It has been 293 days since the Crimson last played together and 328 days since it picked up its last win against Dartmouth on March 24, 2018. Last season, the team got off to a hot start — winning seven of its first eight games. Its only loss came in a tight 10-9 contest against Holy Cross that went into double overtime.
However, Harvard fell off in the second half of the season, losing the final five games to finish 7-6 (2-4 in Ivy League play) on the year and missing the NCAA tournament.
While this underwhelming finish might get some down, for tri-captain Kyle Anderson and the other members of the Crimson, it only made them hungrier to return. Under the guidance of coach Chris Wojick ‘96, the team made some decisions to try and shake things up.
“This fall, we decided to switch our practice and training time to 6:00 am every morning,” Anderson said. “Getting up at 5:30 am helped teach some discipline to the guys and also some responsibility in making sure all your teammates are awake and coming down to practice.”
The increased discipline and responsibility will be crucial for the Crimson, as it has some big shoes to fill from last season. Although Anderson led the team in goals (34) as a sophomore, he and junior defenseman Joe Kearney are the only two returning players that started all 13 games last season. Harvard lost goalie Robert Shaw ‘18, who played all but one minute and 27 seconds last year, and also has to fill the role of former attackman Morgan Cheek ‘18, who led the team in assists (34) and total overall points (59).
Despite the major losses, the Crimson cannot wait to get back on the field and prove that it is still a force to be reckoned with. The team opens its season on Saturday against No. 12/14 North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The game marks the first matchup between the two teams since 2015, and although the Tar Heels have a high ranking, like Harvard, they are trying to bounce back from a relatively disappointing 2018 season.
In a similar fashion, North Carolina got off to a great start, beginning the season 6-0. But, things quickly turned south, as it would go on to lose the next seven and narrowly come away with a 10-9 win over Notre Dame in their final game to finish the season with a 7-7 record (1-3 in the ACC).
Also, like the Crimson, the Tar Heels are only returning two players that started every game and have to fill the void left by arguably their best player, attackman Chris Cloutier ‘18. In 2018, Cloutier led North Carolina with 31 goals on 107 shots and added 10 assists to lead the team in points (41). However, it seems like North Carolina is living up to its new No. 12/14 ranking, as it started the 2019 season 2-0 with dominant wins over Mercer (20-7) and Furman (14-10).
While the Tar Heels will prove to be a tough test for the Crimson, the team remains unfazed heading into the game.
“We’re really looking forward to getting the chance to prove ourselves as a team against some strong, out-of-conference opponents early in the season,” said freshman attackman Austin Madronic, who is known for his incredibly quick stick.
The emphasis this season is for men to compete and win as a team, with each member doing his part to ensure success.
“Heading into the spring, everyone worked extremely hard on their own over break,” said Anderson. “Our main focus is to fuel competition in everything we do. Going full speed and being competitive at all times is something that we think will help us heading into our opener at UNC. The team is juiced up and ready to get our season underway.”
One thing that North Carolina certainly seems to have going for it is their performance at home. Despite finishing 7-7 last season, the Tar Heels were 6-2 at the recently rededicated Kenan Memorial Stadium, and are already 1-0 this year. However, the conditions for Saturday’s game are less than ideal: a high of 51˚F with 100% chance of rain in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon.
The opening faceoff is set for 12:00 pm ET, and beyond that is a season filled with high expectations.
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