At least they went down fighting.
Playing for nothing but pride, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team hung with No. 13 Dartmouth on Saturday but was eventually done in when the Big Green scored four of the last five goals of the game to win 10-7.
With the loss, the Crimson (5-8, 2-4 Ivy) ends its season with a losing record in the Ivy League, while Dartmouth (8-4, 4-2) remains hopeful for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Dartmouth is one of the stronger teams in our league, [but] I think we match up pretty well with them,” said Harvard coach Scott Anderson. “The league games are always important.”
Playing on the road against a Big Green team that had won four of its past six games against strong opposition, Harvard refused to play like a team that had already been eliminated from postseason contention.
“It’s definitely not a throw-away game,” said injured sophomore attackman Greg Cohen before the contest. “A win will set the tone for next season.”
With just under seven minutes left in the third quarter and the Crimson trailing by two, consecutive goals by junior midfielders Jake Samuelson and Sean Kane knotted the game at six.
An upset was not in the cards, however. A goal in the waning seconds of the period gave Dartmouth the lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Big Green outshot Harvard 13-4 in the last frame, translating that into a 10-7 advantage on the final scoreboard.
Freshman goalie Evan O’Donnell made eight saves in the quarter en route to a career-high 14 saves in the contest.
The Crimson made things particularly difficult for itself by taking penalties. Dartmouth scored two of its three goals in the fourth quarter while man-up, and the Big Green converted four of its five extra-man opportunities for the game.
Earlier, Harvard made a habit of clawing back from multiple-goal deficits like the one it faced in the third quarter.
Trailing 5-2 late in the second quarter and in danger of letting the game get out of hand, the Crimson rallied. Junior attackman Steve Cohen tallied while Harvard was on man-up with just under three minutes remaining, and tri-captain attackman Mike McBride narrowed the margin to one by scoring a goal—the 60th of his brilliant collegiate career—with just one second remaining before halftime.
Both goals were assisted by freshman attackman Zach Widbin—the Crimson’s only multiple-point scorer in the game—who finished the season with 15 goals and eight assists, tying for the team lead in points with classmate Brooks Scholl.
Earlier, with Harvard facing another large deficit, it was Scholl who helped the Crimson get back in the game. After Dartmouth scored the first three goals of the contest, the attackman got Harvard on the board with his 20th goal—tops on the team—just seconds before junior midfielder Tom Boylan tallied to cut the deficit to one.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, the team eventually found itself in a hole that it couldn’t dig its way out of.
With the team out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Saturday’s game represented the final action for Harvard’s seniors. Among the starters, tri-captains McBride, midfielder Doug Kocis and defenseman Brian Wannop will not be around to help the Crimson next year.
Also graduating is midfielder Zach Chandis—who played all 13 games for Harvard—as well as attackman Ford Harrington, midfielder Ted Rykowski, midfielder Tim Reid, midfielder Dan Sirotkin, and defenseman Christian Wyatt.
While the season certainly had its highlights—such as the 11-4 shellacking of then-No. 16 Yale—the Crimson players had expected things to turn out differently, coming off a 7-6 campaign in 2004 and returning a seasoned group of sophomores that was one of the highest-rated recruiting classes last season.
“Health has been an issue,” Anderson said. “We have not had our full team for many of the past games. We had a week break before Yale and I think that was the best game we’ve played.”
Still, there are plenty of reasons for Harvard to be optimistic heading into the 2006 season.
Of all the players who scored a goal this season, only McBride will not be returning, and the Crimson offense should be bolstered by the return of sophomore Greg Cohen—last year’s New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Rookie of the Year—who was injured all season.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.
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