crimson
The situation is somewhat different in lacrosse. Ince has been playing that sport for several years since it is very popular of Long Island. He's the feeder for the Crimson. He usually circulates behind the net and passes out to teammates in a position to shoot. For this reason, Ince led the league in assists this year with 13. Webster and Johnsen get most of their points on goals, rather than assists. Ince has some good help, of course. He can pass to, among others, Phil Zuckerman and Bruce Regan, who ranked sixth and eighth in Ivy scoring. But even with lousy teammates, his passing is so good that he'd have to get a substantial number of assists. He's now eighth no Harvard's all-time scoring lost.
It's really a pleasure to watch Ince play. Even someone who knows less about lacrosse than I do couldn't help but notice his infinite polish. If you will excuse the sentimentality, it seems appropriate that Ince has the same number as Mickey Mantle did. But Harvard probably won't retire the number 7 as the Yankees will. And Ince's dedication is evident on the lacrosse field as well as on a squash court. One day when I went down to practice, everyone had gone in except for three guys. One of them was Ince. He was one of the few guys that the team could count on when everyone else started playing badly. He was as consistent as Frankie Avalaon, though not as greasy as the kid from Philly.
Size Not a Major Factor
One comment you hear a lot is how amazing it is that Ince is so good even though he's so small. 5'10", 130 pounds doesn't seem so small tome, but I guess that's all explained in a vague way by the theory of relativity. Size isn't all that important in lacrosse, though. Being small is some sort of obstacle of course, and Ince told News and Views correspondent Jon Paulson that he found the big defensemen on varsity teams rather ominous.
A spectator will notice that he's sometimes hesitant about scooping up a ground ball when there is a group of players trying to pick it up. Just simple preservation. But Ince really surprised Yale's Carl Bates, who is a good deal heavier, when he knocked him right off the field while the Eli defense was trying to clear in the final game of the season. Harvard got the ball as a result. Around the net, Ince maneuvers well enough to just about negate any lack of brawn.
Walking around Cambridge, Ince certainly doesn't look like your basic jock, not even your basic Harvard jock, a supposedly more refined species. He's strange in other ways, too. For one thing, Ince goes to church, which is enough to set anyone apart from the crowd these days. In addition, he seems to study fairly conscientiously during the term. This is not criticism, just bewildered observation.
Another oddity is his apparent optimism. Early this season when the lacrosse team was suffering from an identity crisis, Ince tried to look at the bright side. At a squad meeting before practice, Gary Leahey had just spoken rather unenthusiastically about the team's deficient attitude. Ince then got up and said he didn't think things were all that bad and that everyone shouldn't get down. He didn't say it with great eloquence, and Leahey's point of view certainly mad more sense, but hearing Ince speak as he did was somehow impressive. It was just good to hear his belief that the team shouldn't be so self-critical. There was lors of feeling in it.
Ince may make All-American this year. The selections haven't been made yet, but there can be no question that he is a prime candidate. Webster made the third team last year, but Ince was not so honored. Some of Johns Hopkins excellent attackmen of a year ago are gone, however, so this should make even more of an opening for Ince. Mike Ananis was on the third unit last year, and Regan and Jim Kilkowski were both honorable mention. All three, especially Regan, have a good chance to be selected again. And if Ince doesn't get chosen, it will be like naming the 15 best members of Our Gang ("Little Rascals," to some of us) and leaving out Alfalfa.