On Saturday afternoon, sophomore attacker Coulter Mackesy led No. 20 men’s lacrosse (6–5 overall, 4–1 Ivy League) in a 17–11 defeat of the Harvard Crimson (5–6, 2–3), and put his name in the record books on by becoming just the fifth sophomore in program history to reach 100 points.
The Tigers have had a rollercoaster of a season, already equalling the losses accumulated in the 2022 season. Having come into the season ranked No.6 in the preseason poll, they are now barely making the national rankings.
However, after starting 2–4, they have picked up some momentum going 4–1 in their last five games, with the lone loss coming to No. 13 Syracuse.
Harvard, on the other hand, has been having an average year. The Crimson were ranked No.15 in the preseason poll and have weathered some bad losses; the highlight of their season has been the big win against No. 6 Cornell two weekends ago.
Before the rain kicked in on Saturday, the latest installment in the storied rivalry between Princeton and Harvard took place in front of a sold-out crowd at the Class of 1952 Sherrerd Field. The game marked the last home game for 16 seniors, who were honored pre-game.
Indeed, it was only right for senior midfielder Alexander Vardaro to get the scoring underway for the Tigers within the game’s first three minutes. After the Crimson responded, it was Mackesy who got his career night underway with his first tally of the game.
After the Crimson scored two straight to make the score 3–2, it was all Tigers, as Princeton would go on to score eight straight goals while holding Harvard scoreless for 22 minutes.
In one of the more memorable goals from this stretch, Mackesy took on three Crimson defenders before scoring to give the Tigers a 5–3 lead. This was the goal that marked the hundredth point of his career, becoming just the 40th Tiger and the fifth sophomore to reach that mark.
“Getting to 100 [career points] in that environment was special,” Mackesy told The Daily Princetonian. “[But] all credit goes to my teammates and coaches for putting me in those positions.”
The run would continue into the second period, with senior midfielder Christian Ronda and sophomore midfielder Sean Cameron both scoring once more to make it 7–3. The Crimson simply had no answer for Mackesy, who would score three straight goals to open the game up for the Tigers. A top-shelf ripper would cap off an early hat trick for Mackesy.
Harvard would not give up easily, as they found the back of the net three straight times in a 63-second span, cutting the deficit to four. Ronda scored a crucial Tiger goal in the final possession of the second quarter to give Princeton an 11–6 lead at the break.
Junior goalie Michael Gianforcaro was a big factor in the Tigers first-half defensive success. Alongside Mackesy, Gianforcaro also had an amazing performance with a career-high 20 saves.
“The defense played well. Gianforcaro was excellent and filled in the gaps when the defense had lapses,” head coach Matt Madalon told the ‘Prince.’
“The offense played great, [the] ball movement and spacing was excellent,” he added. “Mackesy shot the ball incredibly well.”
The Tigers needed to come out of halftime with the same energy and focus they showed in the first half. After all, many of the returning players remember the game last season at Cambridge when the Tigers had an early 9–6 lead in the second quarter before falling 19–16.
“Yesterday was a huge win for us,” Mackesy added. “We all had this game circled after losing last year up at Harvard and to come out with a team win was awesome.”
The Tigers would do just that, with back-to-back goals from Ronda and junior attacker Lukas Stanat giving them a 13–6 lead en route to a 17–11 win.
“It was a great win for our seniors and their families,” Madalon added. “[This is] an important step forward in trying to play our best lacrosse in May.”
The game of the week for many men’s lacrosse fans is now less than a week away, as reigning NCAA finalists Cornell will host the Tigers on Saturday at 12 p.m. The winner of the game will be the 2023 regular season champion and have the No. 1 seed heading into the Ivy tournament the following weekend.
“Cornell is another great team and another revenge game for us after losing the Ivy League to them last year on senior day,” Mackesy told the ‘Prince.’ “This one definitely means a lot.”
While it has been a tougher season than most expected, the Tigers still control their own destiny. Three straight wins would give them the regular season and postseason Ivy Championship along with an automatic NCAA bid. From then on, the sky would be the limit for a team many expected to compete for a national championship prior to the season.
Hayk Yengibaryan is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.