The men’s lacrosse team might have been hoping for a slight lull in its busy schedule after beating three ranked opponents in contests that were not decided until the final whistle. But the Bulldogs cannot let their guards down one bit in today’s game.
The No. 16 Elis (7-2, 3-1 Ivy) take on No. 11 Dartmouth (5-3, 1-1 Ivy) at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium in the last conference contest at home for the Bulldogs this season. The Elis need a win over the Big Green to stay in the race for the Ancient Eight title, which No. 6 Cornell currently leads with an undefeated conference record. But the Big Green pose a significant challenge to the Bulldogs and will certainly come south ready to play, especially after Dartmouth suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Big Red last Saturday. After edging then-No. 15 Denver in a game where the Bulldogs’ staid pace was confronted with speedy pressure on each side of the field, the Elis gained confidence in their own system, something which they are hoping to use to effect this afternoon.
Attackman Chris Kempner ’07 said the members of the team have been trying to get some good work in while resting their legs as much as possible after the exhausting game last weekend. Kempner also said the team has been reviewing film of Dartmouth’s goalkeeper Andrew Goldstein.
“He is very athletic and one of the better goalies in the league,” Kempner said. “We are trying to get his habits down, but we will see how it goes [today].”
But all season long, few goalies have been able to contain the prolific Eli attack, whose 11.44 goals per game ranks seventh in the NCAA. The Pioneers did a good job limiting the Elis’ scoring opportunities last weekend because they played a style of defense that put the right kind of pressure on the Bulldogs. But the Elis have been able to count on a strong offense due in no small part to the surgeon-like precision of Seth Goldberg ’05 and his shooting.
“Hopefully Dartmouth will play a more conventional defense compared to Denver,” Kempner said. “Then we can get back to the things we are used to doing instead of that crazy pressure. A defense with that kind of pressure and outrageous style does wonders for your composure, though.”
On the other side of the field, the Eli defensemen will match up with a Jamie Coffin-led Big Green attack that prefers a slower pace of possession. At the same time, though, long pole Gray Eklund ’06 said the Big Green attack can dodge hard from up top and create some confusion.
“They are very smart players in that they look for a lot of back door cuts,” Eklund said. “Our offense should have the ball a lot and that takes a little pressure off of us, but on our end we’ve got to concentrate and do the little things right, like keeping our heads on swivel and watching both the ball and your man so you don’t get back-doored.”
Even if the Big Green find some ways around the Eli defense, Yale netminder George Carafides ’08 has been a solid force within the crease. Because of his 11 saves against Denver, Carafides was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the third time this season.
With success stories like this as well as the Elis’ steady climb up the rankings ladder, it might be easy for the players to get caught up in dreams of the post-season. Focusing on the little things like good clearing and good passing will help the Bulldogs avoid thinking of some of the larger consequences that this game could have.
“We look at one game at a time,” Dan Kallaugher ’06 said. “It is important not only as an individual Ivy League game but also because it is a big indicator of where this season can go from here. We really want to beat Dartmouth because the past two years we have lost by one goal and we would like to make up for that.”
Eklund said it means a lot to him personally because he had a poor performance in the loss last season in Hanover.
“I want to play as good defensively as possible,” Eklund said. “As a team we are not looking past this game. We are worried about what happens between the lines, which is the only thing we can control.”