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After a Disappointing End to the 2023 Season, Harvard Men’s Lacrosse Returns for Spring Competition

The Harvard men's lacrosse team will look to improve upon its 2023 campaign.
The Harvard men's lacrosse team will look to improve upon its 2023 campaign. By Dylan J. Goodman
By Katharine Forst, Crimson Staff Writer

Returning from a disappointing end to the 2023 season, which had been highly-touted by lacrosse insiders as a potential breakthrough for Frisbie Family Head Coach Gerry Byrne and his men’s lacrosse team, the squad can rely on the return of key players on both ends of the field as well as a stacked freshman class for its 2024 battle in the competitive Ivy League.

In his one-sentence summary for every D-1 men’s lacrosse program, Matt Kinnear, a reporter for Inside Lacrosse, predicted that with Sam King’s leadership atop the offense and the Crimson’s strong short-stick unit, the “lineup makes you have to believe the positive momentum continues under Gerry Byrne.”

King, a redshirt junior who was recently named one of three captains for the Harvard squad, was also named one of Inside Lacrosse’s 10 most underrated players heading into the 2024 competition season. King was placed fifth in this group, as Kevin Brown highlighted that “King’s speed kills and he’s keeping the jumpsuit alive and well at 5-and-5 for the attack position.” Brown was confident that King would be able to handle the pressure of maintaining his prominent role on the attacking unit.

While the return of King and Campisi instills confidence in the battle-testedness of the Crimson, the team will also have to focus on filling the gaps created by the loss of captain Nick Loring, attackman Hayden Cheek, and SSDM Chase Yager. Loring posted fourteen points (10 goals, 4 assists) on his senior campaign, and was a regular contributor to the program's offense – which struggled at times during the season. Cheek, the team’s second-highest point scorer, tallied 18 goals and six assists. His missing presence will be felt on the offensive end, as he was praised by his peers for his ability to create offensive motion and exploit gaps in the opposing defense. On the other end of the field, Yager – who will compete against the Crimson in his fifth year at the University of Virginia — proved to be a steady and reliable force on the defense, notching 14 caused turnovers, 27 ground balls, and five points (3g, 2a).

While Byrne will draw on the athletic prowess of his returning players to fill the shoes of his graduating seniors, he will also look to incorporate the dynamic new recruiting class into the lineup. The stacked freshman class – comprising six middies, two LSMs, two attackers, one FOGO, and one goalie – boasts six Inside Lacrosse four-star recruits and six three-star recruits. Three of the incoming freshmen also earned spots on Inside Lacrosse’s Power-100 Rankings list. St. Anthony’s product Jackson Greene, the highest-ranking Crimson freshman, sits at the 28th spot, with teammates Jack Speidell and Jack Petersen trailing close behind at No. 38 and No. 51, respectively.

The squad will lean on the highly-ranked incoming freshman class.
The squad will lean on the highly-ranked incoming freshman class. By Dylan J. Goodman

“Another influx of young highly-rated recruits has us poised to play between six to eight first years this spring. In particular three Top 100 Ranked Recruits by Inside Lacrosse from Long Island (Greene, Petersen, Speidell) each had a great fall, survived some injuries and seem ready to contribute on offense this fall.”

The Harvard squad will look to build on key areas of its game this spring, mainly converting on the offensive end and winning faceoffs at the X. Returning attackmen – led by King – include sophomore Teddy Malone, senior Graham Blake, and junior Joe Dowling. Malone, who earned The Crimson’s Male Rookie of the Year award for his standout campaign, notched 24 points (18g, 6a), Blake – who was notably missing for the first portion of the season due to injury – tallied six points (5g, 1a), and Dowling added an additional 14 (9g, 5a) to the team’s total.

“In terms of players primed to step up, Logan Ip, Teddy Malone, and Johnny Aurandt have been playing really well and competing,” junior middie Owen Gaffney said. “Their maturity has permeated throughout the offense. Also, our freshman class as a whole is very strong.”

Also looking to make an impact on the attacking end are junior middies Gaffney – an All-Ivy Second Team selection last season – and Miles Botkiss. Gaffney totaled 23 points (14g, 9a), as well as 19 ground balls and five CTOs, while Botkiss added 19 points (13g, 6a), along with 12 ground balls and three CTOs. Sophomore Logan Ip will look to improve on his freshman campaign which saw him notch 11 points (5g, 6a), as well as nine ground balls and three CTOs. Missing from the lineup is junior Andrew Perry, who will sit out of action for the entire season due to injury. Perry was an instrumental member of the program’s midfield unit, and his role will be one the Crimson looks to fill.

