After clinching a crucial conference win over Brown last weekend, the No. 11 Yale men’s lacrosse team will face off against No. 5 Albany on the road in the penultimate game of its regular season.
The date with the Great Danes marks the second time this year the Bulldogs (8–3, 5–0 Ivy) will travel to take on a top-five opponent. Earlier in the season, the Elis fell 12–11 to then-No. 1 Maryland in College Park, Maryland. Now having won seven straight games, Yale turns its attention northward to Albany (10–2, 5–0 America East).
“We really need to prepare for these games against good offenses,” defender Jerry O’Connor ’18 said. “The scouting [defensive coordinator Andrew Baxter] does and drills [we practice] to prepare for each game are invaluable for success in these games.”
The Bulldogs will travel to upstate New York looking for revenge after falling to the Great Danes 14–13 last year in an overtime heartbreaker at Reese Stadium. Despite three goals from attacker Ben Reeves ’18 and a game-tying tally from attacker Jeff Cimbalista ’17 with six seconds left, the injury to then-captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 in the second quarter proved too much for the Elis to overcome.
Albany’s only losses in 2017 have come at the hands of the nation’s top two teams. After dropping its season opener to No. 1 Syracuse by a single goal, the Great Danes, like Yale, fell 12–11 to the Terrapins. However, Albany convincingly beat University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which sits just outside the nation’s top-20 teams and also easily defeated Binghamton, another team on the cusp of cracking the national rankings, earlier this week.
In addition to being a top-five team nationally, Albany also boasts the best offense in the country. With Yale holding the sixth spot in the same category, this game could quickly turn into a shootout similar to last weekend’s against Brown, where the teams combined for 30 goals and 100 shots. The Great Danes currently average 15.4 goals per game while the Bulldogs trail closely behind with 14.0.
Connor Fields of Albany leads the team’s explosive offense, tallying a total of 82 points with 42 goals on the season. Fields also ranks first nationally in both goals and points per game and will no doubt keep the Yale defense on edge throughout the contest. The junior scored three goals and had five assists in the Great Danes’ victory over Yale last year.
“I think [O’Connor, Aidan Hynes ’20 and I] are just continuing to focus on getting better and getting used to playing with each other,” captain and defender Brian Pratt ’17 said. “Camyar [Matini ’17] going down versus Penn was a huge blow to the senior leadership we had, especially on the defensive end. So we all need to step up and pick up some of the slack.”
At midfield, faceoff man Conor Mackie ’18 will face his toughest competition yet against Albany midfielder TD Ierlan. Ierlan, just a freshman, was named U.S. Lacrosse Player of the Week for the week of April 3 after his impressive performances in the X against Harvard and Stony Brook. His winning percentage of 71.5 percent has also landed him a second-place national ranking in faceoffs. Mackie himself currently ranks 10th in the country with a 60.6 win percentage and has showed noticeable improvement from the start of the season.
Offensively, the selflessness with which the Elis have played throughout the season has proved effective, as Yale has outscored their opponents by an average of 6.3 goals per game over the last seven contests. Reeves continues to lead the Bulldogs with 28 goals, and fellow attacker Matt Gaudet ’20 and midfielder Eric Scott ’17 have scored 26 and 21 goals, respectively, with six more teammates contributing substantial scoring for the team.
While Yale will play its final regular season game against Harvard in Cambridge in two weekends and then host the Ivy League tournament in early May, the Elis are not looking too far into the future just yet. One of the season’s toughest challenges lies in the Albany game, as both teams are nationally ranked in virtually every category of play.
“It’s awesome to have that home-field advantage,” head coach Andy Shay said. “It was packed here [on Saturday] and an awesome environment. It’s always fun when we play Brown … hopefully they’ll turn out for us at the Ivy League tournament, but we can’t be looking there too fast. We’ve got two big games ahead of us and have to take those one game at a time.”
The opening faceoff this Saturday between Yale and Albany is at 7 p.m. at Casey Stadium.