MEN’S LACROSSE: Bulldogs top NESAC champs

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Photo by Ihna Mangundayao.

The No. 13 men’s lacrosse team had its final tune-up before the regular season against Division III opponent Tufts in a scrimmage last Sunday. The Bulldogs swamped the Jumbos 20-9 thanks to dominant performances by faceoff specialist Dylan Levings ’14 and attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15.

“I felt as though the offense was more fluid this week against Tufts,” midfielder Sean Shakespeare ’15 said. “Our ball movement on the perimeter was significantly faster, and the off ball movement inside improved a great deal.”

Oberbeck hit the back of the net five times on Sunday as he looks set to improve upon his goalscoring this season. The Greenwich, Conn. native has upped his goal total each of his past two season, with 20 goals his rookie year and 36 last year. Fellow attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 added two goals. Both Mangan and Oberbeck earned spots on the preseason all-New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association team, with Mangan receiving first team honors and Oberbeck featuring in the second team. Jeff Cimbalista ’17 started on attack with the dynamic duo and chimed in with two goals, while JW McGovern ’16 added a further score from attack.

Yale’s midfielders also made their presence felt on Sunday with five different players ripping twine. Newcomer Eric Scott ’17 continued his impressive preseason, scoring twice; Michael Keasey ’16, Ryan McCarthy ’15 and Shakespeare each added two goals and Max Skibber ’16 also tallied a score in the contest.

Levings, who also scored on Sunday, looks set to continue his dominance on faceoffs this season. The Chesapeake Bayhawks draft pick (24th overall) picked up preseason NEILA first team honors and will be a crucial part of the Elis’ offense this season.

“Levings is one of our most valuable players, as is any good faceoff guy in the nation,” said midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16. “He changes the momentum of any game and he will be very important in getting our offense the possessions we need to be successful as well as keeping our defense from getting worn down from too many consecutive possessions from our opponents. If Levings can play as well as he is capable of playing, we will be in a very good position to be successful.”

The Bulldogs controlled the game from start to finish, going into halftime up 12-4. The Yale defense showed its teeth against the Jumbos, holding the 2013 NESCAC champions scoreless in the third quarter. Both Eric Natale ’15 and Jack Meyer ’14 had impressive outings in net. Tufts eventually scored five second-half goals — all in the fourth quarter — with mostly bench players on the field.

“I think the defense as a whole felt more comfortable in the Tufts scrimmage than the Stony Brook scrimmage — mainly because we won the faceoff advantage pretty handily and the offense did a great job of holding the ball and having really great possessions,” said defenseman Jack Ambrose ’14. “Playing against other opponents makes it easier for us to work on things like communication because instead of guarding the same players we guard in practice and knowing their names, we have to use jersey numbers and really make sure everyone is on the same page when playing someone new. We didn’t see as many six-on-six possessions as we would have liked and will hopefully play a lot of half field in practice this week to prepare for our first game.”

The majority of Yale’s opponents’ goals came on transition opportunities rather than six-on-six play.

Shakespeare noted he was impressed with the pressure the Elis put on opposing attackmen and midfielders, helping to cause more turnovers than they did last time out against Stony Brook. Yale’s revamped defense of Jimmy Craft ’14, Michael Quinn ’16 and Ambrose had a strong outing in just their second competition together as a unit.

The Elis start the regular season with four straight-out-of-conference games against No. 18 St. John’s, Bryant, Fairfield and No. 14 Lehigh.

“There are going to be a lot of butterflies in our stomachs leading up to St. John’s,” Bonacci said. “I think we just need to stick to our guns and focus on doing the little things right. We’re not going to win games based on skill alone this year. We are going to get more ground balls than other teams and outhustle and out-grit our opponents. We are going to play our game and as long as we are strong with our fundamentals I think we will be very happy with the outcome on Saturday.”

The Elis start the 2014 season against the Red Storm at Reese Stadium this Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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