MEN’S LACROSSE: Men’s lax opens strong

Last Saturday, the No. 10 men’s lacrosse team began its season with scrimmages against the Stony Brook Seawolves and the Adelphi Panthers. The Elis, coming off their third straight Ivy League Tournament Championship, started the day with a big 16–8 win against the Seawolves before edging out the Panthers 8–7 in two quarters of play.

The Bulldogs return all but one of their top-10 scorers from last season, including the dynamic duo of attackmen Brandon Mangan ’14 and Conrad Oberbeck ’15. Mangan, coming off a 64-point season, picked up right where he left off, scoring three goals and adding five assists. Oberbeck, who posted 44 points last year, added three goals as well.

Yale’s attack is ranked fifth in the nation by Inside Lacrosse but will need to find a third starter after the graduation of crease-attackman Kirby Zdrill ’13. Newcomers AJ Rocco ’17 and Jeff Cimbalista ’17 are expected to fill the roles of third and fourth attackmen this season — and Rocco has already made his presence felt tallying 3 goals in his Yale debut.

“We have skill all over the offensive end of the field,” said midfielder Colin Flaherty ’15. “We are still trying to work out the kinks of who is going to play where and work on our fluidness on the field. It was a good win but it’s just a scrimmage and we will take it with a grain of salt.”

Flaherty returns as the Bulldogs’ top point-scorer from midfield — he notched 17 goals and 10 assists last year — and got back to his scoring ways, hitting the back of the net and adding an assist against Stony Brook. Freshman Eric Scott ’17, who was New Jersey’s 2013 player of the year, is making his case to start on Yale’s top midfield line. The rookie impressed on Saturday, tallying three goals. Shane Thorton ’15 also returns along with Michael Bonacci ’16, Sean Shakespeare ’15 and Ryan McCarthy ’15 to round out Yale’s top six offensive middies. Thorton scored three goals and had three helpers on Saturday, while Shakespeare added two goals.

The big question mark for Yale this season is on the defensive side of the field, where goaltender Eric Natale ’15 and captain Jimmy Craft ’14 are the only returning starters. Michael Quinn ’16, who was an honorable mention on Inside Lacrosse’s preseason all-American list, will move from long-stick-midfielder along with Jack Ambrose ’14 to start on close defense.

“This switch from pole to close made me look at my game a little differently but all in all it’s still defense,” Quinn said. “As for the new unit, seniors Jack Ambrose and Jimmy Craft have been really helpful in making the transition easy as it’s their fourth year on the team. They have shown me a lot already. We are sick of hearing how the defense is the weakest point on the team this year. As a unit the more repetitions we get together the more instinctual we will become.”

Ambrose and Riley Naton ’16 each had two controlled takeaways against Stony Brook, while Natale looked solid in net.

Against Adelphi, a NCAA Division II school, Yale played two quarters, using mostly non-starters, but managed to beat the Panthers 8-7.

“Coach said this weekend was our opportunity to carve our identity and let the nation know who we are,” Bonacci said. “We dominated on ground ball and faceoffs and played as a team. Our communication was good and things turned out a lot better than they often do in the first game out.”

The Bulldogs will take on Division III powerhouse Tufts next Sunday at home at 1 p.m. before their official season opener at Reese Stadium against St. John’s on the 22nd at 1:30 p.m.

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