After rattling off four-consecutive victories to start the season, Harvard’s second-straight postseason bid was firmly in the cards. However, a tumultuous stretch of eight games have since cast doubt on the team’s playoff hopes.
The storm clouds that have loomed over the Men’s Lacrosse team since falling to Penn State on March 11th followed the Crimson to New Jersey, where chilly temperatures and rain provided a gloomy atmosphere for competition.
On Saturday afternoon, No. 17 Princeton (9-4, 4-1 Ivy) officially dashed Harvard’s chances of clinching an Ivy League Tournament berth. The Crimson (5-7, 1-4 Ivy) now sits in sixth place in the Ivy League, ahead of only Dartmouth.
As it’s done many times this season, Harvard drew first blood, as junior attackman Tim Edmonds dodged, somewhat uncharacteristically, from the top of the box, and weaved his way in front of goal to put the Crimson up one. Princeton responded with three goals of its own, including senior Gavin McBride’s first of his career-high seven goals on the day.
The Tigers were never able to pull away, as Harvard kept within striking range throughout. Freshman midfielder Nigel Andrews scored two goals on Saturday, matching his career high. In his past three games, Andrews has scored five times. Junior midfielder, Joe Lang, also scored twice on the afternoon, extending his goal-scoring streak to eight games.
Harvard suffered a characteristic lull in its scoreless second quarter, but conceded only one goal in those fifteen minutes, and the Crimson entered the halftime break trailing 4-2. Harvard’s scoring in the first 30 minutes of play marked its lowest output of the season.
The Tigers opened the second half with a streak of three unanswered goals, creating a cushion it would carry to up until the final horn.
Harvard’s toughness kept the game close, as the Crimson dominated the ground, going 13-21 on faceoffs, and finishing +9 in ground balls against the Tigers.
Princeton managed to hold junior attackman Morgan Cheek to one score on four shots. Cheek, a master distributor of the ball, added two assists, and has tallied at least one helper in every game this season.
So far this season, Harvard has been outscored 133-136. The Crimson has played in tightly contested games in all but one matchup this season, a 13-8 loss at Brown, in which Harvard faced its largest deficit of the year—down six at one point in the third quarter. Harvard has turned the ball over 174 times to opponents’ 186, and holds an even 3-3 record on the road. These statistics tell a partial story, but certainly do not point to a 1-4 campaign in the Ivy League.
On the contrary, a few Harvard’s stats are indicative of a winning percentage below its current .417. Faceoff wins have been few and far between during Harvard’s 2017 season. In its wins, the Crimson has won 45.1 percent of its faceoffs, as opposed to 33.5 percent in losses—a significant drop-off. Coming into Saturday’s game, Harvard’s 36.4 overall win percentage ranked last in the Ivy League, and 67th in the country, ahead of only Hampton and High Point. Untimely woes at the X have plagued the Crimson this season. Harvard has also struggled to protect its home turf, as it has compiled a 2-4 record at home on the season.
Despite being eliminated from postseason play, the Crimson’s season is far from over. Harvard welcomes its rival Yale on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Harvard Stadium. No. 11 Yale (8-4, 50 Ivy) most recently fell at No. 5 Albany in a 13-12 thriller after winning seven straight. The Crimson will look to play spoiler, as the Bulldogs look to complete their first undefeated Ivy League regular season since 1956. Yale boasts a 62-37 record against Harvard, and won both meetings a year ago.
Few opportunities remain to positively spin Harvard’s 2017 campaign, but a win at home against the Bulldogs would send this year’s youth-laden team home on a bright note.
—Staff writer Will Robbins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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