History repeated itself for the men’s lacrosse team Saturday, as for the second straight year Yale dug itself into a scoring hole early against Cornell and never climbed out.

Before losing 8-4 to No. 13 Cornell (5-1, 1-0 Ivy), the No. 15 Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) opened Ivy play March 16 with an 11-5 win over No. 17 Pennsylvania (4-1, 0-1 Ivy) after a 21-11 win against Sacred Heart (2-4). With the loss to the Big Red, the Bulldogs find themselves in third place in the Ivy League and further removed from their ultimate goal of an Ivy championship.

“We beat ourselves in that game,” said midfielder Patrick Moylan ’03, who has six points through the Bulldogs’ first four games. “I didn’t see them as the better team. We were just out of sync.”

Yale trailed Cornell 8-0 at halftime.

Nowhere was the Bulldogs’ lack of rhythm more obvious than on attack, where the Big Red outshot them 23-3 in the first half and owned a 24-16 advantage on ground balls. While the Elis struggled to clear the ball from the defensive zone and make basic moves upfield, Cornell rifled eight of their 23 shots past goalie Eric Wenzel ’03.

Cornell attackman Sean Greenhalgh registered the first tally one minute into the game when he collected a pass from linemate Billy Fort and blasted home his 13th goal of the season.

“As a team, we played the worst lacrosse we probably could,” said Wenzel, who made 12 saves for the Bulldogs.

In the second half, the roles were reversed as the Bulldogs kept the Big Red off the board. While the Elis were able to replicate the defensive efforts of their Cornell counterparts, Yale’s offense struggled to match Cornell’s first half output, managing only four goals.

In the second half the Bulldogs switched from a free-form attacking style to a disciplined offense, using set plays to generate scoring opportunities.

“I think [the offensive change] really helped us at attack,” said midfielder Gregory Naso ’04. “Unfortunately we just weren’t able to get the extra goals we needed.”

Captain Tucker Foote ’02 narrowed the deficit to four when, with 10 minutes remaining in the game, he launched a shot that beat Cornell goaltender Justin Cynar on the left side. As the clock ticked away, the Elis were unable to put any more shots past Cynar, who registered six saves.

Against Penn, the Bulldogs again waited until the second half of the contest to get their offense in gear. Carrying a 4-3 lead into the second half, the Bulldogs jumped on top of the Quakers in the second half with two goals in the first 45 seconds and four goals overall in the first six minutes.

“That really put us ahead and got their minds out of the game,” Moylan said.

The Quakers mounted multiple efforts at a comeback, cutting the score to 9-6 with 12 minutes remaining in the game. However, the stifling play of defenseman Noah Glass ’03 kept the Bulldogs on top. Glass kept Penn attackman Scott Solow off the scoreboard. Solow, who is Penn’s top goal scorer, had 11 tallies heading into Saturday’s contest.

“The defense proved we can play well as a team,” Wenzel said.

While the defense helped carry the day against Penn, the offense led the Bulldogs to victory against Sacred Heart in perhaps the closest 21-11 contest in Eli history.

With Sacred Heart trailing 11-10 heading into the fourth period, the Bulldog offense came alive in the final quarter, finding the back of the net 10 times to turn a close game into a blowout victory.

The Bulldogs peppered Sacred Heart net minder Brian Campo in the final period.

Campo recorded an astronomical 21 saves before being replaced by Scott Urbineti.

“We were in better shape and clearly the better team,” Naso said.

The Bulldogs will need more than a fourth quarter offensive explosion if they are to compete with defending NCAA champion No. 8 Princeton (1-3). Now at the meat of their schedule, the Bulldogs travel to New Jersey March 30 to face the Tigers in a game that could make or break their Ivy League title aspirations.

“Clearly this is one of the biggest games of the season,” Wenzel said. “We know we can come back, we know we can score, we know we can play defense. If we can just put all of these factors together for one game, then we should be able to beat Princeton, there’s no doubt in my mind.”