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It was a disappointing end to a season of unfulfilled aspirations for the Harvard men’s lacrosse team.
The Crimson traveled to No. 19/20 Yale on Saturday afternoon, entering its final regular season game in need of a win to guarantee a spot in the Ivy League Tournament. But in a contest in which neither team ever led by more than two goals, the Bulldogs pulled out a narrow win, dropping Harvard, 10-8, and sending the Crimson home until next spring.
Brown, which Harvard defeated earlier this season, earned the fourth and final spot to the postseason field with a win over Dartmouth on Saturday. Because Harvard held the tiebreaker over the Bears, a Brown loss would have given the Crimson the fourth-place spot even with its loss at Yale. But Harvard enjoyed no such fortune.
The Crimson (6-8, 2-4 Ivy) led by as many as two goals midway through the second quarter, but consecutive scores from the Bulldogs (9-4, 4-2) sent the teams into the half knotted at five.
Harvard gained its only lead of the second half on a third-quarter goal from senior attackman Jeff Cohen to put his team ahead 7-6 with just under five minutes to play in the frame.
But Yale responded swiftly. Midfielder Colin Flaherty scored an unassisted goal with just under three minutes to play in the frame, and the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied at seven.
Yale reeled off two quick scores early in the final frame to put the Crimson in a 9-7 hole. The Bulldogs’ Deron Dempster scored an unassisted goal 30 seconds into the quarter, and teammate Greg Mahony did the same less than one minute later.
Trailing by two, the Crimson got a boost from a familiar face in Cohen, who pulled his team within one goal on a score with over 11 minutes to play.
But that was as close as Harvard came.
Despite outshooting Yale, 9-8, in the final period, Harvard was unable to find a second, equalizing goal. Yale goalkeeper Jack Meyer didn’t help the Crimson cause, making three saves in the frame. As time wound down, Flaherty added a 10th goal for the Bulldogs, all but sealing Harvard’s fate with just over one minute to play.
“Our level of effort was very good. We played well,” Crimson coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “[Yale] is a very good team.”
Harvard was paced by a hat trick from Cohen and two goals apiece from senior tri-captain Kevin Vaughan and freshman attackman Will Walker. Cohen, who holds the Crimson mark for most career goals, registered the seventh-best single season in that department in Harvard history with 48 goals.
Harvard, which began its Ivy League season with consecutive wins over Brown and Dartmouth, had the opportunity to solidify a spot in the four-team Ivy League Tournament field in each of its final three games. But each time, first at Pennsylvania, then home against Princeton, and finally at Yale on Saturday, the Crimson could not find the decisive win.
2012 marks the second time in three years Harvard has failed to reach the Ivy League Tournament, which was first established in 2007. The Crimson has never won but reached the finals in 2011, when it lost to Cornell.
In Saturday’s season-ending contest against Yale, Vaughan opened the scoring for Harvard, putting the Crimson ahead 1-0 midway through the first quarter. Yale’s Brandon Mangan answered with two goals of his own in the remainder of quarter to put the Bulldogs ahead by one.
But Harvard went back on top early in the second frame, stringing together three early goals. Vaughan tallied his second goal, Will Walker scored on a pass from sophomore attackman Daniel Eipp, and freshman midfielder Keegan Michel scored to make it 4-2 with 12:40 to play in the quarter.
After a man-up goal from Yale, Will Walker added his second score to keep the Crimson lead at two with five minutes remaining in the half. But consecutive goals from the Bulldogs erased that lead, sending the teams tied into the second half tied at five.
It was, by almost all measures, a closely fought battle. The Bulldogs outshot Harvard, 35-32, Yale’s Meyer made 12 saves as compared to nine saves for Crimson goalkeeper junior Harry Krieger, and Yale handed over 15 turnovers while Harvard only made 11. But the Bulldogs were dominant on faceoffs, winning 17 of 22 on the day.
“We’re obviously not satisfied with the final record,” Wojcik said. “But the amount of work and effort from these guys has been tremendous, and it’s something to be proud of.”
—Staff writer James M. Acer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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