If games could be won on motivation alone, the men’s lacrosse team would have no problem this weekend.
The Bulldogs (6-5, 1-4 Ivy) will head up to Cambridge tomorrow to face historic rival Harvard (4-6, 2-2) to close out their 2007 Ivy League schedule. With a win, the Elis would snap a three-year losing streak to the Crimson, hoist themselves out of last place, and end their conference play on a high note after a disappointing 0-4 start.
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“The Harvard game to us is unlike any other game in the season,” captain Chris Kempner ’07 said. “We don’t really need any extra motivation for that.”
Coming off a 10-day hiatus from games, the Elis will be well-rested and ready to play at the opening faceoff tomorrow. Although last Wednesday’s 15-12 defeat of Dartmouth — in which the Bulldogs ended a four-game Ivy skid — seems a bit distant, the squad will look to ride the momentum from its last two wins to another victory this weekend. The break has also given the Elis time to focus on learning Harvard’s style of play.
“We are just trying to figure out their weaknesses so we can exploit them in Saturday’s game,” midfielder Mike Karwoski ’09 said last weekend.
Although the Crimson have fared better in Ancient Eight play so far, things look promising for the Elis tomorrow. The Bulldogs have far outpaced the Cantabs in scoring this season, as Crimson leaders Greg Cohen and Carle Stenmark have just 17 and 16 points apiece. Four Elis have more than 30 points already and the Bulldogs have nearly doubled the Crimson goal total, even though Yale has played just one extra game.
Twelve different Elis combined for 33 goals in the past two contests, including 15 against Dartmouth in a day that head coach Andy Shay called one of the best for his offense all season. The unit is currently ranked as the 11th best scoring offense in the NCAA, and the leading trio of Kempner, Tyler Casertano ’08, and Brendan Gibson ’10 all are ranked highly in one or more statistical categories.
Gibson was recently honored as Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second time this season, after he scored eight goals and added one assist against Manhattan and Dartmouth. He also earned New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Player of the Week honors and is the second-ranked rookie in the nation in goals (10th overall).
The Bulldog defense, on the other hand, will have to step it up tomorrow after a lackluster performance against the Big Green, in which they gave up 12 goals and were edged out in ground balls.
“We will need both units firing on all cylinders to earn a win at Harvard,” Shay said.
Although the Elis have been all but eliminated from the possibility of postseason play, there is a lot at stake in tomorrow’s game. With a win, the squad would finish 2-4 in the league, an improvement — albeit slight — over their dismal 1-5 record in 2006. Coupled with the expected victories of Cornell over Brown and Princeton over Dartmouth, the Bulldogs could also jump the Bears and the Big Green in the standings and settle into fourth place in the Ancient Eight.
And, of course, they would have the satisfaction of coming out on top of the Harvard-Yale rivalry for the first time in the careers of both the players and coaches.
“It has been a goal for us all season to beat Harvard, because none of the seniors on the team ever have,” Kempner said.