Four days after a thrilling shootout with Boston University, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team took the field at Harvard Stadium against Dartmouth for a game that was a much different affair. With improved defensive intensity from the Crimson as well as its opponents, both squads struggled to find clear cut chances, especially early on in the contest.
The two sides entered halftime with the Big Green holding on to a narrow 5-4 lead, and Harvard having mustered just nine shots on goal through 30 minutes of play.
A slower-paced game did not mean that the finish was any less tense, however, as the teams found themselves in an 8-8 deadlock after Dartmouth sophomore attackman Ben Martin found the back of the net with 9:53 remaining in the final quarter. For the next few minutes, the game became a battle between the two goalies, with the Big Green’s George Christopher and the Crimson’s Robert Shaw both making key saves to keep the game tied.
As he has done all season long for Harvard, however, senior attackman Morgan Cheek stepped up to direct the offense down the stretch. From the X, he found freshman Kyle Salvatore for the game-winning goal with 5:57 to go, and sophomore Kyle Anderson for the game-icing goal with 2:01 left on the clock.
The two scores put the Crimson up for good, and at the end of the day, Harvard (7-1, 2-0 Ivy) emerged with its sixth consecutive victory, prevailing 10-8. Dartmouth (2-5, 0-1), meanwhile, suffered its third straight defeat and is still seeking its first conference win since 2015.
“Every Ivy League game is tough, and credit to Dartmouth for playing a very good game, especially on the ground,” said Crimson coach Chris Wojcik ’96. “The difference came down to end of game execution, where I thought we did a great job.”
Before Harvard pulled away at the end, it looked for long stretches in the first half as if the Big Green was on its way to snatching a road win in Cambridge. Freshman face-off specialist Kiernan Gunn was sharp for the visitors in the first half, winning 7-of-11 face-offs as Dartmouth outplayed the Crimson on the ground, picking up 15 ground balls to Harvard’s 12.
After the Big Green took the lead late in the second quarter, the Crimson made a substitution at the face-off X, bringing in junior James Sullivan to try to revitalize the ground game. Sullivan delivered, winning 8-of-11 of his face-offs the rest of the way to swing the momentum in Harvard’s direction.
“In the third quarter, we recommitted to scrapping for balls and getting back in control of the game,” Wojcik said. “Especially, James [Sullivan] did a really good job of providing a spark and setting the tone for us coming out of halftime.”
While the offense and ground game took time to find its footing on Saturday, the defense was solid throughout. After giving up a season high 18 goals to the Terriers on Tuesday, the Crimson limited Dartmouth to eight goals on just 29 shots.
Shaw made crucial saves throughout, including two back-to-back in the fourth quarter when the game was still tied, 8-8. In front of him, senior Joe Kearney played a key role in defending the Big Green’s top options. Captain and midfielder Sean Coleman and defender Jonathan Butler also made important contributions with four and three ground ball pickups, respectively.
“Obviously it wasn’t our best performance on Tuesday,” Shaw said. “But this week, we focused on increasing our communication, supporting each other better, and I think we did a lot of that in shutting them down today.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Cheek once again led the way with five points, courtesy of one goal and four assists. Salvatore, who scored the game-winner, recorded his first career hat trick, while senior midfielder Carney Mahon tacked on two goals for Harvard.
“We didn’t start the game as well as we would have liked,” Coleman said. “But in the third and fourth quarters, we were able to make some timely plays, get some timely scores, and once the tide turned our way, we were able to close out the win.”
—Staff writer George Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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