The 2012 Yale men’s lacrosse team cannot seem to avoid excitement. Friday night under the lights at Reese Stadium, the No. 20 Elis (8–4, 3–2 Ivy) knocked off the No. 19 Bryant Bulldogs, 11–10, in the second extra period for their third straight overtime victory.
“We’re not trying to, actually,” attackman Deron Dempster ’13 said when asked about his team’s propensity for playing close games. “We’re lucky our defense has played really solid in overtime. I know it seems like an anomaly, but we’re just happy to get the wins.”
Bryant’s (12–3, 4–0 NEC) Kevin Massa won the faceoff to start the second overtime, and the visitors kept possession for the first three minutes of the period. But defenseman Peter Johnson ’13 forced a turnover, and Yale cleared the ball into its offensive zone. With time winding down, the ball found its way behind the net and into the stick of attackman Matt Gibson ’12.
The Elis’ leading scorer had two assists in the game, but had yet to find the net. Bryant defender Glenn Maiorano had done a good job keeping up with the crafty Long Island native, but this time Gibson would not be denied. He took Maiorano up the left side of the crease, stutter-stepped, and spun up towards the front of the goal. Gibson’s left-handed shot rocketed through the legs of Bryant goaltender Jameson Love with 1.7 seconds left on the clock.
Friday’s win came after a four-overtime victory at Brown last weekend and a 9–8 defeat of Stony Brook in the first overtime period earlier this week. Seven of the Elis’ 12 games have now been decided by a single goal. Despite dropping the first three of these contests, to Sacred Heat, No. 3 Cornell and No. 14 Princeton, the Bulldogs have come out on top in each of the last four.
“Against Princeton and Cornell we saw some of the upper-echelon teams in the country,” Dempster said, “and playing against them and being close in those games builds character. Having that experience pays off in [close games] going forward.”
The matchup with Bryant not only featured a battle of Bulldogs — the Smithfield, R.I., school shares its mascot with Yale — but a battle between the No. 4 and No. 5 face-off men in the nation. Dylan Levings ’14 trails Massa by .005 points with a .641 winning percentage, but on Friday the Yale sophomore had his way with him at the X. Levings finished 16 of 25 for the game, putting in another strong performance against top competition. Earlier in the season he finished six of nine against a Cornell unit led by No. 15 Doug Tesoriero and 10 of 17 against Princeton, the 17th-ranked face-off team in the country.
“I watched a lot of film on [Massa] and was pretty comfortable with what he was trying to do,” Levings said. “I just wanted to go out there and do my thing, and I was able to make adjustments when I had to.”
It took almost 13 minutes for the teams to get on the scoreboard, but Bryant midfielder Matt Larson broke the knot with 2:17 left in the first quarter. Yale responded with goals from Dempster and captain Michael Pratt ’12 in the final minute of the period, and the Elis never trailed again.
The teams battled for most of the game, and Yale was never able to pull away. The Elis led 6–3 midway through the third quarter, but Bryant went on a three-goal run to close the gap. Later, in the fourth quarter, Yale built another three-goal lead, but Bryant scored the final three goals of the game to tie the score at 10 and send the game into overtime.
Defenseman Mason Poli scored Bryant’s final goal in transition with 21 seconds remaining in the game. Poli led his team in scoring with three goals, and the Elis had trouble stopping him in transition. Yet Yale was very effective in settled, six-on-six situations. Defender Michael McCormack ’13 had five caused turnovers, and netminder Jack Meyer ’14 finished with 13 saves. The Yale defense has surrendered only one goal in 12 overtime periods, and Meyer has a 91 percent save percentage in overtime.
“Jack Meyer has been incredible in overtime,” Yale defensive coordinator Ryan Polley said. “He has 11 saves and only one goal against. We’ve gotten timely saves, and we have a lot of experience on defense in Mike Pratt and Mark Dobrosky ’12. These guys are used to playing in those big situations, and we don’t make a lot of mental mistakes in overtime.”
The Bulldogs were led on offense by Greg Mahony ’12, who finished with a hat trick for the second game in a row. Dempster also added two goals, while midfielders Ryan McCarthy ’14 and Colin Flaherty ’15 finished with two more points for the Bulldogs.
Yale faces Harvard in its final game of the season this Saturday. The Bulldogs have clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament, but the Crimson needs to win its final game to earn a spot of its own.
“Last year we didn’t perform very well [against Harvard] and [head] coach [Andy Shay] stressed that we cannot have a repeat of that effort,” Dempster said. “We get to play them at home this time, and we have a chance to end their season. It’s a great opportunity for us to finish our regular season on the right note.”