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Men’s Lacrosse Drops Second Straight, Falls to 6-2

The Harvard men's lacrosse team fell in its second Ivy League matchup to Princeton on Saturday.
The Harvard men's lacrosse team fell in its second Ivy League matchup to Princeton on Saturday. By Dylan J. Goodman
By Katharine Forst, Crimson Staff Writer

The No. 16 Harvard men’s lacrosse team (6-2, 0-2 Ivy) fell in another hard-fought battle to No. 14 Princeton (5-3, 1-1 Ivy), 14-11. The Crimson was unable to bounce back from its loss to No. 8 Yale (4-2, 1-1 Ivy) and protect Jordan Field from the Tigers on what was the squad’s alumni day celebration.

In a game that showcased the depth of both teams’ offensive benches, the squads battled through treacherous rainy conditions in a bout of several runs that saw the two teams find moments of glory and moments of lackluster play. Perhaps it was due partially to the slippery conditions, but an inability to control its controllables is what catalyzed the Crimson’s second league loss of the season.

The Harvard defense showcased its prowess yesterday, posting what was one of the most cohesive performances of the season. While the SSDM matchups fell short at times as the slides were more hesitant to jump the double after the Yale game, the squad’s team defense was something to laud. Senior goalie Christian Barnard continues to post career-best performances, topping his 19-save game against the Bulldogs with a 20-save day against the New Jersey team. In comparison, Princeton goalkeeper Michael Gianforcaro was only able to get his stick on six Harvard shots.

Frisbie Family Head Coach Gerry Byrne’s man down line, which has consistently proven itself throughout the season, came to play against the shifty Princeton offense, killing four-of-five man up attempts. While the referee’s decisions are uncontrollable, several of Harvard’s flags were thrown for flagrant and unnecessary plays that swung momentum in Princeton’s favor. A particularly costly set of penalties went against the Crimson at the end of the fourth quarter, with senior LSM Greg Campisi taking a knee for a minute for a slash with 1:41 on the clock, followed by sophomore attackman Teddy Malone leaving the field for the same penalty with 1:04. This set Harvard down two men for 20 seconds, and sealed the Princeton victory. Going into its competitive matchup against No. 3 University of Virginia this weekend, the team will need to value possession time and keep its hits in check in order to lock down the Cavalier’s touted offense.

“A big thing for us in the last couple games, and especially in this one too, is just playing for the full 80 seconds of the shot clock, cause we kind of have a tendency to let up when the shot clock gets low,” junior SSDM Ray Dearth said. “So, I think that is going to be a big focus for us this weekend and for the rest of the season.”

Offense has been a point of trouble so far this season against its more highly-ranked matchups, with the Harvard lines struggling to generate shots. The team was only able to launch 32, 17 of which were on goal (in comparison to UVA’s 54 shots and 34 shots on goal). Princeton worked its way to an early first half lead as it out-shot the Crimson 19-to-7. Part of this deflated number stems from the squad’s more-mature approach this season in utilizing a majority of its time on the shot clock, but, antithetically, it also stems from its inability to exploit seams in the opposing defenses.

Struggling yet again on the faceoff, Byrne saw fit to only leverage the talents of junior FOGO Andrew DeGennaro. Rather than subbing out the junior like he did against Yale phenom junior Machado Rodriguez, Byrne kept DeGennaro on the field for the entire sixty minutes of play, despite him only being able to win 9-of-29 faceoffs against sophomore standout Andrew McMeekin. Freshman FOGO Owen Umansky was highly-lauded by lacrosse insiders, but has been unable to crack the lineup for any considerable stretch of time, leaving the fate of the faceoff in the junior’s hands. This lopsided performance resulted in an increase in possession time for the Tigers, and placed even more pressure on the Harvard defense.

While this stat is somewhat skewed by the faceoff, a focus of emphasis heading into its next game will need to be on fifty-fifty situations. The Crimson had trouble finding the ball on the turf, only clinching 18 ground balls to Princeton’s 36. Turnovers were also pesky for both squads, a result of the rain, with the Tigers turning the ball over 17 times and Harvard gifting its opponent possession 15 times. The team must focus on valuing the ball and making the little plays if it hopes to compete against its next opponents, three of which are ranked in the top-15 according to Inside Lacrosse.

Despite ending the first quarter gridlocked at 4-4, Princeton outpaced the Crimson in the second, holding the home team to zero goals for the entire 15 minutes of play. Junior middie Sean Cameron drew first blood for the Tigers, scoring two minutes into the first on an assist from sophomore middie Quinn Krammer. Less than a minute later, Malone responded in kind, spurring a momentum shift that saw Harvard race to an early 3-1 lead with additional goals from junior middie Joe Dowling and junior attackman Sam King. All three goals were scored in under a minute. King tallied his first three points of the game early, assisting both of the Malone and Dowling goals before finding the back of the net himself with help from junior middie Miles Botkiss.

