MEN’S LACROSSE | Keys to the game

INCORPORATE THE NEW PLAYERS AND NEW RULES:

Despite returning its defensive starting core, the men’s lacrosse team will have to account for a few crucial losses on the offensive end. Three of the five top point-scorers for the Bulldogs — Matt Gibson ’12 (28-33-61), Deron Dempster ’12 (37-2-39) and Gregory Mahoney ’12 (20-8-28) — graduated the team last year.

Brandon Mangan ’14 will return as the team’s top goal scorer from last season with 20 goals and 8 assists and will need to take the responsibility of leading the attack for the Elis. Additionally, sophomore attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15 will look to add to his tally of 20 goals and six assists from last year, and midfielders Ryan McCarthy ’14 (4-10-14) and Shane Thornton ’15 (5-9-14) and senior attackman Kirby Zdrill ’13 will be expected to be major contributors this season as well. This year’s freshman class will attempt to fill the shoes of last year’s senior class. Long-stick midfielders Michael Quinn ’16 and Reilly Naton ’16 should see significant minutes this year, and Michael Bonacci ’16 will be expected to play a big role at both attack and midfield for Yale. While the Bulldogs will have to replace major players at the offensive end, they also must incorporate new NCAA rules that are going into effect this season. For the 2013 season, the NCAA established new rules for face-offs, substitutions and restarts, and added new stringent restrictions on the stringing of sticks, hoping to speed up the game. However, the biggest change to the game is the introduction of a 30-second shot clock after a stall warning. If an official believes a team is not looking to create a shooting opportunity, he will call a stall warning and the team must keep the ball inside the offensive box and register a valid shot on goal within 30 seconds. If the team fails to do either of these things, the ball will be awarded to the opposing team. This greatly impacts team offensive strategies, as players can no longer hold the ball for long periods of time in order to keep the ball away from opponents.

DO THE LITTLE THINGS RIGHT:

At its heart, lacrosse is a simple game that can be won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes and stays mentally sharp. Winning the groundball battle often can determine the outcome of games and will be crucial to the Elis’ success this Saturday against St. John’s Red Storm, a high-power offense that averaged just over nine goals a game during the team’s 8-7 season last year. Minimizing penalties and turnovers is key for the Bulldogs, as they were ranked second to last in the Ivy League in penalty minutes per game and last in the Ivy League in turnovers per game. Especially considering their high profile offensive losses, vastly improving in these categories is imperative if the team hopes to make it back to the NCAA tournament. After winning its first two games in 2012, the Elis had a four game losing streak, including two one-goal losses and a four-overtime loss, which players attributed to small mental mistakes. However, Yale was able to bounce back and rattle off a nine-game win streak that included an Ivy League Tournament Championship. Considering all three starting defensemen, starting goalie Jack Meyer ’14 and 15 other players return for Yale from the 2012 season, experience should help the team avoid falling into a similar trap as it did last year.

DO NOT BE COMPLACENT:

The 2012 men’s lacrosse season was a huge success that firmly put Yale into contention for a reappearance in the NCAA tournament in 2013. However, the Bulldogs cannot look back on last season and harp on their success. The 2013 Bulldogs are a new team that must stick to its game plan and adjust to its key losses and new NCAA rules. While the Elis come into the 2013 season ranked as No. 17 in the USILA preseason poll, they must remember they play in one of the toughest conferences in the country with perennial powerhouses Princeton and Cornell, who are always a threat to winning the Ivy title and tournament. Further in the year, Yale will have a tough test against ACC opponent Maryland. More short term, the Bulldogs must not look past the Red Storm as an opponent despite thrashing them in last year’s season opener 19-6. St John’s is known for using a lot of picks in its offensive sets, and senior captain Michael McCormack ’13 noted Yale’s special emphasis in defending this system during its week of practices. Moving the ball well and bringing a lot of energy to its season opener will be key for a good start on Saturday against a challenging opponent.

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