Like any machine, the men’s lacrosse team had to test out some different parts and have some malfunctions before most of the cogs started to click together.
After falling to No. 10 UMass 12-6 in Amherst March 5, the Elis (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) came back with two wins that showcased the way they work together as a unit. The first win of the season came March 12 against Fairfield when the Bulldogs defeated the Stags 11-8 in Delray Beach, Fla. during their training trip to the Sunshine State. With that win under their belts, the Elis returned to the east coast to take on Penn in Philadelphia and downed the Quakers 15-7. With the toughest part of the season ahead, the Elis will need the confidence these two wins have given them.
Midfielder Dan Kallaugher ’06 said the first competition of the season versus the Minutemen did not expose any particular weaknesses for the Bulldogs, but rather showed the Elis that they needed to work on putting the little things together as well as gaining experience.
“We played really hard, but the cards just weren’t falling into place,” Kallaugher said. “It was a little rough, but we kept ourselves in the game. We couldn’t finish a lot of our shots.”
Kallaugher said the weather in Florida as well as playing on grass gave the Elis the opportunity to work on synchronizing with each other.
“Going into Fairfield, we were pumped up and everything was starting to click,” Kallaugher said. “The same thing with Penn — we went in intense and everything clicked. In every game we have out-hustled every team, and overall we are feeling good. We know that if we play that hard good things will happen.”
Intensity balanced with a calm focus helped carry the Elis over the Stags despite coming out of halftime down 6-4. Attacker Seth Goldberg ’05, who helped lead the run of seven goals in the second half by scoring three times, said the team had been getting frustrated that their system was not working in the first half.
“We knew we could get open looks and goals out of it,” Goldberg said. “Once we went on a run everybody started to realize we needed to move the ball on offense and take easier looks to score easier goals.”
On Saturday versus the Quakers, the Bulldogs made scoring look easy by hitting the net 15 times. Goldberg tied Colin Neville ’06 with four goals each to lead the Elis, but David Schecter ’06, Brian Belsky ’07 and Kallaugher also got it into the cage. Defenseman Brian Mulholland ’05 said the offensive domination made the jobs of the defense and of goalie George Carafides ’08 easier.
“It was all offense — they controlled the game and controlled the ball,” Mulholland said. “It’s easy for us to play defense when the offense controls like that. [Carafides] also had a great game, with three or four big saves in the first period.”
Carafides’ 10 saves and Goldberg’s four goals earned them official recognition from the Ivy League this week. Carafides was named Ivy Rookie of the Week and Goldberg was named Ivy League Player of the Week.
Captain D.J. Barry ’05 said Carafides’ play has been impressive.
“His poise in goal as a freshman is awesome,” Barry said. “He’s made some great saves which has allowed his confidence to soar. You see him getting better and better every game.”
Although Goldberg said it was nice to be honored, he said the most important thing about the win at Penn was the way the team played together.
“I think anyone on our team Saturday could have gotten that award,” Goldberg said. “It was a great game all over the field. On offense we really executed what we have been practicing near perfection. The best part right now is that everyone is contributing.”
Goldberg said head coach Andy Shay’s system requires everyone on offense to use their strengths and stick to their personal role, whether it be dodging or finishing. Mulholland also said Shay emphasizes a similar plan on defense, where he stresses the defense playing as a total unit.
In between offense and defense, the Eli middies have many times succeeded on the transition and helping the offense push up when they need to do so. Defensive midfielder Barry and Kallaugher have been active, especially on getting ground balls. Barry has 11 ground balls and Kallaugher has 18, some of which came after face-offs. Kallaugher is the leading face-off man for the Bulldogs having won 38 of the 66 face-offs he has taken. Schecter, another tough midfielder, has played a large role on the offense with his seven goals so far.
With many aspects of strategy working for the Eli laxers, the Bulldogs have been able to attain a level of confidence that has allowed them to play intensely throughout each contest, Barry said.
“One of our shortcomings last year was that we’d go up a few goals and then relax and let a team back into it,” he said. “This year we have been able to stay focused for the full 60 minutes and put teams away.”
The Elis will need to work their game for that full 60 when they take on Quinnipiac (0-4) tonight. Although Quinnipiac may not have as much talent as the Bulldogs, Goldberg said the Elis cannot afford to take any steps backward this early in the season.
“Tomorrow is a great opportunity,” Goldberg said. “We just need to stick to our game plan and play our game. [The Bobcats] can be a scrappy team and if you play their game they can make it a close contest. If we execute the way we did on Saturday, we could have some success.”
After the Bobcats, the Elis have challenging games against No. 14 Cornell and No. 8 Princeton on the horizon, but Goldberg said they have not even mentioned either of those teams. The Bulldogs are simply trying to take the bonding they did as a team on and off the field in Florida and translate it into a gelled unit that works together on every part of the field to add some victories to their record.