Despite starting out 0-4, few people would have bet against No. 16 Princeton in its Ivy League opener this weekend against the Yale men’s lacrosse team. But the Elis beat the odds, playing as a well-tuned, cohesive unit to overcome the Tigers, 9-8, Saturday at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
The game’s outcome was not decided until the final minute when goalie George Carafides ’08 made two difficult saves and captain DJ Barry ’05 successfully cleared the ball to secure the victory. The Elis (5-2, 2-1 Ivy) beat the Tigers (0-5, 0-1), who are attempting to win their 11th straight Ancient Eight title, by possessing the ball through face-off wins and good passing, and by working together on defense to limit Princeton’s quality scoring opportunities. The Bulldogs also outshot the Tigers, 38-30, and owned the ground ball battle, 30-16.
Attackman Seth Goldberg ’05, who paced the Elis with four goals, including two crucial scores in the fourth quarter, said beating Princeton is an unbelievable feeling.
“They were a great team and it was a great game,” Goldberg said. “We were confident and we put it all on the line. We tested ourselves and proved that we can play with the best of them.”
One of the biggest tests for the Bulldogs was whether they could hold on to their lead after David Schecter ’06 scored an unassisted goal 1:27 into the first quarter. If face-off man Dan Kallaugher ’06 had not dominated Princeton’s Mike DeSantis, it would have been much more difficult. Kallaugher won 17-of-20 draws, including every face-off after the first quarter.
“This was definitely my best performance in a game that really mattered,” Kallaugher said. “I expected to have a good game and I was glad we played on the grass since we were practicing on it all week. Princeton has tried to neutralize me so I anticipated that and focused on doing my thing.”
Kallaugher’s play helped the Elis possess the ball for a great deal of the game and maintain their lead for over 57 minutes.
“We were so patient on offense, more really than we have been all year,” Goldberg said. “We executed and I am extremely proud of the offense and defense.”
After Schecter’s goal, the Elis took a 3-0 lead off of scores by attackman Chris Kempner ’07 and defensive midfielder Andrew Levy ’07. But after that, the Tigers fought their way back to 3-2 with a long shot from Mike Gaudio and a wraparound from Peter Trombino.
For the rest of the first half, the Elis and the Tigers traded goals. Because the Bulldogs gave up eight turnovers in the rainy second quarter, Princeton was able to outshoot the Elis, 12-7. But the Bulldogs did not give up. Princeton’s dangerous attackmen had several good looks at the net, but Eli defensemen Gray Eklund ’06, Barry and Ian Cadieu ’06 ran the slide well and played solid man-to-man defense. After Goldberg’s diving shot near the crease was good with four seconds left in the half, the Bulldogs went into halftime up, 6-4.
The attack worked well in the first half, but four saves by Princeton goalkeeper Matt Larkin kept the Elis from scoring a goal in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ Sowanick and Gaudio each got tallies to tie the game up. The Elis still had the upper hand, thanks to good defense and tough play by netminder Carafides. But with 15 minutes left to play and the game knotted at 6-6, the game’s outcome was far from certain.
And if the Elis had reverted to the way they played against Cornell, when nothing seemed to work, the Tigers might have won. Barry said the lessons learned during the loss to the Big Red allowed the Bulldogs to prevail.
“The difference between this game and Cornell was that individuals thought that they had to do it all on their own, whereas today we stuck together as a team and stayed calm.”
Before the game and again during the break before the final period, Yale head coach Andy Shay told the team to play harder in the fourth quarter than in the first. The Elis took that to heart and fought until the end for the win, including hustling for eight ground balls to Princeton’s three.
After Kallaugher won the face-off to start the final quarter, Brillman took the ball, dodged left and put it in low for the goal that regained the lead for the Elis at 14:05. Less than a minute later, after a pushing penalty was called on Princeton, Brillman took the ball again, but this time he fed it quickly to Goldberg. Goldberg one-timed the ball to put the Bulldogs up two.
The Tigers tried to answer immediately, but the Elis possessed the ball extremely well by moving it around the perimeter and getting some good shots off during the first six minutes. But a penalty on Barry gave the Tigers’ an extra-man opportunity that they capitalized on with a Sowanick-assisted goal by Tripp Shriner.
The Elis got the ball back after a clutch face-off win by Kallaugher for a possession that would help decide the game. After some patient passing around the perimeter, Tyler Casertano ’08 found Goldberg, who scored his fourth goal of the game on a long shot.
Goldberg said he was able to succeed in the game and particularly in the fourth quarter because his teammates made his job easier.
“The other guys were drawing slides and moving the ball so well, so I got open looks,” Goldberg said. “It was totally an offensive effort all-around. Everyone was dodging hard and the ball moved like it was supposed to and it created openings.”
In order to come out with the win, the Bulldogs needed to possess the ball enough for just under seven minutes and play tight against the Tiger attack when they had the ball. For about three minutes, they succeeded on both fronts, but an offside penalty gave the Tigers the chance they were looking for. Trombino took a long shot that found the back of the net for an extra-man goal, reducing the Yale lead to one goal with 3:26 left to play.
The Tigers stepped up their intensity, and while the Bulldogs were able to run the clock down, they eventually turned over the ball. With 56 seconds left, Princeton called a timeout to plan how it would try to tie the game.
The Tigers gave the ball to Gaudio on the right side, who was matched up with Barry. Barry said he knew Gaudio wanted his right side and tried to push Gaudio but slipped, allowing Gaudio to get a half-step start on the Eli captain. The fans held their breath as Gaudio dodged in and fired, but Carafides came up with the save down low.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Barry was whistled for a push, giving the Tigers the ball again with 32 seconds left. After another timeout, the Tigers decided to go with Trombino. The sophomore attackman forced a shot from near the restraining line, but again Carafides made the save.
Shay said he is especially happy for the seniors, who, despite finishing last in the league last season, have now beaten Princeton two out of their four years at Yale. The Bulldogs last beat Princeton in 2002.
“They always listen, they trust each other and their coaches,” Shay said. “Even in hard times, they have had blind faith.”
Barry said the win is huge for the team and for the Yale lacrosse program.
“Princeton is probably one of the top teams in the country,” Barry said. “As happy as I was freshman year, the win this year means a lot more.”