On the one hand, the men’s lacrosse team enters Saturday’s game having won three straight games. On the other hand, it will face off with a team that it has not beaten in three years. Needless to say, something’s got to give this weekend.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 Ivy) take on No. 10 Cornell (2-2, 0-0 Ivy) at Johnson Field in the second conference contest for Yale and the first for the Big Red. The Elis have generated some momentum in the past few weeks, especially with the way the offense has been working together. At the same time, the Big Red has had some ups and downs, beating No. 7 Notre Dame but losing to No. 17 UNC.
Yale head coach Andy Shay said the game is going to be a huge challenge for the Bulldogs.
“Cornell is pretty smart and they are accustomed to dictating the tempo,” Shay said. “The only way to disrupt that is to win face-offs and finish shots. If they get a lead, they will be able to sit on the ball.”
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, face-offs and shooting are two areas where the team has had much success. Attackmen Seth Goldberg ’05 and Colin Neville ’06 are both finding space in front of the cage and finding a way to get the ball into the back of the net. Currently, Neville leads the team with 10 goals, followed by Goldberg with eight.
With the help of the shots of these two laxers, the Bulldogs have generated a statistical edge over the Big Red, beating Cornell in average goals (11.25 to 9.25) and shots-on-goal percentage (.639 to .532).
It would be hard to produce this potent an offense if the Bulldogs were not winning face-offs and getting the ball to the attack. Midfielder Dan Kallaugher ’06 has led this effort with his .608 face-off percentage.
Because of this, Goldberg said the Elis are at the top of their game and can have success against the Big Red if they continue to play at this level.
“We know what we have to do,” Goldberg said. “I definitely think that what has helped us is time of possession. We get more opportunities when we are more settled and more patient on offense.”
The Elis’ defense also has its work cut out for it. Its duty will be to try to prevent a talented Cornell offense, led by Sean Greenhalgh, Kevin Nee and Joe Boulukos, from getting the fast start that it has been known to get when facing the Bulldogs.
“They might go to the cage and they average 41 shots a game, which is more than us,” Shay said. “They have tremendous offensive players. [Greenhalgh] is tremendous and Boulukos is a world team player.”
Despite the offensive threats that the Big Red pose, Cornell is 0-2 on the road and may be drained after coming straight to New Haven from Raleigh, N.C. On Wednesday, the Big Red fell 9-5 to UNC partly because of lost face-offs and turnovers.
Kallaugher said he is going to do his part to help the Elis exploit those areas.
“We want to try to create off the face-off and try to get the ball out to [Goldberg] before their wing guys get in,” Kallaugher said. “I’m focusing on playing my game, just like our team. I scout the other guy to see his moves, but I need to work on my hand speed and hand strength.”
With both teams intensely striving for a conference win, mental readiness could decide who comes out on top. Shay said there is a lot of emotion to harness, but that a high level of emotion could adversely affect the Bulldogs. Goldberg said that the entire team has been working on its mental game, especially the seniors who have never beaten the Big Red. Because of this, Kallaugher said the Bulldogs are coming into this game at full speed.
“One thing we always stress is you can’t start thinking you are better than you are,” Kallaugher said. “We’ve got to go in and take every game like we are playing for the national championship. This is our biggest game so far this year. It’s a real test.”