In the Harvard men’s lacrosse team’s final game of the season against rival Yale on Saturday, the Crimson stormed out to a second-quarter lead and withstood a late comeback attempt from the Bulldogs (9-4, 3-3 Ivy) to finish off its season on a high note and without a losing record.
“This was the first game a lot of guys on our team had played where win or lose, the season was over," said co-captain and goaltender Jake Gambitsky, as Harvard failed to earn a bid to postseason competition. “But we still had a great week of practice, had a lot of fun, and nothing really change[d] despite the playoff situation.”
On Senior Day at Soldiers Field, the Crimson (7-7, 2-4) was led by a powerful effort from Gambitsky, making his first start since early March and playing in his final collegiate game. The senior captain was dominant in net for Harvard, making 13 saves and finishing with a stifling 65 percent save percentage, the second highest of his career. He allowed just one goal in the first half, securing seven saves.
“It was an emotional day as it’s our last game,” Gambitsky said. “I was happy that we were able to get out to an early lead and deflate them, stopping them from getting any momentum at the start."
Another Harvard senior, long stick midfielder Brian Fischer, also had a strong performance in his final game.
“I’m really happy for our four seniors,” Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96 said. “Fischer had an excellent game, defending Yale’s best midfielders and picking up key ground balls to ignite transitions. And Gambitsky had a huge game for us too. He was outstanding all game, and it was an incredible effort.”
Neither team could score in the early stretches of the game until the Crimson jumped out to the first lead with a goal from freshman defenseman Joe Kearney with fewer than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the only goal of the period.
The second quarter proved to be a productive one for Harvard. It started quickly as junior midfielder and co-captain Sean Mahon scored just eight seconds after the restart. This was followed 45 seconds later by a goal from high-scoring freshman midfielder Joe Lang to put Harvard up 3-0.
The Bulldogs responded with a goal, but the Crimson pushed back harder, with back-to-back goals from two freshmen, attackman J.T. Palladino and midfielder Morgan Cheek, to finish the half up, 5-1.
But Yale would not go away quietly.
The Bulldogs bounced back in the third quarter, dwarfing a goal from another Harvard freshman, attackman Tim Edmonds, with three of its own to bring the game back into close contention going into the final 15 minutes of the Crimson’s season.
Cheek scored first in the fourth quarter, stretching the Harvard lead back up to three goals at 7-4, before Yale answered with two straight tallies to bring its deficit back to just one.
But the effort proved too little, too late for the Bulldogs. Junior attackman Will Walker extended the lead back to two goals with eight minutes left, and then the Harvard defense stiffened, refusing to allow another goal until Yale scored with only 13 seconds remaining, which was not enough to stop Harvard from winning.
Freshmen scored six of the Crimson’s eight goals, while seniors led the defensive effort, and Harvard’s typically prominent junior class stayed quiet.
“Overall, we’ve been fairly young on the offensive end all year,” Wojcik said. “And yesterday, you could see some of the freshmen stepping up and really becoming sophomores out there.”
Harvard, which finished first in the powerhouse Ivy League last year, will not make the conference tournament this season. Instead, the team will have to direct its postseason hopes towards next season, as it loses only four seniors.
—Staff writer Theo Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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