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For two and a half minutes on Sunday afternoon, the Harvard men's lacrosse team was on its way to an upset that could have propelled it into post- season play.
After dropping five of its last six games, the Crimson (6-6, 2-3 Ivy) went up by four goals on No. 12 Notre Dame with a strike from freshman attackman Matt Primm at 6:56 in the third period. For a moment, it seemed as though Harvard had regained its early-season confidence and was ready to get back in to the national Top Twenty.
But with 4:22 left in the third frame, the Fighting Irish (9-3, 4-0 Great Western), riding a six-game winning streak amidst a tight race for post-season seedings, suddenly woke up. Down 8-4, Notre Dame scored seven unanswered goals--including five in the final four minutes of the third to retake the lead, 11-8.
For the streaking team from South Bend, the sudden spurt would be enough to put the Crimson away for good. Despite Primm's five goals on the day, Harvard fell deeper into a slide that is eerily reminiscent of last season's second-half flop, during which the Crimson dropped its final seven games.
Harvard led the contest 5-4 at the break, after the two teams traded tallies through the first 30 minutes.
Senior midfielder Adam McGowan opened the game's scoring with an unassisted goal 2:46 into the game. For a Crimson team that has had trouble finding its first strike in the early part of games during the recent slide, McGowan's goal gave the Crimson the lead and a noticeable psychological lift at both ends.
Notre Dame's Jon Harvey and Steve Bishko were the first to solve Harvard senior netminder Keith Cynar, and put the Irish up 2-1 with less than three minutes left in the period.
Quick to respond, Crimson senior attackman Lawson DeVries found rope after a feed from senior attackman Geoff Watson with a little over a minute to play in the first frame.
It was the first of Watson's team-leading three assists on the day.
Primm notched his first of the day with only 19 seconds left in the initial period, as the Crimson entered the first intermission with a 4-2 lead and some offensive momentum.
DeVries and Primm both scored in extra-man situations.
Commanding leads and long periods of offensive momentum have been rare in recent weeks. The difference yesterday was in the level of execution. After a full week of practice, the Crimson looked more confident around Notre Dame's cage and more fluid in transition.
After being horrendously outshot during its six-game slump, Harvard had 30 shots on the day to the Irish's 33.
Yesterday's offensive production stood in stark contrast to the Crimson's most recent performance, in which the Crimson was outshot 85-44 in two games against UMass and Yale two weeks ago.
On the clear, another part of the Crimson's game that has been spotty lately, the Crimson converted 18 of 22 attempts.
Despite the momentum of the two late goals, the second period opened slowly. Primm broke the scoring silence with his second at 7:28, pushing the Crimson lead to 4-2.
Notre Dame answered quickly again, tying the game with goals from Devin Ryan and Chris Young. But Primm, with the Crimson on his back, scored with a minute and a half left in the period to give the Crimson a 5-4 lead going into the half.
In the next fifteen minutes, however, the Fighting Irish reached down and found the resilience that has kept them in the polls.
The Crimson came out firing with three goals in the period's initial eight minutes. Freshman midfielder Doug Logigian and junior attackman Roger Buttles each got their first, and Primm got his fourth.
But then came the flood.
Fueling the Irish's seven-goal slaughter was a renewed efficiency at nearly every point on the field. While face-offs had been relatively equal throughout the day, Notre Dame won eight of nine in the third and used the imbalance to set up its continuous attack.
Notre Dame also grabbed ten groundballs to the Crimson's four in the period, and outshot the Crimson 10-6.
At the end of the stampede, which extended into the fourth stanza, the Irish were up 11-8.
The Crimson managed two more goals, as Buttles got his second off of a helper from DeVries at 4:54 and Primm got his fifth with two and a half minutes left in the game. His goal would be the final of the day.
After the Irish had a goal disallowed because of a crease violation, the Crimson could not put together a coordinated effort in the final minute.
An errant pass to the point that trickled out of bounds along the field's far side ended the game, and any hope of post-season play for the Crimson.
With a six-game winning streak and a No. 12 ranking last week, the Irish are guaranteed a spot in the post-season. For the Crimson, after a sorry second half, a post-season that seemed so possible at the beginning of the year is far out of reach.
The Crimson will play its final game of the 2000 season at 1 p.m. on Jordan Field this Saturday against Dartmouth.
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