Led by King on the offensive end and Bergstrom at low defense, key returning players will look to make an impact this Saturday.
Led by King on the offensive end and Bergstrom at low defense, key returning players will look to make an impact this Saturday. By Dylan J. Goodman

Harvard struggled with its shooting last season, and so filling these spots will be crucial to the team’s success this semester. Possession time, or improving on its lack thereof, will also be a big area of focus for the team. Securing the ball at the faceoff X is also a place where the Crimson will look to improve. Byrne’s squad will rely on returning FOGOs – sophomore Matt Barraco, who secured 57 wins and 17 ground balls on the season, and junior Andrew DeGennaro, who led the team with 57 ground balls – as well as the addition of freshman Owen Umansky, to generate momentum. Winning at the faceoff will be paramount to ensuring the team’s success throughout the season.

“Our Face Off unit is a great mix of skill, athleticism and IQ. Seniors Andrew DeGennaro and Mike Binkowski have been together for several years and have done a great job mentoring Sophomore Matt Barraco and heralded frosh Owen Umansky,” Byrne said. “Each brings a unique skill set to the position and we feel that this ‘committee’ of athletes can help us win possession at a higher rate than last season.”

Junior defenseman and captain Collin Bergstrom, sophomore defenseman Charlie Muller, and junior defenseman Martin Nelson will be instrumental in building on the team’s stellar defensive performance during the 2023 campaign. Bergstrom will be a key player to watch this season as he looks to lead a majority underclassmen-led unit. The captain led the Crimson with 15 CTOs last season, and was a vocal and reliable presence with his lockdown crease defense. Muller will hope to improve upon his superb freshman season, in which he cracked the lineup, starting 10 games and notching 11 CTOs. Muller was also tied for first amongst freshmen in the league with .92 caused turnovers per game. Nelson, who floated between LSM and straight defense for his first two years – proving to be an essential wing player on the face off – made his mark at low defense last season. He, alongside Bergstrom, will be key in plugging gaps left by the team’s large graduating class.

The defensive-middies, which were led by senior LSM Greg Campisi – who dominated on the face off wing and in the middle of the field with 33 ground balls and 14 CTOs – were some of the squad’s most lethal weapons. Campisi, along with junior LSMs Vince Cresci and Tommy Martinson, contributed to the team’s effective lockdown ride which was ranked third in the nation, holding opponents to a .789 clearing percentage. Bergstrom and Campisi worked together to create an effective defensive unit, which was ultimately ranked fourth in the nation in CTOs at 10.5 per game. The LSMs worked alongside SSDMs Ray Dearth – who contributed with 10 CTOs and 15 ground balls – junior captain Andrew O’Berry – who posted one goal, three assists, 15 ground balls and two CTOs last season – and sophomore Owen Guest, who tallied seven caused turnovers and five ground balls. Guest will be an up-and-coming player to notice this season, and Dearth will have to step up to fill Yager’s role as leader of the short-stick unit.

The squad will look to improve at the face off X this season.
The squad will look to improve at the face off X this season. By Dylan J. Goodman

Bouncing back from the loss of goalie Kyle Mullin, senior goalie Christian Barnard stepped up and led his defense last season. The Darien, Conn. native posted a much needed .465 percent save rate, coming in clutch during key games against Cornell – which was The Crimson's Game of the Year – and Brown. Also looking to crack the lineup are freshman Teddy Kim and junior George Alvarez. Barnard – unless challenged by Kim or Alvarez for the starting spot – will be a vocal leader on the defensive end.

“Our main focus as a team this year is to compete as hard as we can every second, drill, practice, lift, or game,” Gaffney said. “We learned a lot from last season, and we’re ready to show our improvement and maturity. We want to focus on all of the effort and focus-based controllables.”

The Harvard squad faces a challenging set of opponents, with 13 games scheduled for the season. The team will kick off competition next Saturday with a scrimmage against UMass, a historically scrappy matchup that has swung between favoring the Minutemen and the Crimson in recent years. The next six games are all out-of-conference, which will allow the squad to work out any kinks before starting league play. In a marked shift from past seasons, the team’s first in-league contest will be played against rival – and stellar program – Yale. The team’s loss to the Bulldogs at the end of the 2023 season was the final blow that kept Harvard out of the postseason Ivy Tournament, and killed any opportunity for a back-to-back NCAA Tournament run.

The Crimson will welcome the Minutemen to Jordan Field on Saturday at 1pm EST.

—Staff writer Katharine A. Forst can be reached at katharine.forst@thecrimson.com.

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