The NCAA tournament — the lacrosse edition, that is — may well be a reality for the Yale men’s lacrosse team this season, but do not expect those two words to come out of head coach Andy Shay’s mouth any time soon.
“We don’t talk about [the NCAA tournament],” Shay said. “Our focus now is on the next game.”
For the Bulldogs, then, all thoughts are on Saturday, when they travel to Princeton, N.J., to take on the Tigers (3-2).
Yale (4-1, 1-1 Ivy) will be trying to get back on track after suffering its first loss of the season last Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y.
Despite a hat trick from Ivy League Player of the Week Seth Goldberg ’05, the Elis fell to Cornell, 10-6.
The Big Red came out fast, scoring the game’s first four goals, and went into the half with a 5-2 lead. In the second half, Cornell stretched its lead to 10-3 before the Bulldogs rallied for three goals in the final quarter.
“We just didn’t execute,” midfielder Ned Britt ’04 said. “They’re a good team, but there wasn’t anything we weren’t prepared for.”
As tough as the Cornell game was, it does not get any easier for Yale as it enters conference play. Every Ivy League team either was ranked in the top 20 or received votes in this week’s USILA poll. The top ranked team in the league is Princeton.
The Tigers’ 3-2 record should not deceive anyone as their two losses came against No. 2 Johns Hopkins and No. 3 Syracuse. Princeton, ranked No. 7 in this week’s poll, is again the favorite to win what would be its 10th straight Ivy League championship.
Last year, the Tigers routed Yale, 15-5. However in 2002, the last time the Bulldogs played at Class of 1952 Stadium, Yale edged Princeton, 15-13, snapping the Tigers’ 37-game Ivy League winning streak.
“It’s a different Princeton team than we’ve seen in the past,” Britt said. “They have a lot of young guys. But it’s the same system. They have a great team and they’re very well-coached. We can’t put together another performance like last weekend’s if we want to beat them.”
For one thing, Yale will have to do a better job taking care of the ball. Against Cornell, the Bulldogs turned over the ball in their first 11 possessions.
“We have to possess the ball and take good shots,” Shay said. “[Princeton has] a great defense so we have to capitalize on our chances.”
Britt echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“We can’t waste any looks,” Britt said. “[Princeton is] patient on defense, so we have to be patient on offense.”
For scoring, the Bulldog will rely on Goldberg. The Eli attacker has already tallied 15 goals this season, six more than the team’s second scorer.
On the other end of the field, the Bulldogs will have to shut down a potent Tiger offense led by senior Ryan Boyle and junior Jason Doneger. Between them, Boyle and Doneger have collected 21 goals and 13 assists.
But Princeton’s attack is not a two-man show. Five other players have scored at least four goals each for the Tigers.
“If we play our game and everyone does their job, we should be fine,” attacker Daniel Brillman ’06 said.
A win against the Tigers would do wonders for the Bulldogs confidence and, although Shay might not say it, go a long way toward making the NCAA tournament.