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Leading On and Off the Field: Harvard Men's Lacrosse Prepares for Another Competitive Season

2022 All-Ivy Honorable Mention team select, sophomore attack Sam King, charges the net in Harvard's first private scrimmage to kick off the season. The team's season will commence this Saturday with a 4:00 p.m. away game against No.1/No. 1 University of Virginia.
2022 All-Ivy Honorable Mention team select, sophomore attack Sam King, charges the net in Harvard's first private scrimmage to kick off the season. The team's season will commence this Saturday with a 4:00 p.m. away game against No.1/No. 1 University of Virginia. By Courtesy of Dylan Goodman/Harvard Athletics
By Katharine Forst, Crimson Staff Writer

Coming off a historic season, the Harvard men’s lacrosse team will turn towards a new class of senior leaders to continue its legacy of improvement and ferocious competition.

With the loss of key players Charlie Olmert, Kyle Massimilian, Steven Cuccurullo, Kyle Mullin, Austin Madronic, and Jake Hartje, the team will look towards a new set of seniors to lead the squad both on and off the field.

At the heart of this new group is senior captain and midfielder Nick Loring, who has been a crucial part of the squad since his first year. He is the sole captain of the team this year, a job he does not take lightly.

“Last year we had an amazing group of seniors and I think that we are filling it back with another amazing group,” Loring commented. “I’ve got a bunch of great guys by my side that has been incredibly supportive. Our locker room is chock full of great players and even better people – I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

The team has been playing together for three weeks after the almost two-month-long hiatus for winter break, and the work at practice culminated in an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday. The scrimmage was private, limited to only a select group of spectators. Having witnessed the action, as well as how the ten new first-year players slotted into the squad, there were areas in which the team has improved since last year and areas where it needs to tighten its play after such a short session together this year.

One area in which the Crimson are looking for new leadership is on the faceoff. After graduating its two senior starters Massimilian and Cuccurullo, Head Coach Gerry Byrne will look to sophomore Andrew DeGenaro, first-year Matt Barraco, and junior walk-on Mike Binkowski to win possessions at the X. Barraco is optimistic about the team’s performance at the face-off-x this season despite recently returning from an injury that sidelined him for much of the fall.

“Our faceoff group has been really welcoming to me, and it’s made it easy for me to come in and feel like I belong, which has helped me get up to game speed and the Division-I level, whether that be game speed or lacrosse IQ,” Barraco commented.

Junior midfield Mark Stephens moves up the field with the ball in the team's first internal scrimmage of the season. In 2022, Stephens scored a goal in a February 19 game against NJIT, which was Harvard's first game since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Junior midfield Mark Stephens moves up the field with the ball in the team's first internal scrimmage of the season. In 2022, Stephens scored a goal in a February 19 game against NJIT, which was Harvard's first game since the Covid-19 pandemic. By Courtesy of Dylan Goodman/Harvard Athletics

A common thread between players Loring, Barraco, and sophomore attacker Joey Graham after the scrimmage is that the season is still early and that there are still kinks to be worked out. Graham specifically noted the squad’s need to focus on “the simple things” to eliminate turnovers and mistakes. One way to attempt to not only eliminate mistakes but to capitalize on them is with the ten-man-ride which the squad has been using both in practice and in the scrimmage.

“We have plenty to work on between now and then, we’ve only been playing for about three weeks since break so there are lots of little things like situational riding and clearing, and late game situations, which the coaches have really drilled into us,” Loring said. “We’ve got the time to drill it out before UVA and I know we’re going to get there.”

While the spring season has only been underway for about three weeks, the team has been playing together since the fall, working with a limited schedule to maximize growth during fall ball. First-year midfielder Francisco Cortes, when interviewed in the fall, spoke about the team’s intense off-season in which the players worked to remain in peak physical condition, especially citing the squad’s small-group workouts over the summer as key to making sure the guys arrived on campus in shape.

Coach Byrne places an emphasis on coupling academics and athletics by providing opportunities for his team to not only compete on the highest level but to grow off the field as well. This was evident on the team’s trip to Washington, D.C. last fall which saw the lacrosse team compete against Johns Hopkins, while also prioritizing the various cultural experiences D.C. has to offer.

“The trip to D.C. was awesome. I think we did a great job of performing on the lacrosse field while also realizing there was more to the trip than just lacrosse. I was impressed by our team’s, and specifically, the younger guys’, engagement with our alumni during the Alumni Networking Event,” senior attackman Hayden Cheek said.

Cheek is one of several returning players who will look to once again make his mark on the dynamic roster. On the defensive end of the field, the team will look to replace Mullin, who started every game in goal last year. Junior Christian Barnard is hoping to compete to fill this spot alongside his fellow goaltenders sophomore George Alvarez, senior Jack Schlendorf, and first-year Adam Blind.

“With Mullin leaving there is going to be a really intense goalie competition throughout this fall and this is my first chance to really make my mark on this program and to step up and become the starter. The competition is going to be tough but I want to step up … and be a leader on this team,” Barnard remarked.

Sophomore attack and New England native Liam Griffiths runs towards the goal in Harvard's first scrimmage last weekend. This weekend, Harvard will travel down to Virginia for the first official game of its 2023 season.
Sophomore attack and New England native Liam Griffiths runs towards the goal in Harvard's first scrimmage last weekend. This weekend, Harvard will travel down to Virginia for the first official game of its 2023 season. By Courtesy of Dylan Goodman/Harvard Athletics

Junior attacker Graham Blake, Cheek, and sophomore attacker Sam King are just three returning players who will look to compete for a starting role in the offensive trio. In the midfield, junior LSM Greg Campisi, senior SSDM Chase Yager, and sophomore LSM Vince Cresci will look to make an impact on the wings, and down low on the defense sophomore defender Collin Bergstrom, senior defender Chase Strupp, and sophomore defender Tommy Martinson are all set to return and will be vying for starting positions.

The first-year recruiting class that Byrne assembled brings some powerhouse talent from across the country. Players like midfielders Finn Pokorny and Logan Ip, and defenders Sean Jordan and Charlie Muller all bring fresh skill to the roster.

“The season looks bright as we welcome a Top 5 recruiting class with big-time players at every position who should compete for playing time this spring as we aim to return to the NCAA Tournament and battle for an Ivy League Title,” Byrne stated.

– Staff writer Katharine Forst can be reached at katharine.forst@thecrimson.com

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