Princeton quickly regained its footing, and three minutes later sent two shots past Barnard just seven seconds apart. Freshman attackman Nate Kabiri tested the Crimson defense throughout the contest, notching an impressive six points with five goals and one assist. Scoring on a shifty right-to-left split dodge down the alley before finishing with no angle, the Georgetown Prep product was soon accompanied on the board by McMeekin, who drove it home on a decisive fast break attempt. The Harvard defense was reluctant to slide to the FOGO, who was able to split the double team of Campisi and DeGennaro as they dropped back to re-defend, and after finding the seam, McMeekin made the most of his one-on-one chance with Barnard. Kabiri tallied his second goal a minute-and-a-half later on another unassisted drive that propelled the team into the lead for the second time that afternoon.

A media timeout provided a moment of reprieve for Harvard, and the squad was able to collect itself as it stormed back onto the turf. Malone capped off scoring for the quarter with an unassisted goal at 3:08. The Haverford, Penn. native dashed in from the endline after backing up an errant shot, besting his defender with an outside roll dodge that allowed him to get his outside hand free for a low-angle lefty side-arm finish.

The team will need to bounce back as it faces off against No. 3 UVA this weekend.
The team will need to bounce back as it faces off against No. 3 UVA this weekend. By Dylan J. Goodman

The second quarter fell entirely in Princeton’s favor, although neither squad played particularly impressive lacrosse. The rain started to fall even harder on Jordan, which impacted visibility and caused some unforced errors. Moments of brilliance struck for both teams, but the Crimson was unable to generate cohesive offensive momentum. After posting zero saves in the first quarter, Gianforcaro tallied three saves – half of his total game count – in the second, coming in clutch to stifle the Crimson’s attempts. Despite six solid saves from Barnard, a shot clock violation on Princeton, and a clutch interception from Dowling, the team was unable to hold the ball long enough on attack to make a mark on the scoreboard.

“We have to keep our stickhandling up, and in terms of our 10-man ride, it’s definitely one of our strong suits, so we’ve gotta just keep practicing that and make sure we have it for the rest of the season,” Dearth added.

Junior attackman Coulter Mackesy struck first for Princeton in the second, although the Crimson defense was able to neutralize his wicked lefty shot otherwise, which forced him to act as more of a facilitator for his teammates. He was soon followed by Krammer and freshman attackman Colin Burns, which sent Harvard back to the locker room down 7-4 at the half.

Byrne’s sophomores made all the difference for the squad in the second half, with sophomore offensive middie Logan Ip finding the back of the net twice less than a minute apart. The Newport Coast, Calif. native struck paydirt on an assist from Dearth, who cleared the ball out of the defensive end after a pivotal Barnard save. Dearth didn’t sub off the field, and a quick give-and-go with Ip at the top of the fan caught the defense struggling to rotate back to the midfielder as he took one step and fired it righty past the goalie. Fifty seconds later, Ip struck again, this time on an assist from King. Malone kept the momentum building, and found his hat-trick two minutes later on an unassisted goal that tied play at seven.

Both Princeton and Harvard would score twice more to end the third period at nine all, with Krammer and sophomore middie John Dunphey posting back-to-back goals to secure another Tigers lead. Senior attackman Graham Blake found success on a one-minute man up opportunity that went against McMeekin for a slash on the faceoff, and Botkiss found the net with a mere 12 seconds left in the quarter. Princeton found itself deep in its defensive end with about 50 seconds on the clock and made a risky full-field pass that was turned over by the Crimson. Harvard was able to clear the ball into its offensive zone, and Botkiss found the back of the cage as he flew in from the box, receiving the ball at the top of the fan. He easily raced past his defender with a split dodge, gaining a step down the alley that allowed him to creep underneath and score on a no-angle twister.

Despite the change in momentum in the third quarter, a slew of four penalties against Harvard in the fourth shifted control of the game in favor of the Tigers. Princeton opened up play with three successive goals from Cameron, senior defender Pace Billings – who found room around Barnard on a fast break pole goal – and Kabiri,who netted the team’s only man up point. Ip and King valiantly notched one more goal each to make it a one-goal-game with eight minutes to play, but two more goals from Kabiri and the unfortunate two-man-down situation with one minute on the clock, solidified Princeton’s victory, albeit not a pretty one.

“Just higher energy, higher intensity, more effort everywhere. That’s it,” said Dearth when asked about what the team needs to work on heading into its next battle.

The Crimson will need to bounce back this weekend against No. 3 UVA, although the matchup won’t carry as much weight in the team’s struggle to clinch the fourth spot of the Ivy League Tournament. Harvard still has to face off against No. 12 Cornell – which has bested both Princeton and Yale this season – No. 13 UPenn, which is undefeated in conference play with wins against Dartmouth and Brown, plus the Big Green and the Bears. Before it heads into its home stretch of Ivy League matchups, the Crimson will welcome UVA to Jordan Field on Saturday at noon. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN+ and the NESN.

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

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