In the summer of 1998,12 prefrosh met for the first time in Bristol Rhode Island for a week of Run and Shoot lacrosse camp. Tomorrow night at Byrd stadium, that same group of prefrosh that have become the heart and soul of the men’s lacrosse team will look to cap a four-year quest for Yale’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1992.
Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome against No. 10 Maryland (7-4), in four years No. 13 Yale (9-3) has recaptured its competitive form from the early 90s thanks in large part to this year’s graduating class.
“The seniors have been the core of the team for the last four years,” said attackman Mike Scaglione ’03. “They already had the talent, but they brought a work ethic and swagger that permeated the rest of the team.”
Nowhere was that work ethic more evident than at 7 a.m. three days a week in the offseason, when captain Tucker Foote ’02 led the Bulldogs on long distance runs. Despite losing All-American Brian Hunt ’02 before the first game of the regular season, the Bulldogs still managed a 15-13 win over No. 4 Princeton March 30. The win was the Bulldogs’ first against the Tigers since 1990 and evoked comparisons with the 1992 squad.
“We didn’t have any superstars in 1992, but everyone on the team worked real hard,” said head coach Mike Waldvogel, who coached that team. “I see that same kind of blue collar work ethic this year. [The seniors] have set the standard for what it takes.”
The Bulldogs need a win Saturday if they are to see any immediate results from the standards this years’ seniors have set. Defensemen Nick Krohley ’02 and Noah Glass ’03 will anchor the Bulldog defense against All-ACC attackmen Dan LaMonica and Mike Mollot. Mollot and LaMonica lead the Terrapins with 36 and 34 points, respectively.
The Terrapins will use a run-and-gun offense against the Bulldogs that will present a challenge for the Elis’ transition defense. In a statement of confidence indicative of the greater impact the Bulldogs’ seniors have had throughout the season, Foote welcomed the challenge.
“We’re excited and ready to play,” Foote said. “This is the first time we’re playing for something more than pride, and it feels great.”
At the other end of the field, the Bulldogs will need every ounce of confidence they can muster against the top defense in the nation. The Terrapins lead all other Division I teams, allowing 6.73 goals a game.
Scaglione, who leads the Bulldogs with 47 points, and midfielder Marko Lujic ’02 will try to solve Terrapin goaltender Danny McCormick, whose 6.40 goals-against average is tops in the nation. After converting four of six man-up opportunities against Quinnipiac Tuesday, the Bulldogs expect their new moves on the man-up will have equal success against Maryland.
“We have got to control the ball and dominate in the offensive zone if we want to generate opportunities,” Waldvogel said. “If we can get into a groove on special teams, then we have a chance.”
Even if the Bulldogs defeat Maryland, they are still not guaranteed a postseason spot. The Elis currently occupy fourth place in the Ivy League and also need Brown to beat Cornell tomorrow so they can jump into a three-way tie for second and improve their chances for an at-large berth.
Regardless of this weekend’s results, however, when Foote, Lujic, Krohley and the rest of the Bulldog seniors exit Byrd stadium, their role in this season’s success will not be lost on anyone.
“Of course we’re going to miss them after the way they motivated us,” Scaglione said. “Is it the end of an era? I’d like to think it’s just the beginning.”