Last Wednesday, the eight best college lacrosse teams in the nation charged into the NCAA tournament. After last weekend's semi-final, only Cornell and Maryland were left. They will meet on Saturday at Brown for the championship.
Harvard fell short in its bid for a berth in the tournament, but nevertheless, the Crimson season that ended two Saturdays ago was a clear success.
The Crimson stickmen rushed to their best record since 1971, winning 10 of 15 games and taking third place in the rough Ivy League. After going 4-9 in 1975 and wallowing in sixth place in the Ivies, the team righted itself this time around and moved into the top fifteen in the national poll.
In one short year, the team raised its goals-per-game average from 10.2 to 13.3 and lowered its goals-against average from 12.0 to a fine 9.8. Harvard lost to Princeton in 1975, 18-10, but took a come-from-behind 11-10 victory over the Tigers this year. The Crimson lost to Yale in overtime two years ago, but gained an easy 14-6 triumph this spring.
In a game that will be remembered with a tinge of frustration for years to come, Harvard lost to Brown in overtime after rallying from an 8-1 halftime deficit to tie the contest at 10-all. The Bruins beat out Harvard for second place in the Ivies and won a berth in the national tournament.
Part of the sudden improvement has to be credited to the new players on the squad. Freshmen were eligible in the Ivy League for the first time this season, and seven of them made the team along with seven sophomores who couldn't play varsity last year.
Sophomore Steve Martin won a starting job on attack and was second on the team in scoring, earning 53 points on a dozen goals and 41 assists. Sophomore mid-fielder Bobby Mellen (15-3-18) and swingman Hank Leopold (7-6-13) also had fine years. In all, eight of the team's top 12 scorers were newcomers.
Tennis at Attack
But just as important was the improvement of the returning players. Billy Tennis spent his first season and a half at Harvard as a rather inoffenisve midfielder. Midway through last season, however, he was moved to attack and responded with eight goals against BC in his first start. He ended 1975 with 35 points.
This year as a senior, Tennis emerged as the team's best scorer, notching 43 goals and 63 points and often shouldering the offensive burden alone in the rough games. By notching eight points in his final game, he finished in ninth place on the Harvard career scoring list.
Other veterans who came through this year were co-captain Kevin McCall, who raised his point total from 26 to 34, senior defenseman Mike Belmont, the one consistent standout on the young, unsettled defensive corps, and junior Jim Michelson, who gave Harvard its best goaltending in years.
Seniors Andy Gellis (4-2-6) and Giles (4-3-7) ran regular shifts on midfield all year, while middle-cheerleader Bruce Poliquin earned the team's hustle award.
The third attackman, Bill MacKenzie, contributed more than 40 points for the second consecutive year, but co-captain Bruce Bruckmann, the team's best middie in 1975, missed most of the year with an injury.
In the annual banquet held last week, the team chose defenseman Greg Jackmauh, who sat out almost the entire year with a costly knee injury, and faceoff specialist Sandy White as the co-captains for next season. The Most Valuable Player award went to scoring ace Tennis and sophomore defenseman Chris Ecker was named the most improved player for starting all 15 games after not playing as a freshman.