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Fresh Start for Ranked M. Lax

Despite its unfamiliar struggles last season, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team begins its 2004 season in a very familiar place—among the top 25 teams in the nation.

Although the Crimson struggled through a frustrating 2003 campaign—finishing 5-10 (1-6 Ivy) and suffering its first losing season since 1999—the team still managed to obtain enough votes to be ranked in the Face-Off Yearbook Division I preseason coaches poll top 25, just as it was in 2001 (No. 20), 2002 (No. 25) and 2003 (No. 21).

“[Number 25] is a good place to be,” Harvard coach Scott Anderson said. “It shows that people recognize that we have talent and are just not sure how the pieces will fit together.”

Of course, the Division I coaches are not alone in their uncertainty about how the pieces will fit together for the Crimson. The team enters the season needing to replace its leading point-scorer from last season in tri-captain attackman Matt Primm, last year’s MVP tri-captain defenseman Andrew Crocco as well as two of its three top midfielders in Jay Wich and tri-captain Doug Logigian.

“We have a different kind of team this year,” Anderson said. “Primm, Logigian and Wich were a lot of our offense last year.”

Although the team lost some key players, Harvard greatly improved in a key area—depth.

“We’re not really trying to replace the seniors player by player,” Anderson said. “We have more depth this year so we’re trying to get more out of more people.”

The increase in quality options this season can be mainly attributed to the influx in talented freshmen that have arrived as a result of an excellent recruiting year. Likely the biggest name among the recruiting class of ’07 is attackman Greg Cohen, who represented the United States in the 2003 ILF U-19 World Championships, recording nine goals in six games.

In addition to Cohen, attackmen Brandon Logigian and Brian Mahler as well as midfielders Evan Calvert, Adam Mahfouda and P.J. Maglathlin were all tabbed by Anderson as freshmen who may see significant minutes this year.

“The freshmen are mature athletes, for their age,” Anderson said. “But freshmen are freshmen. There are a lot of variables. We’re trying to get all of them to put pressure on themselves.”

“We’re going to have to rely on several of [the freshmen],” added captain Hani Malone. “They’ve shown a huge improvement and they just need to get comfortable.”

Although there are questions surrounding several key positions, there is no question about who will be between the pipes for the Crimson, as captain Jake McKenna will be the starting goalie for the fourth consecutive season.

“In lacrosse, maybe more than in any other sport, goaltending is a huge issue because of the [large] variability in save percentages,” Anderson said. “Good goaltending is the foundation of every good team.”

McKenna finished 18th in the nation in goal-against average last season and picked up Honorable Mention All-Ivy accolades. He was also tabbed as a preseason All-America pick by Face-Off Yearbook for the second straight season. Despite this, Anderson believes that his starting goalie could achieve even more this season.

“Expectations were so high last season,” Anderson said. “He almost tried too hard. [But] he finished last season with five of the best games I’ve ever seen a goalie play.”

Holding down the fort in front of McKenna are two returning starters, captains Malone and Spencer Stenmark. Along with Crocco, they anchored a defense that last season finished 17th in the nation in goals-allowed average and had the eighth-ranked man-down defense.

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