Last season, Harvard men’s lacrosse coach Scott Anderson said that the class of 2007 “could be the best class” that he had seen in his 27 years as a member of the Crimson coaching staff.
While that statement might still be true, the members of the class of 2008 served notice on Saturday that there is some major competition for that distinction.
Following in the footsteps of the current crop of sophomores, such as attackman Greg Cohen (11 goals and 15 assists in 2004), midfielder Brian Mahler (10 goals and four assists), and midfielder Evan Calvert (eight goals and four assists), the current crop of Crimson freshmen looked anything but inexperienced in Harvard’s 12-9 victory over Bucknell.
After all, inexperienced players usually don’t tally hat tricks.
Freshman attackman Zach Widbin did just that on Saturday, recording three goals in a second quarter that saw the Crimson outscore the Bison 6-1. Widbin was also third among all Harvard players with four ground balls, and he led the team with six shots on goal.
Not to be outdone, Brooks Scholl—Widbin’s classmate and fellow starting-attackman—was the Crimson’s second-leading goal scorer with two tallies. His seven shots led Harvard, and his three ground balls were good for fourth-best among all Crimson players.
“He is the most developed player as a freshman that we have ever had,” Anderson said of Scholl. “He looked like a college player from day one.”
On the defensive side of the ball, freshman Nick La Fiura started at defensive midfielder and saw extensive action, even forcing a turnover that led to Widbin’s second goal.
Also contributing was freshman defenseman Zach Carpenter, who played on Harvard’s man-down team.
Finally—and perhaps most impressively—freshman goalie Evan O’Donnell got the starting nod and made several key saves en route to his first collegiate victory.
“[The success of our freshmen] is a testament to our coaches’ recruiting, and also to our preparation,” said junior attackman Steve Cohen.
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Entering the season, no doubt the biggest questions surrounding the Crimson centered around a defense that graduated two starters, Hani Malone ’04 and Spencer Stenmark ’04, and a goalie, Jake McKenna ’04, who had started in goal for the past four years.
According to O’Donnell, the plan on Saturday was for him to start in goal, and then to switch with junior Craig Thomas if he began to struggle at any point.
“[With whom to replace McKenna] is the most complex issue we have,” Anderson said. “This year, we are asking the goalies to compete. We will play the one that develops the most quickly and who shows the most poise in the games.”