The men’s lacrosse team turned heads this weekend with a come-from-behind upset at No. 18 University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Building off the momentum from their 13-7 win over Holy Cross in their season opener, the Bulldogs (2-0) snuck past the favored UMass squad (0-2) on Saturday in a down-to-the-wire nailbiter. The Elis rallied from behind and erased a 6-4 fourth-quarter deficit to solidify a 7-6 victory in Amherst, Mass.
“We prepared a lot all week for this game,” midfielder Jonathan Koenig ’08 said. “Everyone has been really focused at practice and off the field. This was definitely our real first test of the season, so we wanted to make a name for ourselves and put Yale on the map.”
Although Yale had the edge on faceoffs (5-2) and shots (19-15) in the first half, the two teams played neck-and-neck, going into halftime knotted 3-3. Attacker Tyler Casertano ’08 opened things up for the Elis with a goal in the third minute of the game, before UMass evened up the score a few minutes later. The rest of the half was a back-and-forth battle, as the Minutemen answered both of the goals that attacker Brendan Gibson ’10 notched for the Bulldogs.
The Minutemen started off stronger in the third quarter, winning all four faceoffs and scoring twice within the first three minutes to take a 5-3 advantage. Captain Chris Kempner ’07, who starts at midfield, made a big play at 11:10 to close the gap to one goal, as the Minutemen did not mark him when he substituted in on attack.
Early in the fourth, the Minutemen scored what would be their final goal of the game, when freshman attacker Bobby Hayes got the ball on a fast break clear, putting UMass ahead 6-4.
Although the Minutemen clung to that lead for six minutes, attacker Kyle Washabaugh ’08 helped mount an Eli comeback with two goals in a span of 17 seconds to tie the game at 6-6. The Bulldogs finally pulled ahead with just over three minutes remaining, when Koenig tallied the gamewinner after a Minuteman turnover. The two teams battled it out until time expired, using up their timeouts and forcing four turnovers before the whistle blew.
“The defense really stepped up in that last quarter and shut down the UMass offense,” Washabaugh said. “They had a couple of chances to score at the end and the defense did a great job of stopping them.”
The Bulldogs received contributions from players across the lineup. Gibson and Washabaugh’s two goals apiece were crucial to the Yale victory, and three different Elis combined for the rest of the goals.
“They ended up shutting off Tyler Casertano, who is one of our better offensive players,” Koenig said. “By shutting him off with their best defensive player, it definitely opened up the field for everyone else.”
On the other end of the field, the Elis received strong defensive performances, particularly from James Rump ’07, who made a key interception with just five seconds left to help seal the Eli victory. Goalkeeper George Carafides ’08, who has started every game for the past two seasons, also turned in a solid performance, finishing with 13 saves.
Players also attributed some of their success to team chemistry, which has been particularly strong so far this season. Although the Elis fell two goals behind the Minutemen twice during the game, the squad continued to work hard and prevent UMass from running away with the lead.
“The team chemistry was definitely a huge factor,” defenseman Pat Grimm ’08 said. “Everyone did their job, and as a whole we came up with the win. The thing that most impressed me about our team was that we continued to play hard when we were down.”
The Bulldogs have their home opener tomorrow night against Manhattan College (0-1), a less well-known squad that Yale has not played in recent years. Even so, the Elis will need to play with the tenacity that they exhibited against UMass and not underestimate the Jaspers.
“We can’t have a letdown from our win on Saturday,” Grimm said. “They are not a nationally ranked team, but we have to respect every opponent. It is going to be important for us to maintain our focus and play hard. They aren’t going to just give us a win.”