Morgan Cheek grabbed the first point of his collegiate career in just the second game of his freshman year, tallying an assist to Devin Dwyer ’16 in a matchup against Duke. More than three years later, on Saturday afternoon against the visiting Hartford Hawks, the star senior attackman recorded his 157th point for the Crimson.
157 might seem like a rather arbitrary number when it stands alone, but on the Harvard men’s lacrosse all-time points list, it is good for a spot in the top ten. In fact, with his assist to sophomore Kyle Anderson at the 1:26 mark of the first quarter, Cheek became just the third Crimson player since the turn of the century to earn his place in the group. Dwyer was the most recent, and before him, Jeff Cohen ’12 climbed to seventh on the list.
“It’s pretty cool to be up there, but it’s definitely not something I think about on a day-to-day basis,” Cheek said. “But that being said, it’s an honor to be among the guys on that list, especially ones like Dwyer who I looked up to when I was starting out here.”
As usual, Cheek’s contributions were key for Harvard (3-1, 0-0 Ivy) as his two goals and three assists helped pace the team to a wire-to-wire 14-10 victory over Hartford (1-3, 0-0 America East). Sophomore attackman Ryan Graff contributed the same stat line as Cheek, while Anderson led the team with four goals on the afternoon.
The biggest plus for the Crimson on Saturday was not any individual performance, however, as the team’s power play was much improved from how it was in the first three games of the year. After going a combined 2-for-13 in man-up situations through those three games, Harvard went 3-for-3 against the Hawks.
“Our execution in the man-up was poor through the first few games of the season,” said Crimson coach Chris Wojcik ’96. “But our guys have stayed focus and kept working on it, and we finally got some results today with some important goals.”
Harvard took advantage of man-up opportunities to tally its first and last goal, as well as its most important goal of the game. After racing out to a 6-2 lead early in the second quarter, the Crimson gave up three straight goals to Hartford and it looked as if the two teams would enter intermission right back where they started, in a deadlock.
With 0:38 left in the half, however, sophomore midfielder Watson Cheek found Graff right in front of the net, and Graff finished the sequence to restore a two-goal lead for Harvard. Anderson added another score 14 seconds later, firmly seizing the momentum back for the home side.
“It was definitely a game of runs, and I’m proud of how the team responded each time they made a run,” Wojcik said. “Particularly in the fourth quarter, to go on that 4-0 run to ice the game really says a lot about the group of guys we have.”
After coming close at 6-5, the Hawks never came within a goal of the Crimson again. Captain Sean Coleman scored his first goal of the season early in the fourth quarter to stop a 3-0 Hartford run, and freshman midfielder Kyle Salvatore also added an important insurance goal, his second of the year. In all, Harvard got eight goals of production from freshmen and sophomores on Saturday, a large number considering the amount of senior talent on the team.
“The younger guys have all been working hard and they’re getting better each week,” Morgan Cheek said. “I see some similarities between my class when we were sophomores and the sophomore class we have now––a lot of guys who just needed that one year of experience to get their feet wet, and are now contributing a lot.”
Besides Salvatore, several other freshmen made key contributions as well. Face-off specialist Steven Cuccurullo won 15 of his 27 face-offs, and midfielder Charlie Olmert also turned in a strong performance collecting ground balls and finding teammates for opportunities.
—Staff writer George Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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