The No. 15 men’s lacrosse team will travel south to College Park to face the No. 4 Maryland Terrapins in a showcase event between the defending Ivy League Tournament Champions and the perennial ACC powerhouse. The matchup is an unprecedented opportunity for the Bulldogs (8-3, 3-2 Ivy) to notch a quality win against Maryland (8-2, 2-1 ACC), a team that has made it all the way to the finals of the NCAA tournament for the past two years.
While Yale started slowly this season, suffering from two close league losses to Princeton and Cornell, the Bulldogs are riding a high at the moment, wining their past five games and knowing that Princeton’s unexpected loss to Dartmouth last Saturday has seen Yale vault into second position of the Ivy League.
“I think that we still haven’t put together a complete game, and playing a great opponent like Maryland is a perfect time to try and do so,” captain Michael McCormack ’13 said.
A key for the Elis will be starting quickly and playing better defense than they have in the first halves of recent games. The Bulldogs have not played good first-half offense or defense this season, while the Terps have scored more goals and registered more shots on goal in the first period than any other period. In comparison, Yale’s offense and defense have worked their best late in the fourth quarter, scoring more goals and conceding the least in the last period. While games against Providence, Dartmouth, Brown and Stony Brook have all exhibited Yale’s expertise in fourth-quarter comebacks, Maryland is a high-quality team with the second-highest scoring margin in the nation.
“We will grind and scrap and compete until the final whistle of every game, and that’s something you don’t see too often,” attackman Michael Bonacci ’16 said. “Our team has had the ability to pull out some very close games, and in situations like that you need the never-quit attitude. For us to achieve success, it will take everything that all 38 players have for 60 minutes of every remaining game.”
While the Bulldogs have shown a strong team effort this year, with 20 players playing in over 10 games and 21 players registering points on the season, Yale has developed a few stars to help in the team’s quest to return to the NCAA tournament. Junior attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 has stepped up his role this season and leads the Bulldogs with 28 goals, 21 assists and 100 shots. Often, his late game heroics have led the Bulldogs to victory. Mangan ranks sixth in the nation in points per game and has received Ivy Player of the Week honors twice already.
The entire Yale starting attack has been on fire this season, with Mangan, Conrad Oberbeck ’15 and Kirby Zdrill ’13 being the top three points getters on the Bulldogs and coming in second, sixth and ninth in goals per game in the Ivy League, respectively.
Colin Flaherty ’15, in his second season, has emerged as the Bulldogs’ top offensive midfielder, contributing 11 goals and seven assists. Flaherty, who has surpassed most of his statistical highs from last season, has scored three game-winning goals this season and, except for the most recent game against Stony Brook, has registered at least a point in every contest for the Bulldogs this year.
“Being in my second season has really made things easier for me in terms of experience and has definitely taught me to never be nervous in close games,” Flaherty said. “I rarely think about personal stats because I focus more on how I help the team. Going forward, I just want to keep working hard and do everything I can to help this team achieve an Ivy League Championship and then a National Championship this season.”
Harry Kucharczyk ’15 has become an important two way midfielder this season registering eight goals, including last week’s overtime winner against Stony Brook, 24 ground balls and six caused turnovers. Dylan Levings ’14 has been his usual dominant self from the face-off circle, leading the team with a .625 faceoff success rate, good for fourth in the nation. Yale defense has helped second-year goaltender Eric Natale ’15 post the second best goals against average in the Ivy League. Senior CLASS Award nominee and MLL draft pick of the Charlotte Hounds, defenseman Peter Johnson ’13 ranks 13th in the nation in caused turnovers per game, while his partner McCormack ranks second on the team with 39 ground balls.
Maryland also plays great defense, ranking first in goals against average, second in penalty killing and third in caused turnovers per game in the ACC this season. While the Terps have six players registering over 18 points this season and the team as a whole ranks second in the ACC in goals per game, Maryland does not have a player in the top five in the conference in goals or points per game. The Terrapins have been effective in spreading their offense around this season and have not had to depend on a single star player. The Yale defense will have to be strong at all seven defensive positions to have a chance on Saturday.
Yale faces off against Maryland tomorrow at noon.