The No. 13 men’s lacrosse team will travel to Rhode Island for the third and final time this season tomorrow night for a crucial conference matchup with Brown.
The Bulldogs (6–3, 2–2 Ivy) are on a two-game win streak thanks to dominant play from goalkeeper Eric Natale ’15 in net and balanced scoring on offense. The Bears (6–4, 1–2) upset Princeton two weeks ago before falling narrowly to Penn last week and have relied on strong performances from sophomore goalkeeper Jack Kelly, who stands at eighth in the nation with 12 saves per game.
“This game is extremely important, as is every Ivy League game,” attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 said. “We have emphasized smart shooting this week in practice and we are ready for the challenge. A win at Brown would be a huge step forward.”
After alternating wins and losses for five straight games, the Elis have gotten back on track with an 8-5 win against Providence and a comeback blowout victory against Dartmouth last week. The Bulldogs trailed by three early in the first against the Big Green but scored the next eight goals to cruise to a comfortable victory in Hanover.
Yale’s leading attackmen, Mangan and Conrad Oberbeck ’15, continue to head the offense. Mangan, the 34th choice in this year’s MLL draft, leads the team with 12 assists and Oberbeck, an all-NEILA preseason selection, sits on the top of the score sheet with 22 goals. The role of third attackman has rotated between three players early in the season. Freshmen Jeff Cimbalista ’17 and Austin Rocco ’17 have received a fair amount of playing time, but recently sophomore sniper JW McGovern ’16 has turned it on with nine points in his last four games.
A quartet of midfielders have consistently produced for the Bulldogs all season. Perennial scoring threat Colin Flaherty ’15 leads midfielders with nine goals while classmate Shane Thornton ’15, coming off a hattrick against Dartmouth, headlines the unit with 15 points. Sophomore speedster Michael Bonacci ’15 had two goals and three points last time out against the Big Green and has totaled seven goals and 11 points on the season. Mark Glicini ’16 has become Yale’s most proficient two-way midfielder this season, thanks in part to his role as wingman on faceoffs. Glicini has six goals and 11 points on the season and had a career high two-goal, four-point day against Princeton earlier this year.
Yale’s offense, however, has by no means been prolific this season. The Bulldogs have the second fewest shots-on-goal and second lowest scoring percentage in the Ivy League. Additionally, man-up scoring has been an issue for the team so far. The Elis rank second to last in the conference in man advantage scoring and had scored on only six advantages through eight games until converting on all five of their opportunities against Dartmouth last weekend.
“I think we need to execute for the full 60 minutes,” Mangan said. “We have really great quarters and then drop off. We need to play together for the whole game.”
The Bulldog defense has revamped and shown its teeth this season. The Elis have conceded the fewest goals in the Ivy League and rank 10th in the nation in scoring defense with an 8.33 average. Mainstays on defense Michael Quinn ’16 and captain Jimmy Craft ’14 lead the unit in caused-turnovers and groundballs, respectively. After a season-ending injury to starting defender Christopher Keating ’17, who started the first six games of the year, juniors Alirio DeMeireles ’15 and David Better ’15 have stepped into more prominent roles on defense.
Natale has been critical to the team’s success this year. The second year starter has posted seven games with double-digit saves, including the last five games. He has posted the 10th best goals-against average in the nation and the fourth most saves in the Ivy League.
“From a big save to a tough ground ball win, our defense as a whole has been playing well and fighting to the final whistle,” Glicini said. “Good defense and goaltending always gives us a chance.”
Yale will need to improve its shooting percentages on Friday night against the Bears if it hopes to come out with its fifth successive victory in the series. Brown netminder Jack Kelly leads the Ivy League in saves and is second in save percentage.
In all of the Bears’ last seven games, they have conceded 10 or more goals to their opponents. Still, the Bears have stayed in games due to a talented and deep offense. Senior captain Ben Hurster leads the Bears with 21 goals, while six players have over 15 points on the year, compared to three for Yale.
“We are going to have to do a great job of executing tomorrow,” Quinn said. “This one is a must-win and has major implication for the Ivy Tournament. Offensively they run a lot of sets, and we are going to have to trust each other and communicate well to be successful.”
Brown had won three straight games before losing to Penn last weekend after the Quakers went on a late run to take control of the game in the fourth quarter. The Bears lead the all-time series against Yale with a 35-22 advantage, but have not beaten the Bulldogs since 2009. The Elis will consider the game a must win if they hope to make the Ivy Tournament and keep their chance at the NCAA tournament alive.
The Bulldogs face off against the Bears at 7 p.m. this Friday night.