The Yale men’s lacrosse team and first year head coach Andy Shay began the season in dramatic fashion — with not just one, but two games decided by a single goal in the final minute of the game. The Elis (4-0, 1-0 Ivy) squeaked past Drexel 9-8 March 7 and Butler 10-9 March 10.

First game jitters were evident in the opening stanza of the season-opener against Drexel at Franklin Field. The Elis trailed at the half 5-3, following a 4-1 second quarter surge by the Dragons, who were 2-1 entering the match-up.

“We never really got into our flow of offense. [Drexel] had played three games and were much more comfortable,” captain Scott Kenworthy ’04 said.

But the Bulldogs finally found their offensive stride in the third. Eli attacker Seth Goldberg ’05 and midfielder David Schecter ’06 netted the first two goals of the quarter. But the Dragons’ Matt Musci and Yoni Cohen responded with a score each to maintain the two-score advantage.

But the Drexel lead would not stick. A flurry of goals in the fourth, two from midfielder Ned Britt ’04 and another from Goldberg, set the stage for the game-winner from Kenworthy with just over a minute remaining for the 9-8 victory.

Although the Elis were content with the victory, they still realized there were still some soft spots.

“[It was] evident that it was our first game with a new coaching staff and with an entirely new offense and defense,” midfielder Ryan Capilupi ’04 said. “We weren’t playing nearly as well as we should have… we were a better team than Drexel.”

Mainly, the Bulldogs were displeased with losing the groundball battle to the Dragons, 28-26.

“[The statistic] became a major focal point for the Butler game,” Kenworthy said.

Kenworthy said that when the Elis traveled to Boca Raton, Fla., for a neutral site competition versus Butler at the St. Andrew’s School, they were much better at scooping up the loose balls.

Britt opened scoring in the first quarter, but the Butler Bulldogs led for the rest of the game behind the six-goal effort of Kyle Teitjen. After falling behind 5-3 at half, the Elis rallied in the second half, tying the game with 1:11 remaining in the game off a score from attacker Daniel Brillman ’06.

Following a key face-off win by Capilupi, Shay called a time-out to set up the final Eli offensive play. With ten seconds remaining in the game, Brillman assisted Goldberg for the game winning tally.

Grabbing groundballs still remains a key focus for the Elis, but Kenworthy said he felt the team improved against Butler.

“We never really panicked, we didn’t force bad shots…not a lot of teams have the composure and maturity to buckle down and win,” Kenworthy said.

The Bulldogs, who finished 9-5, 2-4 Ivy, tied for fourth place in the Ancient Eight last season, are returning 18 of 24 letterwinners this season. The experience will benefit the Elis, especially in close games down the stretch, as was evidenced in these first two games.

Perhaps more importantly, the pair of Bulldog victories proved the effectiveness of the new offensive and defensive systems implemented by Shay.

“Everyone’s bought in and trusts [Shay’s] judgment,” Kenworthy said. “It sounds easy — [Shay is] very much about not [being] flashy, just get it done — [but] actually going out there and doing it is a whole different thing.”