For the past three years, the men’s lacrosse team has gone into the Cornell game undefeated.
This year may well be the charmed one, in which the Bulldogs come out preserving perfection. Yale takes its 4-0 record up to Ithaca to face off against the nationally ranked No. 12 Big Red Saturday.
“We’re very excited,” assistant coach Graham Nieme said. “We match up well with them. We’re pretty equal athletically. It’s going to be a good game.”
Prior contests between the Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 Ivy) and the Big Red (3-1, 0-0) have hardly been good, at least from Yale’s standpoint. Last year, Cornell staked a 7-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and went on to win 16-8. In 2002, Cornell scored the game’s first eight goals, doubling up Yale once again, 8-4.
“It’s the been the same thing the last few years,” attacker Seth Goldberg ’05 said. “They go up on us early and we try to come back. If we come out hard from the start and play smart and tough, I think we can win.”
Although it is still early in the season, the Bulldogs are battle-tested, winning a pair of games with goals in the final minutes of play. On March 7, attacker Scott Kenworthy ’04 tallied with just over a minute to play, as Yale edged Drexel, 9-8. Three days later, Goldberg scored with 10 seconds remaining on the clock to lift Yale to a 10-9 victory over Butler.
“We’ve played well,” Nieme said. “We’ve played in a variety of situations — with a lead and where we’ve had to come back. Every game we’re getting better. There are still some things we have to improve on.”
Offense is such an area. Yale has struggled to find the net at times this spring, but showed its ability to score in a 15-11 win over the University of Pennsylvania last Saturday. The Bulldogs will need to have a similar effort offensively if they hope to keep up with the potent attack of the defending league champion Big Red.
One player Yale will look to for offense is Goldberg.
Goldberg, the current Ivy League Player of the Week, collected a career-high six goals and seven points against the Quakers. Dan Brillman ’06, David Schecter ’06 and Ned Britt ’04 are among others who will also be expected to contribute.
On the other end of the field, the Bulldogs will rely on freshman goaltender Jordan Ellis, whose performance last Saturday earned him conference honors as well.
Ellis, the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, totaled 18 saves off 29 shots on goal in the win over Penn. The freshman has started all four games for the Bulldogs this season.
“The first three games [Ellis] had some tough moments, but he made some great saves last weekend,” Nieme said. “He’s been terrific for us.”
Cornell will counter with its own freshman goaltender, Matt McMonagle. This will not be the first matchup between Bryn Mawr natives Ellis and McMonagle, who played against each other in high school.
Emotions will be high Saturday as the Bulldogs try to defeat the Big Red for the first time in their last five meetings.
Cornell will be trying to control a different set of emotions as it takes the field for the first time without senior defenseman George Boiardi. Boiardi was struck in the chest with a ball and collapsed dead late in the fourth quarter of a game against Binghamton March 17.
Both the Elis and Big Red will be wearing Boiardi’s number — 21 — on their helmets in memory of the fallen defenseman.
“This is definitely going to be one of the more emotional and intense games anyone on any team has played,” Ellis said. “Cornell is out to prove itself after a devastating death and we are looking to avenge years of losses. It’s as good as it gets.”