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Despite playing in conditions that made the ball slick and footing treacherous, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team made sure that its lead was one thing that didn’t slip away on Saturday evening at Jordan Field.
Battling a cold, constant rain as well as a team that wouldn’t quit, the Crimson (3-1) made the most of its scoring opportunities en route to a 15-7 victory over Fairfield (4-2).
After jumping out to 3-0 and 4-1 leads in the first half, Harvard found itself tied with the Stags when Jacob Olson’s goal knotted the score at 5-5. It appeared that the early Crimson momentum had run dry.
But Harvard was up for the challenge.
With 54 seconds remaining in the half, freshman attack Greg Cohen sent a pass across the crease to junior attack Mike McBride, who deposited the ball in the back of the net to put the Crimson back up.
“We showed a lot of heart,” said sophomore attack Steve Cohen. “Maybe in the past we would have packed it in.”
A scant 27 seconds later, after Fairfield’s Garrett Bamann rang a shot off the post, captain Spencer Stenmark moved the ball up the field and fed Greg Cohen, who once again found an open teammate in front of the net, as senior attack Anders Johnson took the feed and gave Harvard some breathing room.
“That was the turning point of the game,” said McBride. “The same thing happened against UMass last week. We scored a quick goal before the half and got ourselves the momentum.”
Coming out of the half, the Crimson was able to capitalize on this momentum. Tallies by Steve Cohen and senior midfielder Jeff Gottschall put Harvard up by four, while on the other end, the stifling Crimson defense didn’t allow a single Fairfield goal in the third quarter.
“Our six-on-six defense is very tough to score on,” said McBride.
The explosive Harvard offense put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with six goals, highlighted by two from Greg Cohen. Cohen replaced his brother, Steve, as the team’s season leader in points on the strength of his two goal, three assist effort.
“We knew that, if we had possession of the ball, we could score on this defense,” McBride said.
In the early stages of the game, that certainly appeared to be true. Despite being outshot in the first and losing all six first-quarter faceoffs—Harvard won just five of the 26 faceoffs in the game—the Crimson jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to tallies by sophomore midfielder Jake Samuelson and sophomore defensive midfielder Peter Doyle sandwiched around a score by Johnson.
Following his hat trick last weekend against UMass, Johnson was rewarded with his first start of the season against the Stags. He responded with his second-consecutive hat trick.
“Anders is a very underrated player,” said McBride. “He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team. He and Greg [Cohen] played unbelievably.”
After a Fairfield goal narrowed the margin to two, sophomore attack Sean Kane punctuated his return from injury with a great individual effort, scoring a diving goal. Kane lead Harvard with 21 goals last season.
The Stags responded fiercely, pumping three goals past captain Jake McKenna in under four minutes to tie the score. However, Johnson once again proved that he belonged in the starting lineup, as he snagged the rebound of a McBride shot and made the score 5-4, setting the stage for the excitement late in the half.
The Crimson managed to score on an impressive 15 of its 20 shots on goal, while McKenna was solid between the Harvard pipes, recording nine saves.
“It was a very complete effort,” Steve Cohen said.
“We have a lot of talent out there. We just need to execute our game plan and hustle,” he added.
Harvard returns to action next Saturday when it travels to Penn to begin Ivy League competition.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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