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To find the last time that the Harvard men’s lacrosse team owned a four-game winning streak against Yale, you would have to go back to the 1990s, when current coach Chris Wojcik ’96 was still a player for the Crimson.
Exactly 20 years after captaining Harvard to an 18-15 away win over the Bulldogs and a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament in one of the program’s best seasons in history, Wojcik returned to New Haven once again on Saturday afternoon.
A victory would not only push the Crimson into a tie for second place in the Ivy, but also make Wojcik part of a four game winning streak over Yale for the second time.
For 50 minutes, everything went according to plan for his squad. Harvard held an 8-4 lead after sophomore attacker Morgan Cheek scored his fourth goal of the afternoon with 11:03 remaining in the final quarter, and had a chance to end an up-and-down season on a high note by holding on against the Bulldogs.
By the next time the Crimson brought the ball into Yale territory, however, the score had been tied at 8-8. Junior midfielder Eric Scott took over the game, scoring or assisting on four straight goals to bring his team all the way back.
Then, with all the momentum on their side, the Bulldogs struck again to take the lead.
Harvard couldn’t find a way to respond, allowing No. 6/6 Yale (11-2, 5-1 Ivy) to complete the comeback victory and secure sole possession of second place in the conference. It will play 3-seed Penn in the semifinals of the Ivy tournament this Friday.
The Crimson (7-7, 3-3), meanwhile, remains in the fourth spot and faces a daunting challenge against 1-seed Brown, which went undefeated in conference play this season.
“We competed as well as we could, and there were a lot of positives to be taken from the game,” Wojcik said. “We know we can match up with anyone, but we have to do it for the full 60 minutes.”
Harvard came out as the stronger team, preventing the Bulldogs’ offense, ranked eighth in the nation in goals per game, from getting a single shot on goal during the first quarter. The Crimson offense took advantage, taking a quick 3-0 lead on the strength of two goals from Cheek.
“The coaches drew up a great game plan for us, and it worked perfectly at the start of the game,” co-captain and defender Stephen Jahelka said. “We made sure to be really deliberate with our movements, being aggressive and not letting them get into a rhythm.”
Yale responded with three straight goals of its own in the second quarter to level the score. Sophomore attacker Ben Reeves, who ranks fifth in the Ivy in both goals and assists per game, matched Cheek with two tallies of his own.
Cheek answered right away, however, scoring again to complete a first half hat trick less than a minute after Reeves tied the game. Cheek’s goal swung the momentum back to Harvard, which went on a 5-1 run to take a commanding 8-4 lead.
The Crimson capitalized on strong play from freshman faceoff specialist James Sullivan, who helped the team earn a 3-2 edge in faceoff wins in the second and third quarters.
“Our players pieced together some really good possessions, and I was pleased by how we were able to control possession right from the X,” Wojcik said. “He’s [Sullivan] shown a lot of improvement since the beginning of the season, and to come out in a big game like this and perform is great for him.”
Sullivan went on to win three more faceoffs in the fourth quarter, but the three he lost all led to Bulldogs goals as they fought back to tie the game.
Yale’s ninth score by senior attackman Shane Carr then put Yale in the lead for good, as Harvard could not find the back of the net for the final three minutes of the contest.
“We have another game to play, and we’ll learn and move on from this,” Jahelka said. “Games like this happen, and we just have to make sure it doesn’t happen in the tournament.”
–Staff writer George Hu can be reached at email@example.com.
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