The Bulldogs (4-2-0, 1-2-0 Ivy) will be looking to wage war today at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium against No. 9 Army (6-2-0).
Though six games deep into their schedule, the Elis will be making only their second home appearance. Yale is coming off of a two-game Ivy road swing with close losses to Cornell (10-6) and Princeton (12-9).
In the other camp are the Black Knights, who picked up two strong victories against Lafayette and Marist, on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.
Army will be loaded with plenty of ammunition coming into the contest, as the Elis were the conquering heroes last year, winning a 10-9 thriller at West Point. The Black Knights have been full throttle on the offensive end with two attackers ranked number one nationally in their respective categories. Jim Wagner, a decorated lefty with 24 goals on the season, holds the mark of 3.17 goals per game. Senior playmaker Jeff Bryan, an All-American and preseason candidate for Patriot League Player of the Year, distributes 3.5 assists per game.
But the rest of the Army corps is no different.
“[The Black Knights are] exactly the way you’d imagine them: very athletic, extremely tough, and they never quit,” captain Scott Kenworthy ’04 said. “We have to try to match them in all of those categories.”
On defense, the Bulldogs will be looking to combat Bryan’s feeding capability, which will result in decreased firepower for the Black Knights. Throughout the season, Bryan has been combining with both Wagner and sophomore attacker John Walker, who has had three goals and three assists in each of the last two games. So far this season, Walker already has 19 goals and leads the team with 38 groundballs.
According to Bulldog goalkeeper Jordan Ellis ’07, the Elis will be in the thick of the battle, neutralizing the Black Knight blitz with an aggressive man-to-man coverage. Particularly important will be defenseman Gray Ecklund ’06, who has been starting in the center of the backfield.
“Ecklund is good at recognizing [offensive] formations and getting the defense to move as a unit,” Ellis said. “We have hard checkers on defense that frustrate [other teams].”
The Eli offense — led by attackers Seth Goldberg ’05 and Dan Brillman ’06 — will continue bombarding the goal. The Bulldogs have outshot opponents 218-195 and outscored opponents 58-52 this season, including 22-11 in the final period.
Army’s weakness lies in the cage — goaltender Matt Darak has what Yale midfielder Christian Jensen ’06 described as an “unconventional goaltending style.” Darak’s goals against average, 10.65, and save percentage, .585, are decent. But Jensen said the Black Knight netminder’s tendency to take shots with his body rather than stop it with his stick renders his performance “streaky.”
Once the Bulldogs mount an attack, maintaining possession and tempo will be crucial to success as evidenced by the first half against Princeton on April 3. The Bulldogs led 5-4 at half, but faltered in the second.
“We stopped focusing on what we needed to do,” Kenworthy said.
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