Falling to Dartmouth Wednesday may have been heartbreaking, but the men’s lacrosse team is not going to let disappointment get in the way of a chance for revenge on its ancient rival.
After losing last year’s game on a buzzer beater, the No. 16 Elis (7-3, 3-2 Ivy) are ready to take on the Cantabs (4-5, 1-3) Saturday in Cambridge. Even though the Crimson are lower than the Bulldogs in the Ancient Eight standings, the Cantabs will no doubt be equally prepared for this important contest. The Elis especially need this win to preserve a shot at the postseason. Because of their defeat at the hands of the Big Green, the Bulldogs have dropped into fifth place in the league and cannot afford another loss.
Captain DJ Barry ’05 said Thursday’s practice helped the team move on and get focused on the Crimson.
“Everyone was pretty much in a fairly good mood considering we pretty much got our butts kicked, but losing like that after winning so much brings you down to reality and makes you hungrier to get the next one,” Barry said. “Plus, it’s Harvard. If you can’t get up for Harvard, come on.”
The lacrosse rivalry between Yale and Harvard can be extremely intense. Barry said that former Eli attackman Jon Reese ’90, who holds the NCAA record for goals in a single season, bought a maroon H2 Hummer to remind him of the Bulldogs’ loss to the Cantabs in his senior year.
In order to avoid a similar defeat, this years’ Bulldogs cannot dismiss the abilities of the Crimson’s attack. Led by freshmen Brooks Scholl and Zach Widbin, the Cantabs have averaged 7.56 goals and 34.89 shots per game, as compared to the Elis’ average of 11.44 goals and 34.56 shots.
“They are extremely talented,” Yale head coach Andy Shay said. “Some coaches in the Ivy League would say they are one of the most talented teams in the league. They go to the cage hard, so we are going to have to possess the ball to keep it out of their hands and play good defense.”
The Bulldogs will have to do a better job passing the ball on attack than they did against the Big Green. The Elis may have some difficulty, though, because the Crimson, like the Big Green, rarely slide on defense.
“If we can’t draw the slide, we are going to have to have someone step up and run by them,” Shay said. “That’s the name of the game ultimately. We have had success this year because we’ve got guys who can do that. I think we will be okay on Saturday.”
Attack midfielder Tyler Casertano ’08, one of the players who may be relied on to dodge the Cantabs, said the team is confident in their offense even if Harvard does not slide to make ball movement easier.
“On Saturday we are really going to have to be patient on offense and make sure the shots we take from up top are good shots,” Casertano said. “We can’t force anything. If they don’t slide, we can get some good shots. [Chris] Kempner [’07] scored a great goal to open the Dartmouth game by running past someone and shooting.”
On defense, Barry said the Elis are not going to do anything different strategically and instead are making sure they are completely comfortable with their usual game plan.
“We’re pretty well prepared right now,” Barry said. “We’ve got a bunch more preparation to do [today], but we will be ready to go. We work really well as a unit when you put all the pieces together. On paper, their pieces are better individually, but historically they haven’t put them together.”
In games where the Elis have gained a quick lead and held on to it, they have had the luxury of being able to play patiently. This has often translated into wins. Shay is hoping to do the same this weekend.
“I think we will come out on fire and test this goalie right away,” he said. “I expect Kal [Dan Kallaugher ’06] will win face-offs and if we can rely on him like always, we will push the ball and try to get some transition goals and a lot of shots early.”
This sort of intensity is what the Bulldogs may need to close their conference season on a positive note. And for the seniors, who are playing in their last Ivy League game Saturday, a win would mean even more.
“I’d hate to go out losing to Harvard,” Barry said. “Any year you beat Harvard it’s such a great feeling. We have been lucky that prior to last year we won five years in a row. The win would also keep our playoff hopes alive.”