The men’s lacrosse team’s hopes for postseason play all but vanished Sunday as No. 8 Duke pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the No. 13 Bulldogs 11-6 before a sun-drenched capacity crowd at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
The Bulldogs (4-3) struggled throughout the afternoon to mount any sustained attack against the stifling Duke defense. The loss is the Bulldogs’ second in a row, four days after a devastating 9-8 loss to No. 20 Brown. Although the Blue Devils (5-4) allowed 40 shots on offense, over half whistled high or wide.
With the loss, the Elis will need to win the rest of their games to be considered for their first NCAA tournament berth since 1992. Even then, their chances for postseason play are slim.
“It just sucks,” captain Tucker Foote ’02 said of the loss. “We deserve to lose a game like that. We just got out-hustled.”
The Bulldog defense, although able to limit the Blue Devil attack to five goals in the first 40 minutes of play, was out-hustled and out-muscled by the faster and stronger Blue Devil attack.
Out of the 11 Duke goals, 10 players registered scores as attackman Alex Lieske led the offense with one goal and three assists.
Netminder Eric Wenzel ’03 registered just three saves before being replaced by goalie Roy Skeen ’04 with 5:45 to go in the game.
“They were big physical guys and they were playing well,” defenseman Todd Montgomery ’04 said. “It was tough to stop them.”
The Bulldogs never established the same imposing presence on offense, instead playing a frustrating game of extremes where shots would either miss the net completely or fly into the pocket of Blue Devil netminder A.J. Kincel’s stick.
The one bright spot on the Bulldog attack was the work of midfielder Marko Lujic ’02, who led the Elis with three goals and one assist. Lujic’s efforts were not enough against Kincel, however, who anchored the Blue Devil defense with 12 saves.
“I can’t take anything away from their goaltender, but our shooting was horrendous,” Yale head coach Mike Waldvogel said.
With the score knotted at 4-4 15 minutes into the third period, the Bulldogs seemed poised to build on the time and space they established for their attackmen. Instead, Duke midfielder Michael Satyshur quickly silenced the raucous Eli crowd.
The play began when Wenzel blocked a Blue Devil shot from point-blank range. With the ball loose near the crease, a scrum ensued. Wenzel thought he had trapped the ball under his stick. But as the Yale defense set to clear, the ball was still outside the crease, and Satyshur poked it into the net just outside a diving Yale defenseman’s reach.
“We got some good bounces toward the end, and we got our transition game going,” Duke head coach Mike Pressler said. “I don’t know if that goal made the difference, but I think it affected them mentally.”
Duke’s fluke goal may have rattled the Eli offense, but after another Blue Devil score 90 seconds later, the Elis shook off the ill effects of their bad luck and cut the deficit to one with 2:03 remaining in the third period.
As time ticked off on a man-up opportunity for the Bulldogs, Lujic rocketed a shot through the feet of the Blue Devil goalie and into the net.
But that was Yale’s last score for the next 16 minutes, as Duke dominated the rest of the third and all of the fourth period with five unanswered goals in just over nine minutes. The Elis, who had outscored their opponents 26-13 in the fourth period heading into yesterday’s contest, matched their Blue Devil counterparts with 11 shots in the quarter but were only able to score once.
“Lacrosse is a total momentum game, and there was a shift in the end that we just couldn’t come back from,” defenseman Noah Glass ’03 said.
Ever since the loss of All-American leading scorer Brian Hunt ’02 to a broken ankle in the preseason, the Bulldog offense has struggled to find a constant source of output who could rival Hunt’s knack for finishing on scoring chances. Yesterday was no different, as attackman Scott Kenworthy ’04 was stopped on a breakaway opportunity and attackman Mike Scaglione ’03 missed a point-blank shot against Kincel.
“This loss was a matter of our offense’s inability to execute,” Waldvogel said.
The Elis now have two days to recuperate before they head to Albany Wednesday. In the interim, Waldvogel believes the Elis need to check their heads, not their hands.
“It’s in the guys’ heads,” Waldvogel said about his team’s struggles. “There are no real improvements that need to be made on the field. We just have to play our game.”