It is unusual for members of the Crimson family to take cues from any rival Tigers.
Yet, it appears that Harvard's No. 16 men's lacrosse team adopted the ideology of top-ranked Princeton for yesterday's match against the University of New Hampshire--get out in front early, never look back but make sure not to score 20 goals--and come out with a 19-6 triumph.
First things first. After toying with the Wildcats for the first nine minutes, the Crimson unleashed a demon in Max von Zuben. Playing for the last time at Ohiri field, the senior tallied three strikes in a span of 4:29, racing his team to a 6-1 lead at the end of the first period. He finished with a career-high seven goals--two short of a team record--and now has an astounding 12 points in the last two games.
"Max has been fabulous for us," said Harvard coach Scott Anderson.
Von Zuben, however, downplayed his success, despite getting mobbed by teammates and spectators following the contest.
"We had a basic game plan today--nothing special," he said.
Sandwiched between von Zuben's heroics were strikes by junior midfielders Jared Chupaila, who finished with three goals and two assists, and Doug Crofton, who had a pair of tallies. Both goals were assisted by junior linesmate Lou Bevilacqua, who led Harvard with four dishes.
The second period was all Crimson, as von Zuben kept putting points on the scoreboard. The team took a commanding 10-2 lead at the break by virtue a glimpse into the future--a pretty pass from freshman Lawson DeVries to classmate Daniel Redgate from behind the net with 18 seconds remaining. Harvard held a 29-7 shot advantage and would go on to out-shoot UNH 47-34.
"The key today was to not look past this team," Anderson said. "They are physically very good and could give us a tough match on any given day."
"We have a huge game on Sunday [vs. Notre Dame], the biggest game of the season. It's challenge not to look past [UNH]," von Zuben said.
The third period was more of the same, featuring outstanding goaltending by captain Rob Lyng, who recorded 10 saves before being replaced by senior Kawika Chetron and freshman Art Chen, each of whom had impressive five-minute stints. The spectators were also treated to a spectacular coast-to-coast score by senior Jon Lopez and the first goal of the season by classmate Doug DeMuth.
Entering the final frame Harvard held a 15-4 advantage. The last fifteen minutes were sloppy, with four penalties assessed to the Crimson, including an "illegal equipment" infraction by Lopez, who had holes in his gloves. But the Wildcats could convert none of the opportunities. Harvard tallied its last score with nearly six minutes to go but coasted from then on with Chen making a nice save as the horn sounded.
Most impressive is the fact that the Crimson played its second fantastic game in a row without leading scorer Mike Ferrucci, who went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament a week ago.
"Max and [junior] Jim Bevilacqua have had to fill the void in terms of scoring, and they have been great," Anderson said.
Ferrucci was pacing the sidelines on crutches, urging on his teammates. They will have to take it to a higher level this Sunday against No. 10 Notre Dame. With a 7-4 (4-1 Ivies) record, the Crimson are a bubble team in terms of NCAAs, which takes only the top 12 squads.
"We have to go undefeated to make it," Ferrucci said.
"Notre Dame is a very disciplined team, but it is a game we can win. If we defeat them, we will have two wins against quality team and that is usually enough to make the tournament," said Anderson, referring to the Crimson's victory over Brown on April 9. "But strange things happen."
Harvard is playing extremely well right now. Its defense--led by junior Rob Hatch and senior Jeremy Linzee--is punishing. The goaltending is superlative. And latent talents have surfaced on the offensive said. The Crimson is also winning faceoffs and ground balls.
"We have got to play like we practice," Ferrucci said.
And if Harvard plays against Notre Dame like it played yesterday, perhaps the Crimson will be looking to implement its new-found Princetonian ideology against the undefeated Tigers during reading period.