Following a series of nail-biting losses, the men’s lacrosse team made sure there would be no late-game heroics on either side, comfortably defeating Hartford, 11-3, at Reese Stadium last night.
Attackmen Tyler Casertano ’08 and Brendan Gibson ’10 and middie Matt Fuchs ’10 continued to power the Elis’ offense with two goals apiece.
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After the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead within the first three minutes of the game, the two teams traded goals before going into the second quarter. When Hartford’s Jacob Eustace scored on a quick shot off of a pass from teammate Tom Harris midway through the period, it looked as if the Elis might be in for another dogfight.
True to form, the Elis won the face and quickly restarted their offense. Within a minute, Casertano fed a cutting Gibson for a close-range goal at 5:07. This positive response sparked two more goals in less than two minutes, giving the home team a comfortable four-goal lead going into halftime. Despite a somewhat shaky start after the break, the Bulldogs were never threatened in the second half and scored five more goals while giving up only one.
The Elis executed their possession offense to perfection, waiting for high-percentage shots close to the goal. They showed the value of patience, usually passing the ball around the horn until an open pass to a cutting player opened up in front of the goal.
The Bulldogs’ offensive strategy did not just create shots — it also demoralized the Hawks, whose seven penalties far exceeded the Elis’ one. In a cyclical fashion, the man-up advantages only served to reinforce the home team’s domination of possession.
“Hartford would get frustrated when we possessed, eventually making stupid mistakes by committing fouls,” Gibson said. “When we then were a man up, it was a lot easier to hold the ball because we had more time.”
The high number of man-down situations may have prompted Hartford to move into a defensive zone. This shift, however, did not surprise coaches, who had accounted for the possibility of a zone and planned accordingly.
“We anticipated them going into zone on us sometime during the game, so we had some contingency plans for if and when they did that.” attackman Brendan Douglass ’11 said. “Our coaches scouted the way their defensive coaches reacted to certain offenses, so we were prepared for the zone.”
Although Hartford used the zone in an attempt to stifle Yale’s possession offense, the tactic actually ended up working to the Hawks’ disadvantage. The Elis’ quick passing spread the Hawks’ defense out, creating gaps for attackmen such as Gibson to run through, as he did when he scored off of Casertano’s pass.
“The best way to beat a zone is to try to get the defense moving through fast ball movement,” Casertano said. “Then when players move into an overlapping zone area, it creates problems and miscommunication for the defense. Gibson’s goal was a textbook zone goal.”
The win last night may seem like a bounce-back from the heart-breaking loss to nationally ranked Cornell last weekend, but as Douglass noted, the Cornell game had already produced positive change, which in turn affected the win against Hartford.
“Saturday showed us that when we play our game and have fun, we can compete with the best teams in the nation,” Douglass said. “We now go out and try to win instead of going out trying to not lose as we had been doing. In the Hartford game, we tried to play a little looser and have more fun, and it paid off.”
The Elis now prepare for their only televised game of the year, against Princeton on the road Saturday at noon.