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Men's Lacrosse Splits Opening Weekend Against UMass Lowell, Holy Cross

Senior defender Joe Kearney darts through the UMass Lowell defense. The Crimson would split its weekend decisions.

After having just one game in its entire 2017 season decided by one goal, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team has already had two such games in its first two contests of 2018. The second of the two also turned out to be the Crimson’s first overtime decision since 2016.

One year ago, Harvard opened its season with road wins over UMass Lowell and Holy Cross. Returning the favor, the Crimson welcomed these two in-state opponents to Jordan Field on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, to start its 2018 campaign.

Both matchups came down to the wire, and whereas strong defensive play over the weekend helped Harvard (1-1, 0-0 Ivy) close out a 10-9 win over the River Hawks (1-1, 0-0 America East), a defensive slip on Tuesday night proved costly in a 10-9 (2OT) loss to the Crusaders (1-2, 0-0 Patriot). In splitting the contests, the Crimson will now enter its preparations for its first road game sitting at .500.

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“We were glad to get the win on Saturday, but sometimes, you win a game and it can mask poor play,” said Harvard co-captain and midfielder Joe Lang. “We definitely didn’t play up to our standards over the weekend or on Tuesday, but taking the second loss will get guys looking in the mirror and figuring out how to improve.”

Holy Cross 10, Harvard 9 (2OT)

The Tuesday night matchup between the Crimson and the Crusaders marked both squads’ first midweek game of the season. Despite the players coming out onto the field with just two days of rest, the game had a lively start. Both sides put a shot on frame within the first minute and a half, and an offside penalty on the visitors at the 12:21 mark of the first quarter gave Harvard an early man-up opportunity.

It ended up being Holy Cross who got on the board first, however, as sophomore attackman Justin Lynskey scored a solo goal just over five minutes into the game to give his team the lead. Fellow attacker Drew Babiak then added a second for the Crusaders a few minutes later, the first of five goals for the junior on the evening.

“Babiak and a couple of other guys on their team had great games,” Lang said. “But any time your defense can hold the other team to 10 goals or less, it’s up to the offense to capitalize.”

Despite putting up 42 shots in the contest, the offense had trouble doing just that––capitalizing on opportunities. The Crimson had five man-up chances over the course of the game but failed to score on any of them. A strong performance from Holy Cross sophomore goalie Jonathan Tesoro certainly played a role in the low scoring output for the home side, but sloppy execution and fifteen turnovers hurt it even more.

Ultimately, the Crusaders took advantage as Lynskey put home the decisive goal in the second overtime period. A quick slide to the left freed him right in front of goal, and he fired the ball past Harvard senior goalie Robert Shaw to give his team its first win of the year, and also first win over the Crimson in 35 attempts.

Harvard 10, UMass Lowell 9

Whereas the Crimson had to score a late goal on Tuesday to send the game against Holy Cross to overtime, it was in the exact opposite position on Saturday when it played host to the River Hawks. Harvard played the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter nursing a two-goal lead, and managed to keep UMass Lowell from mounting any sort of comeback until it was too late.

River Hawks senior attacker Sean Tyrrell scored with four seconds remaining to bring the margin to just one, but a face-off win immediately after by Crimson freshman Steven Cuccurullo iced the contest. Cuccurullo wound up finishing 13-17 on faceoffs in his first career game at the collegiate level.

“We asked a lot out of our two freshman [Cuccurullo and Kyle Massimilian] to step in today and take face-offs for us,” said Harvard coach Chris Wojcik ’96. “I’m very happy with how they performed and we’re confident they’ll do just fine till [Sullivan] gets back.”

As in the matchup against the Crusaders, the Crimson had problems putting its opponents away. It held a 7-3 lead at one point in the third quarter, but allowed UMass Lowell to come back and tie the game at 7-7 early in the fourth.

An uncharacteristically low offensive output from talisman Morgan Cheek played a big role, as Cheek failed to register multiple points in a game for the first time since 2016. Backing him up, however, sophomore attackers Kyle Anderson and Ryan Graff each had strong games. Anderson tallied a hat trick in his first career start, and Graff added two goals and two assists. Graff’s second goal with 7:12 left in the fourth proved to be the ultimate decider.

—Staff writer George Hu can be reached at george.hu@thecrimson.com.

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