The last five times the Harvard and Yale lacrosse teams have matched up in the regular season, the contest has been decided by a single goal. With a bitter taste left in its mouth from last year’s 9–8 loss to the Crimson, the No. 1 Yale men’s lacrosse team will host archrival Harvard in its regular-season finale as it looks to go undefeated in conference play.
The Bulldogs (11–2, 5–0 Ivy) will return to Reese Stadium carrying momentum from last weekend’s 14–6 beat down of then-No. 2 Albany and their newly minted top national ranking. By comparison, after a solid early-season start, Harvard (7–5, 2–3) enters Saturday’s contest looking to snap a four-game losing streak and take down the Elis in New Haven.
“This weekend is extremely important to us for many reasons, but I’d say most importantly [we want] to send our seniors out on the right note,” midfielder Joseph Sessa ’19 said. “It could potentially be the last game on Reese for these guys, and they’ve done so much for this program the last four years that more than anything our team feels we owe it to them to sell out so that they can enjoy a win on their senior day.”
The last time the Crimson and the Elis clashed, Yale led by as many as four goals before allowing a late run from the Crimson generated by first-year phenom Ryan Graff, who tallied a hat trick, including the game-winning goal. In his sophomore season, Graff has not hit those heights, notching just 10 goals — down from 20 last season — and seven assists.
Morgan Cheek and Kyle Anderson have carried the Crimson offense with 56 and 39 points respectively. Cheek excels as a goalscorer and distributor, ranking seventh nationally with 2.83 assists per game, while Anderson has finished Cheek’s feeds to the tune of 2.67 goals per game, the 15th best record in the nation. Much like the Bulldogs, the Crimson boasts impressive offensive depth, as 17 other players on the Harvard roster have added their names to the score sheet this season.
Yale’s defensive lineup will be led by defender Chris Fake ’21. Last weekend, Fake successfully thwarted the offensive efforts of Albany’s standout first-year attacker, Tehoka Nanticoke, while fellow starting defenders Christopher Keating ’18 and Jerry O’Connor ’18 helped hold the nation’s number-two team to just six goals all game. Rookie goaltender Jack Starr ’21 has continued to improve in the net for Yale and produced one of his best showings last weekend against the Great Danes, recording 10 saves.
“We have some of the most talented offensive players in the nation,” O’Connor said. “They bring so much to the table from week in and week out and going against them every day makes us better. From our perspective we try to bring as much energy as possible and try to bring a game-like feel to practice. It really has helped us throughout the season when it comes to game day. You really can’t understate the importance of having guys like them.”
The Crimson’s record does not accurately reflect the quality of its performances this season. Harvard, which crept into the NCAA top-20 rankings for a brief span during the 2018 campaign, managed to take down No. 16 Massachusetts. The Crimson currently ranks 25th in the country in scoring offense with just over 11 goals per game, which puts it roughly 2.5 goals under Yale’s fourth-best mark in the nation of 13.62 per game.
Harvard’s success derives in no small part from the efforts of star netminder Robert Shaw. In his sophomore season, the Massachusetts native posted a career-high 19 saves against Villanova and now ranks fourth in the country in saves per game with 12.42 per contest. Shaw tallied a season-high 17 saves and a 68 percent save percentage against Brown in the middle of March. The Elis will look to muster up quality shots against Shaw to counter his abilities in the crease.
Yale’s record-breaking offense will look to captain and attacker Ben Reeves ’18 to lead the way. Reeves notched a hat trick in last year’s contest while attacker Jackson Morrill ’20 and midfielder Lucas Cotler ’20 tallied goals as well. The Bulldogs will also look to junior attackers John Daniggelis ’19 and Brendan Rooney ’19, who have both had breakout seasons on the offensive end, to make offensive contributions this time around.
“The energy and vibe in practice this whole week has given us the feel of how big this game is and what it means to this program,” Fake said. “I am excited to be a part of the redemption for last year’s result. Harvard is very talented and they always give us a good game regardless of the seasons both teams are having.”
The contest against the Crimson will begin at noon on Saturday.
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