Less than a week after barely escaping Princeton with an overtime win, the No. 15 men’s lacrosse team will travel to Philadelphia to meet a No. 13 Penn team that’s playing some of its best lacrosse in recent history.
“[The Princeton game] certainly wasn’t the prettiest we have played, but a win is a win,” Captain and Long Stick Midfielder Pat Coleman ’11 said on Sunday. “We have some stuff we need to continue working on [to prepare] for a very good Penn team.”
The Bulldogs (5–1, 1–1) have defeated the Quakers (4–3, 1–1) in their past two meetings and hold a 46–26 record against Penn in a series that dates back to 1919. But the Quakers are undefeated at home in 2011, where they’ve dominated traditional powerhouses No. 3 Duke and Princeton by a combined score of 15–6. Two of Penn’s three losses to Top 20 teams have come in overtime, including a 13–12 thriller against No. 11 Cornell last Saturday.
“I think everyone understands what a good team Penn is,” Coleman said. “They are an awesome team between the lines and play very tough.”
Yale will need another stellar performance from a close defense led by three sophomores — Phil Gross ’13, Peter Johnson ’13 and Michael McCormack ’13 — and more spot-on goalkeeping from John Falcone ’11, who is currently fifth in the country with a .614 save percentage. Together with a starting defensive midfield of Coleman and short-stick defenders Michael Pratt ’12 and Mark Dobrosky ’12, the Bulldogs have limited opponents to 6.33 goals per game and lead Division I with 12.33 caused turnovers per game.
While Yale is currently second in the nation in scoring, the statistic is greatly influenced by 22-goal performances against two of the worst teams in Division I — Presbyterian and Mercer. 2010 New England Player of the Year Matt Gibson ’12 has struggled to hold onto the ball in the last two games, suffering eight turnovers on errant passes and unsuccessful, fancy stick work.
“Penn’s D is incredibly talented and fast so we felt the best we could do [in practice] was to prepare for a grind on the offensive end and really focus on getting our details right,” Douglass said. “Not wasting any possessions is going to be a key this week.”
To make up for weak production from Gibson and team points leader Brian Douglass ’11 against Cornell and Princeton, head coach Andy Shay relied on strong midfield isolation play led by Greg Mahony ’12 and Matt Miller ’12 to pressure their opponents from in front of the goal.
The team has also benefited from the placement of attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 on the offensive midfield and attackman Deron Dempster ’13 down low, giving Mangan more space to work from the restraining line. Mangan has scored four goals in his last two games, including a a game-winner against Princeton, while Dempster’s finished three of his own.
“The rotation has been working really well,” Mangan said. “Deron has been playing excellent finishing the ball inside and I have gotten a lot more opportunities playing midfield.”
Yale’s defense will need to shut down Penn’s dynamic duo of senior attackmen Al Kohart (14 goals, 3 assists) and Corey Winkoff (4 goals, 12 assists) in order to keep the game a low scoring contest. The Bulldogs outlasted a fierce Quaker comeback with a 16–14 victory last year and successfully made up a five-goal deficit to beat Penn 14–13 in 2009.
Stingy defense and long offensive possessions against Penn today will free up opportunities for the midfield and attack to pressure freshman goalkeeper Brain Feeney, whose long poles are helping to cover up a lackluster .495 save percentage.
Yale faces off against Penn at Franklin Field in Philadelphia today at 4 P.M.