After losing All-American candidate Brian Hunt ’02 for the rest of the season Saturday, the men’s lacrosse team opened its season in Philadelphia Sunday with a 16-7 blowout victory over Drexel.
Hunt, who led the Bulldogs (1-0) in scoring for the last two years, broke his ankle at the end of practice Saturday, less than 24 hours before the Elis’ regular season opener. Attackman Seth Goldberg ’05 played Tom Brady to Hunt’s Drew Bledsoe, filling in the quarterback spot of the Eli attack with a goal and three assists against the Dragons (1-2). Midfielder Ned Britt ’04 and attackman Scott Kenworthy ’04 also added to the offensive effort with four goals each.
With the win, the Bulldogs erased the demons of last year’s season-opening loss to Drexel — a loss that began a downward spiral toward mediocrity for the Bulldogs. The Elis finished the season 6-7 overall, tied for third in the Ivy League.
“It felt great to see our hard work finally pay off,” Britt said. “We really wanted to take it to them and make sure they knew last year was a fluke.”
But less than three minutes into the game, the Dragons picked up right where they left off last year with a goal from point-blank range. After an initial Dragon shot from the perimeter, the rebound came just outside the crease where attackman Paul Tuohey slapped the ball into the back of the net past goalie Eric Wenzel ’03.
Despite the early deficit, the Elis quickly charged ahead with four goals and never looked back. Although Drexel midfielder Yoni Cohen and attackman Mark Williamson would each find the back of the net to bring the Dragons within a goal of the Bulldogs, the Elis pulled away by half time with a 10-5 lead.
“Offensively, we were generating a lot of opportunities,” head coach Mike Waldvogel said. “We did everything we had to do to win.”
Part of the Elis’ successes on the offensive end against Drexel came from their strong man-up play and their stinginess with the ball. The Bulldogs converted four of their five man-up chances and committed just nine turnovers throughout the contest. The Elis also outshot the Dragons 41-29.
On the man-up, Yale placed an attackman behind the net, confusing the Dragon offense and opening up off-ball shooting lanes. The Elis used this offensive strategy to explode for six straight goals in the second half before the Dragons tallied two late scores with less than five minutes remaining in the final period.
“We ran the same play against Drexel six times,” captain Tucker Foote ’02 said. “We found their weakness and we exploited it.”
The Bulldogs will next travel to Sacred Heart Mar. 10. Waldvogel said his team will use the game as preparation for their first Ivy League game without Hunt, at the University of Pennsylvania Mar. 16.
“It was devastating not only because of who [Hunt] is as a person but also because he is one of the most dangerous attackmen in the country,” Waldvogel said. “It takes a lot out of our offensive matchups.”
In fact, because of injuries to attackmen Van Sternbergh ’04 and Ryan Floyd ’03, the Elis have only four healthy attackmen to fill three spots on the field.
“When you lose a player of Hunt’s caliber, everyone has to pick up some of the slack,” Foote said.
The Elis more than accounted for the star attackman’s absence Saturday, and in the wake of their dominating performance against Drexel, they still believe an Ivy League title is within their reach. Before Yale can make the climb to the top, it will have to leapfrog four other Ivy League squads that are currently ahead of it in the national rankings.
“We are the underdogs by far, no doubt,” Waldvogel said. “But if we play as well as we are capable of playing, we can play with anyone in the country.”