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It was a tale of two halves as the Harvard men’s lacrosse team battled Holy Cross in only its second game of the season.
The Crimson (2-0) ended up winning 12-5 as it exploded onto the field after halftime. Late in the second quarter, however, the Crusaders (2-4) had taken a surprising 3-2 lead.
Last Wednesday, Harvard’s game against the University of Massachusetts was canceled due to extreme weather, thus leaving the Crimson with a ten-day break between games.
“The end of last week, because of the weather, we missed some days of practice,” tri-captain defender Brain Wannop said. “It’s definitely affected us.”
The effect was visibly apparent in the first half of yesterday’s game, as Harvard seemed to struggle in the first two periods, with the Crusaders’ offense maintaining possession of the ball for most of the time.
“We came out slow,” junior midfielder Jake Samuelson said. “I think we were taking them a little bit lightly. On offense, we just weren’t keeping possession.”
Harvard scored the first goal of the game at 7:16 in the first period when sophomore midfielder Brian Mahler rushed from the right corner behind the goal to score.
But the Crimson suffered from numerous turnovers as neither the offense nor defense seemed to be able to hold on to the ball for very long.
“In the first half,” Wannop said, “we were a little bit lackadaisical in our possession of the ball. We would get the ball on offense and try to go to goal, and they’d just strip us.”
Holy Cross capitalized upon Harvard’s mistakes early and scored three of the first five goals of the game. They scored their first goal only four minutes after the Crimson to tie the game quickly at 1-1.
Samuelson scored his first of two goals at 14:11 in the second period when the Crusaders took over, scoring two unassisted easy goals at 13:10 and 10:24 in the period to bring them into the lead.
“[To] have a real bad half against a team that we should be killing, it [shows us] that one game doesn’t mean we’re good,” Samuelson said. “We’ve got to keep it going.”
The Crimson mustered a late surge in the period, scoring three goals before the half. Sophomore midfielder Adam Mahfouda scored the first of those at 6:40 to tie the score at three.
Senior attackman and tri-captain Mike McBride managed to connect with the back of the net from the right side with 1:38 left in the period. He was assisted by junior attackman Steve Cohen.
With 49.3 remaining, an unassisted Samuelson drove through the middle of the defense for his second goal—the team’s third straight.
After the half, Harvard caught fire with a four-goal streak. Midfielder Sean Kane burst open the floodgates, crossing in front of the goal and scoring at 9:10 in the third with an assist from Mahler.
But the Crimson was just getting started. Cohen picked up a loose ball and passed to McBride, who recorded his second goal of the game from far outside the left post to bring the score to 7-3. Junior midfielder Tom Boylan ran from middle of the field towards the right goal post to score Harvard’s eighth goal only 31 seconds later.
But freshman attackman Brooks Scholl really rounded out the run in style. After a missed shot, Scholl brought the ball from behind, running tight around the right post and flinging it directly into the net.
“You never know what to expect with freshmen,” Samuelson said. “That first game showed us that they’re ready to play.”
After the Crimson gave itself a comfortable lead with a score of 9-3, the Crusaders pushed themselves back into the game with a goal at 5:46 in the third period. It was a rare display of strength from Harvard’s usual doormats.
“[They are] definitely the best Holy Cross team since I’ve been here,” Wannop said.
But they obviously had not learned their lesson as Scholl, bringing the ball in again, repeated his same move, to score a goal for Harvard and rack up his second tally of the game.
The Crimson then went on to finish the game strong with two more goals in the fourth period when Cohen caught a pass from Samuelson to score at 11:19. Attackman Zach Widbin, after scoring three goals in the season opener and earning Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, got his only goal of the game when he caught a ball from Scholl and scored from the right side.
After two strong wins, Harvard is ready and willing to dive into the season, as the team prepares itself for its first Ivy League game against Penn on March 26th. Before that, however, the Crimson travels to Connecticut to take on Fairfield this Saturday.
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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