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NOTEBOOK: Defense Propels Men's Lacrosse to Victory

The men's lacrosse team, shown here in earlier action, closed out nonconference play with a win over BU, 14-9.
The men's lacrosse team, shown here in earlier action, closed out nonconference play with a win over BU, 14-9.
By Theo Levine, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard has had a varsity men’s lacrosse team for over a century, while Boston University has had one for under a year.

Harvard (7-4, 3-0 Ivy) is coming off one of the biggest wins in the history of its program over No. 2 Cornell, while BU (1-10, 1-5 Patriot) lost a devastating win to a talented Army team by just one goal.

When the two teams met in Cambridge on Tuesday, it was about as close as the Terriers could have hoped it would be.

“BU came out ready to play from the start,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “I was overall disappointed in our approach and how we came out a little undisciplined.”

FOR THE SENIORS

The Crimson started the game by featuring every member of its senior class in what Wojcik essentially treated as a senior night.

“We wanted to honor our senior class,” Wojcik said. “They’ve given this program four years of hard work, dedication, and commitment. It is a special honor to start the game, and I wanted to give all the seniors that chance at least once.”

Harvard has one more home matchup this season, but that comes in a must-win game against Princeton that is likely to be close throughout. Playing against a first-year program allowed Wojcik to have an entire starting lineup of seniors, other than junior goalkeeper Jake Gambitsky.

In order to do this, however, senior midfielder Pat Fiorvanti was forced to start as a shortstick defenseman, as there are only two senior defensemen on the Crimson’s roster.

BU secured the opening faceoff and was able to leverage the mismatch that this lineup created to generate an open look from about eight yards out. Luckily for Harvard, the shot soared high.

However, after regaining the ball on the restart of play, Terrier rookie attackman Ryan Johnston was able to score to put his team on top early in the game. Sophomore defenseman Stephen Jahelka, the Crimson’s usual starter, was then substituted into the game as the third longstick defenseman, and Harvard quickly took the lead.

TURNOVER CITY

As a result of effectively a superior level of talent, the Crimson played aggressively throughout the contest. All over the field, Harvard players were pressing out defensively or during attempted BU clears and challenging their opponents, looking to force quick turnovers.

They were quite successful in this endeavor, as the Terriers wound up with 26 turnovers, the highest of any of the Crimson’s opponents this season.

“We are athletic on defense,” Wojcik said. “We were aggressive, but sometimes we tried to do a little too much defensively.”

Likely as a result of the team’s aggressive play, Harvard committed a large number of penalties throughout the game. The Crimson gave up a total of nine penalties, four of which BU managed to capitalize on.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

In some ways, this game against the Terriers was a warm-up for Harvard as the team prepares to enter an enormously challenging finish to the schedule. With last week’s upset win over Cornell, the Crimson has gained sole possession of the lead of the Ivy League, and needs only one win in its last three games to clinch an appearance in the conference tournament. The Ancient Eight champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“Obviously our goal is always to win the Ivy Championship,” Wojcik said. “But we don’t look at the big picture. If we did that, we’d be taking a step backwards. Our focus is going to be on being better tomorrow.”

But winning one of those three games will be no easy feat.

“As a group, we’re still building towards playing a complete game,” said Harvard captain and senior midfielder Peter Schwartz. “We need to have the maturity to come off a big win like last week and play our best lacrosse.”

—Staff writer Theo Levine can be reached at tlevine@college.harvard.edu.

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