Fall Ball Focus: Core Group Returns as Harvard Looks to Continue Ascent

PHOTO COURTESY OF HARVARD ATHLETICS


Harvard surprised people twice last season. First, by having success. On a roster with 17 freshmen, the Crimson put together an 8-5 season and finished .500 in the Ivy League.

But the Crimson missed the Ivy League tournament, and it appeared their NCAA tournament hopes had ended with a 17-16 overtime loss to Yale. That’s when the next surprise came: Harvard was one of six Ivy League teams to make the tournament. Some pundits thought Notre Dame got snubbed. Gerry Byrne paid them no mind.

“I was amused by it, but I spent zero time analyzing and obsessing,” Byrne said. “We got to play one more game, which was a gift and acknowledgment of the things that we did do in our season … we went with it and tried to do our best.”

Harvard lost in the first round 19-9 to eventual national semifinalist Rutgers.

A large contingent of the Crimson return in 2023. Three of Harvard’s top four scorers were freshmen in Sam King (25 G, 21 A), Miles Botkiss (23 G, 4 A) and Owen Gaffney (17 G, 9 A). Collin Bergstrom, who led the Crimson in caused turnovers with 15 in his rookie season, is also back. But Byrne insists it’s a new year along the Charles River.

“That team is gone,” Byrne said. “We have about three-quarters of the team back. We have to create new memories, a new history and a new legacy with this group.”

LAST SEASON

Harvard began the season 7-1, including a six-game winning streak that marked the Crimson’s longest since 2018. Conference play was up and down — a loss to Cornell snapped the aforementioned streak. But an April 23 win over Princeton, then ranked third, impressed. The loss to Yale kept the Crimson out of the Ivy League tournament, and Harvard bowed out in the first round of its first NCAA appearance since 2014 with a loss to Rutgers.

Though the focus is forward, Byrne won’t discount the experience.

“Having a taste of some element of success has definitely whet the appetite and inspires and motivates guys to move forward,” he said.







BIGGEST FALL QUESTION

Who takes over in the cage?

One of the few holes the Crimson must fill this season is the goalie position. Since the Ivies do not allow a fifth year, Kyle Mullin transferred to Rutgers after producing a .508 save percentage as a senior.

Christian Barnard, who played in two games totaling more than 42 minutes as a sophomore, leads the pack, according to Byrne. The righty has good hands and a knack for making stops.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATES

Lucas Hilsenrath, Elijah Cohen and Chase Yager.

Despite the numerous returners on offense, there are open spaces. Austin Madronic, who led the Crimson with 30 goals as a senior, is gone. Lucas Hilsenrath, who played in seven games and scored three times as a freshman, and Elijah Cohen, who played in four games and scored once, could move up the depth chart.

Hilsenrath is shifty and fast, while Cohen is a physical dodger. On the defensive end, Chase Yager (13 CT, 23 GB) has also impressed this fall.

“He’s one of the best d-middies in the country,” Byrne said.

MARQUEE ADDITION

Charlie Muller.

Charlie Muller has impressed since arriving on campus. The 6-4 long stick midfielder out of The Bullis School (Md.) is a physical lefty who can also play close defense. Byrne predicts he’ll have a starting role as a freshman.

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