Disappointment struck men’s lacrosse after they dropped their midweek tilt against No. 14 Brown on April 15, which may dampen the team’s chance to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996. So, when the No. 17 Crimson came out flat on Saturday (April 18) against a struggling 3-10 Holy Cross team, the Harvard men found themselves pressed to find some sort of inspiration.
After 30 minutes of play, the Crimson’s humble 2-1 first-period lead was increased by one more goal before halftime. This, compliments of Holy Cross netminder Jimmy Harrison who — despite facing 19 Crimson shots — allowed only three to rattle the net. Harrison ended the first half with eight saves, and, despite being down a couple of goals, the Holy Cross Crusaders entered the second half with a bit of confidence, while the Crimson stood in need of a little encouragement.
In his halftime speech, along with offering strategic adjustments, second-year head coach John Tillman challenged his team to dig deep in the second half. “Honestly, I said, ‘It’s not about talk right now, it’s about getting it done. It’s about someone stepping up on each end of the field, being a better leader, and doing what we do better. But no more talk, its about action.’”
The Crimson came out with a response via the stick of freshman Jeff Cohen who opened the half with his second and third goals of the game. And despite two goals by the Crusaders to cut the lead to 5-3, the Crimson tallied four consecutive goals (including two more by Cohen), that quieted the Holy Cross attack and allowed the Crimson to put on cruise control and take their sixth win of the season.
“I thought we came out a little bit flat,” commented junior attackman Travis Burr. “We weren’t too happy with how we started, but we’ve come off a couple tough losses and everyone was pretty worn out from the last three games, but as we came down, everyone kind of pulled together and we got it done.” Burr was instrumental in the Crimson’s success, tallying two goals early and adding an assist to help lead his team to victory.
“Travis Burr has, through the last couple of games, emerged as one of our leaders,” said Tillman, “especially on the offensive end, and it showed today. … The last few days, where other guys may have been a little bit disappointed, his energy has increased and his leadership has increased, and it didn’t surprise me today that he played well. Not only did he play well, he made the other guys around him play well and that’s a credit to Travis.”
Cohen, who finished the day with six goals and the best single-game performance by a Harvard player since his brother Steve in 2007, now appears to be a favorite for the Ivy Rookie of the Year award. The freshman leads the Crimson in goals and points, is fourth in the Ivy League in scoring, and was named Ivy Rookie of the Week on Monday (April 20) for the second time. Only one other Ivy Player has been honored twice (Tyler Fiorito, Princeton).
The No. 17-ranked Crimson, standing at 6-5 (1-3 Ivy League), have just two more games left on their schedule as they look to complete the season with their best record since 1998. And although the Crimson’s loss to Brown may put a damper on the team’s postseason aspirations, the talent on Harvard’s young roster appears to be ready to make an NCAA push next season.
“Our seniors have never had a winning record so I think that’s going to be a big goal for us,” said Cohen. “And also we have two Ivy League opponents, Yale and Dartmouth, obviously rivals; it would be good for our seniors to get those wins and [for the team to] get momentum going into next year.”