The Harvard men's lacrosse team simply got tired to losing to top-ranked teams. All three of the laxmen's defeats were at the hands of teams rated among the top 15 in the country. So when they headed to Amherst to face fifth-ranked UMass yesterday afternoon, they were determined not to let this be number four.
And they didn't.
The Crimson handed the Minutemen their first loss of the season, 12-8, boosting its record to 6-3. Harvard returned to the form that had carried the squad to five straight victories earlier this season, with a well-balanced offense and tight team defense. The inexperience and lack of killer instinct that hampered the Crimson in earlier games were noticeably absent from this contest.
Harvard broke the game open in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter when the laxmen took a one-goal deficit and turned it into an 11-7 lead.
Tri-captain Rich Doyle started the scoring spree with 1:24 gone in the fourth stanza. He took a feed from the Crimson's leading scorer, freshman Steve Bartenfelder, and heat UMass netminder Chris Benedict with a blast to the left-hand corner, tying the game at 7-7.
A minute and a half later, senior Norm Forbush added another, and 20 seconds after that, former. All American Brendan Meagher-who has been making a comeback from a knee injury which kept him out of competition for a year and a half dished the ball to Matt Fee for a insurance tally. Harvard scored two more times in the next two minutes, and the deflated Minutemen could not regroup to mount a successful attack for the remainder of the contest.
It was Harvard, however, that got off to a sluggish start, scoring only one in the first quarter, while the Minutemen notched three goals. In the second quarter the Crimson defense clamped down and goalie Tim Pendergast turned away blast after blast to limit the UMass attack to only one goal. Pendergast had an outstanding game, stopping 27 Minutemen shots.
"The victory was a team effort and we played out best game of the season midfielder Rich Rainaldi said. "But Pendergast was the key."
While the Crimson netminder and the rest of the defense suffocated UMass Harvard a offense went to work, Bartenfelder scored the first goal on his hat trick five minutes into the second period and captain Mike Davis and Rich Doyle each added one to knot the score at 4-4 when the halftime horn blew.
The laxmen certainly played their finest and most consistent game. The scoring came from seven sources and Harvard packed up 68 ground balls to the Minutemen's 53.
The win is particularly significant because the Crimson first face Rutgers, UNH, Adelphi and Dartmouth--all highly regarded teams in the next two weeks and the squad needed to prove to itself that it could be at the best.