Harvard Lacrosse Teams Challenge National Squads

Cohen on the Run
Meredith H. Keffer

The men's and women's lacrosse teams will take on their national team counterparts this weekend

It may be Columbus Day Weekend, but at Harvard, it sure feels a lot like the Fourth of July.

The Crimson plays host to the US Lacrosse Stars and Stripes event this weekend, in which the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams will square off with the Harvard lacrosse squads as well as a host of others.

The highlights of the action will include a match between the U.S. women’s senior national team and the Harvard women’s lacrosse squad tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, while the U.S. men’s national team will take on the Crimson men’s squad Sunday at noon at Harvard Stadium.

“It’s a big challenge since they’re a) older and b) some of the most accomplished players in the world,” sophomore attack Jeff Cohen said. “But we’re going to go into the game and compete and hopefully come out with the win.”

Nearly every player on the men’s national roster is a member of a Major League Lacrosse team. Six play for the local Boston Cannons, including 2009 MLL MVP Paul Rabil. They come from a large range of some of the best lacrosse schools in the country, including Crimson rivals Princeton and Cornell.

The team is coming off a gold medal in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in July, knocking off Canada, 12-10, in a thrilling championship game.

The Harvard men, for their part, are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season in which they finished 6-6 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The team is highlighted by attacks Dean Gibbons and Cohen–who led the team with 29 and 27 goals respectively last season–and features junior Harry Krieger in net.

Despite the disappointing season, the Crimson hopes the exhibition can be a sign of good things to come. That was certainly the case for the 2010 Duke lacrosse team, which defeated the national team in January before going on to win a collegiate national championship four months later.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us to test how far we’ve come with [first-year] coach [Chris] Wojcik,” Cohen said.

Cohen added that playing the national team would be good preparation for someone like himself, who aspires to be a member of that team one day.

After the men's game on Sunday, the women's senior national team will partake in contests against Boston College and Boston University's women's lacrosse squads, while the women's U-19 team will take on high school lacrosse clubs. The event will also feature two youth clinics given by the national teams.

The women’s senior national team won a gold medal at the 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, in which it defeated Australia, 8-7, to take the title. Its roster contains recent graduates of and current players on Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton, among others.

The Harvard women’s squad finished 6-10 in 2010.  It is led by sophomore attack Jen VanderMeulen, who scored a team-high 56 goals last season, and junior midfielder Melanie Baskind, who had 32 scores. Junior Kerry Clark takes over in net for departed senior Katherine Martino

"I think that we're all really excited for the opportunity to play the U.S. team," VanderMeulen said. "Coach [Lisa] Miller told us you usually only get to play the U.S. team once in your career...we've been practicing and practicing; we'll see how we come out against the best team in the world."