Moments after her son scored the game-winning goal in the men’s lacrosse team’s double-overtime win over UMass, Sue Britt was in the press box, asking for a copy of the game tape.
It was certainly a game worth watching again, not only for the Britts, but for all of the Bulldogs. Yale put together one of its grittiest performances of the season, overcoming a three-goal deficit to defeat the Minutemen, 9-8, Saturday at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
“It’s unbelievable,” Yale head coach Andy Shay said. “I’m proud as hell of the guys. They never let down. They showed they’re not quitters.”
With the victory, the Bulldogs snapped their five-game losing streak. For a while, however, they appeared to be headed for their sixth straight loss. With two minutes left in the first half and Yale up 3-2, UMass’ Neil Lundberg tallied, igniting a 5-0 Minutemen run.
“We weren’t feeling the pressure,” goalkeeper Jordan Ellis ’07 said. “We’ve played in so many close games, some in our favor, some not. We’ve been down before. It was nothing new for us.”
In true Yale men’s lacrosse fashion, the Bulldogs rallied. Trailing 7-4 late in the third quarter, midfielder Ned Britt ’04 and attacker Colin Neville ’06 notched back-to-back extra-man goals. Britt then pulled the Elis even with his second score of the game, and at 14:29 of the fourth quarter, attacker Dan Brillman ’06 gave the Bulldogs an 8-7 lead.
Coming back to take the lead in the fourth, the situation was all too familiar for the Bulldogs. Last Wednesday at Albany, Yale reversed a two-goal deficit in the fourth before the Great Danes reeled off five straight goals to take the game 12-9. Yale could not hold the lead for five minutes, let alone an entire quarter.
But the defense Saturday was spectacular. The Yale zone was able to keep the UMass attack at bay and prevent the Minutemen from getting many open looks at the net.
“Everyone was out to prove himself and we all played well together,” Ellis said. “It was just a great combination of individual and team defense.”
Ellis recorded 15 saves, none more important or impressive than the seven in the final quarter.
“Jordan was great,” Shay said. “He got hot and [UMass] couldn’t get anything by him.”
Ellis was on the verge of shutting out the Minutemen in the fourth when Lundberg scored an extra-man goal with 18 ticks left to send the game into overtime.
“That was a huge blow,” Britt said. “In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, here we go again. But we stayed confident. We knew we could pull it out.”
Both teams had chances to score in the first overtime, but neither could produce a goal.
Almost two minutes into the second extra period, Britt completed his hat trick. Brillman, who was standing behind the UMass net, hit Britt in stride as he raced down from the top of the box. Britt took four steps and then fired a shot into the upper left corner of the net, past the outstretched stick of Minutemen goalie Bill Schell.
“Afterwards, I was a little numb,” Britt said. “I couldn’t believe how open I was.”
For the Bulldogs, the win comes as a sigh of relief.
“It was a great win on so many levels,” Ellis said. “It was nice to finally get a win and it was good to get the win for Coach Shay.”
The first-year head coach spent the past four seasons as an assistant at UMass. Although Shay said he treated the Minutemen just like any other opponent, the connection between him and his former squad was clear. Yale and UMass’ defenses were nearly mirror images of each other, and at times during the game, the benches were calling out plays bearing the same name.
“No one talked about it, but we knew about it,” Ellis said. “We knew UMass was going to be gunning for Coach Shay. They wanted to beat his team. Our thought was that because of that excitement, UMass would not be able to play like they normally would.”
Ellis said Shay downplayed the situation, which worked in the Bulldogs’ favor.
“Coach Shay did a great job of not making the game about us and now and not about his former team and the past,” Ellis said. “Because he did, we were able to maintain our composure and come away with a much-needed win.”
Yale next travels to Hanover Wednesday to take on Dartmouth.
“The pressure is off,” Ellis said. “The Ivy League title might be out of contention, but we still have some great teams in front of us. At this point, all we want to do is show that we can really play.”