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The Harvard men's lacrosse team defended Jordan Field on Saturday with a big win over the University of Vermont Catamounts. The victory marks the ninth-straight win for the Crimson on its home turf. Putting up decisive numbers with a 12-5 win, the young Crimson squad looked poised to continue its momentum into its game this upcoming weekend against the University of Michigan.
The matchup was advertised as being a tough meeting between the two teams because the squads play with completely different styles. The UVM team is led by a seasoned roster of grad students who play a slow and deliberate style of lacrosse. They run the clock down to the last few seconds and try to extend sets as much as possible, going through two or three rounds of offense to find the perfect take. The Crimson on the other hand is a young, fiery team that plays quickly and aggressively. The Crimson totaled 45 shots on goal to the Catamounts’ 33, a disparity that was due to both Harvard’s quick takes as well as lockdown defense.
A big area of improvement for the Crimson was down on the defensive end. The squad did a nice job locking down cutters, especially against the UVM attack which boasts several Canadian players who play tight on the inside, akin to a more traditional box-style offense. One standout, in particular, was first-year D-middie Owen Guest. Guest was crucial in locking down the alleys, ensuring that his matchups didn’t get a step on their dodges. Guest commented on the work the team had put in the previous week, and noted that communication and cohesiveness were two big aspects that contributed to the success.
“Coach Byrne has prepared us really well throughout the fall, as well as throughout this early spring. A point of emphasis this last couple of weeks has been guarding, and I think that it’s a confidence thing. We know our guys are going to slide behind us, so we can go up and confront guys,” Guest commented.
This confidence enabled the unit to perform well off-ball. When the one-on-one matchups were confidently locked down, the off-ball defenders were able to do more and make plays, not worried about their teammates getting beaten on the dodge. Junior LSM Greg Campisi attributed the team’s heads-up play down on the defensive end to this confidence. The squad was much more active, finding interceptions and lock-down doubles as a result.
“It comes from guarding because when we guard well we can do more stuff off-ball. We aren’t as worried about giving help here or there,” Campisi said. “It gives us a chance to be more aware of stuff going on off-ball and it all starts from there, from guarding.”
Vermont plays with a very unique Canadian style of offense, and Guest noted that reacting to their crafty style would be a focus for the team to work on this upcoming week in the lead-up to the game against the University of Michigan, a roster also boasts a few Canadian players.
“Playing a team like Vermont with a lot of Canadians and a lot of box players, I think we need to work on playing picks or chips because I think they exposed us once or twice on that. Michigan has a lot of experience with box players with [senior attacker Josh Zawada] and others who will be good at picking, so we’ve got to keep working on it,” Guest commented.
On the offensive end, senior attacker Hayden Cheek had a standout performance, tallying four goals. The offense, paralleling the defensive performance, was active this game, taking advantage of the ride in order to capitalize on more possession time.
“We knew that their goalie and defensemen weren’t great at handling the ball, and so we were looking for opportunities to go three down, and we turned the ball over a couple of times,” Cheek said.
The first quarter saw the offense go 2-2 with UVM, with the Crimson defense getting much of the action; the defense was able to lock down Vermont for an almost three-minute possession that saw the Catamounts held scoreless. On the offensive end, the Harvard team came out hot, shooting quickly and often with each possession. As the team settled in, the takes became more deliberate and decisive.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, and the goalie made some saves. The second quarter we settled down a little bit and made the easy play,” Cheek noted. “Our spacing was a lot better in the second quarter and we were beating our guys super easily and making them slide.”
Something that the offense will look to improve going into this weekend is its ability to pick apart a zone defense, and the defense will continue to work on rotations.
“We did a better job guarding –I think that was the most foundational thing in why we were successful today. But even then, there is still a lot we can do to get better,” Campisi said. “There are still times we got beat, there are still sometimes we gave up back-pipe looks … we are just trying to be the best we can be, and get better every week.”
Overall, the team looked much more fluid this game than the last. The attacking sets looked more cohesive, the defense worked as a solid unit, and the faceoff trios decisively controlled possessions. Confidence was key in this win, and the ability to play freely was essential on both ends of the field.
Campisi remarked that throughout the whole game, “we were trying to play freely. We weren’t trying to over-process and over-think. We were trying to play like we know how to.” This confidence will be a marker throughout the team’s practices this week, and will set the tone for how the squad takes the field this weekend coming off of two-straight wins on its home turf.
The men's lacrosse team will face off on Jordan Field against The University of Michigan Saturday at 12pm. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN+.
— Staff writer Katharine A. Forst can be reached at email@example.com.
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