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Men's Lacrosse Struggles in Second Half versus No. 1 Albany

With last night's loss, the Crimson moves to 2-2 against top-two teams during the eight-year tenure of coach Chris Wojcik.

Facing its first top-ranked opponent in head coach Chris Wojcik’s eight years at the helm, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team traveled to Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday night to square up against the No. 1/1 Great Danes. The game began with a steady defensive effort for the Crimson, as the visitors were able to hold the nation’s most proficient scoring offense to just four goals through the first two quarters.

The problem, however, was that Harvard only managed two scores in that same time frame. And before it could stage a true upset attempt, Albany took control of the contest with five goals in the third, never looking back.

The Great Danes tallied a comprehensive 14-6 victory as the final result, while the Crimson recorded its lowest scoring output since netting only five against Penn during the 2014 season. Albany (9-0, 2-0 America East) continues its dominant run atop the polls and remains perfect on the season, while No. 19/RV Harvard leaves the Empire State with its six game win streak abruptly ended.

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“We knew it would be a challenge tonight and credit to Albany for playing a very complete game,” Wojcik said. “There were definitely areas of our game that were lacking, though, and we’re obviously disappointed in the result.”

The Crimson entered Wednesday’s matchup with the nation’s 11th ranked scoring offense, but just over a week after putting up 19 on the board against Boston University, it could not find a way to keep up with the Great Danes. The first two quarters turned out to be the worst offensive half for Harvard all season, as the visitors mustered just 12 shots and two goals.

Sophomore attackman Kyle Anderson provided a moment of excitement when he scored in a man-down situation midway through the first quarter, but that goal would be the only one for the Crimson in those opening 15 minutes. Senior long stick midfielder Robert Mencke tacked on another with 2:58 to go in the second quarter to cap all of Harvard’s scoring in the first half.

“We had to do a better job of giving ourselves a chance on offense,” Wojcik said. “We played well on defense and at the face-off X for stretches that game, but our sloppiness with the ball and poor shooting really cost us.”

Winning possession on face-offs was certainly a positive for the Crimson, as the trio of junior James Sullivan, freshman Kyle Massimilian, and freshman Steven Cuccurullo managed to win eight out of 24 face-offs against the nation’s top face-off man, TD Ierlan. Ierlan had entered Wednesday with an 84 percent win percentage at the X, and for comparison, won every single one of his 24 face-offs against Cornell a few weeks ago.

Harvard also contained Albany senior attackman Connor Fields, the top point scorer in the country, to just one point before Fields had to exit with an injury in the third quarter. The senior, who entered the game with 7.1 points per game to his name, had two turnovers.

“We did a good job of limiting his impact on the game before he went out,” Wojcik said. “But they have a lot of guys who can hurt you and that showed in the third quarter.”

In Fields’ place, freshman attackman Tehoka Nanticoke, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017, tallied two goals and four assists to lead all players with six points. Alongside him, seniors Justin Reh and Kyle McClancy each recorded a hat trick, combining for three goals in the third quarter alone to put the Great Danes firmly in the driver’s seat.

On the other side, Crimson talisman Morgan Cheek had trouble solving Albany senior goalie JD Colarusso. Despite putting up a game-high 12 shots over the course of the contest, Cheek found the back of the net on just two of them. Anderson also finished with two goals on eight shots, in what turned out to be a difficult shooting night for the visitors.

“[We have] a lot to work on,” Wojcik said. “We’ll take the weekend to regroup and make sure we’re ready for the rest of Ivy play.”

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

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