At the beginning of this year, things looked very promising for the Harvard men's lacrosse team All-American Brendan Meagher was back after spending last year on the sidelines with a knee injury and high school sensation Dell Dressel had arrived here as a freshman. The squad even looked as though it might repeat its 1980 season, when it shared the Ivy title with Cornell and made it to the Nationals.
But today when the laxmen head to the home of the Baltimore Lacrosse Hall of Fame to face top-ranked Johns Hopkins, they are once again without Meagher, who reinjured his knee, and Dressel will be on the sidelines cheering for Hopkins where he transferred this winter.
The Crimson squad still stronger than last year's, however, which finished with a disappointing 4-8 record. "This year's team has more overall strength," Coach Bob Scalise says. "We're still lacking a superstar, "but our overall level of play is much better." What his teams going to need is time to mature, since over half the starters are freshmen and sophomores.
On offense, the freshmen should play a particularly large role. One of the team's alltime leading scores, senior Norm Forbush, is back, and will be joined by Yardlings Rob Halley and Steve Bartenfelder. Halley adds quickness and Bartenfelder complements Halley's speed with his brute strength.
While Harvard looks strong in front of the net, it may need some help in the midfield. Meagher will be sorely missed, though seniors Mike Davis, Rich Doyle, and Matt Fee are all back, and Rich Rainaldi has moved from attack to give the midfield added depth. The Crimson's strongest point should once again be defense, despite the loss of four time All-Americans Haywood Miller and Frank Prezioso to graduation.
Goalie Tim Pendergast is back in the net and looking better than ever. He is lighter and quicker than last year, when he turned away over 60 percent of the shots that came at him.
The Harder They Come
The early part of the season will be the toughest, with Hopkins today and next week's contest against defending Ivy League champion Cornell. Scalise feels that playing such stiff opposition early in the season can benefit the team. "We have to play a team like Hopkins early to set the level of play for the rest of the season," Scalise explains. "Also if you want to be noticed by the lacrosse world, you have to play Hopkins."
For years now, Johns Hopkins has been synonymous with lacrosse excellence. No lacrosse team has won more national championships or drawn the attention that the Hopkins team has. Lacrosse is a religion in Maryland, and crowds of 6000 regularly attend the games.
This year, Hopkins looks indestructible as ever with the return of All-Universe attackman Jeff Cook. In last week's season opener, the Hopkins squad walloped Yale 21-3, showing them no mercy, playing their starters in the third period.
If the Crimson is going to avoid the Elis' face today, it must remain unawed and force the Hopkins laxmen to play defense. "They've got an unbelievable offense, so we've got to control the ball and tire them out on defense," Scalise says.
After today's opener, the rest of the year seems comparatively easy. "If the team matures quickly, this could be a very good season," Scalise notes, adding. "I am cautiously optimistic. I've seen some flashes of real potential."