When men’s lacrosse coach Andy Shay reviewed his recruiting class heading into this season, the first class the second-year coach had recruited, he knew he had signed some future stars. He just didn’t know how soon that future would come.

If Shay were to take a second look at that list of names after Saturday’s 9-8 win over No. 13 Princeton, that promising haul might look more like a windfall. Headlined by goalie George Carafides ’08, midfielder Tyler Casertano ’08 and defenseman Pat Grimm ’08, Yale has received mature and confident play from its youngest players.

While midfielder Dan Kallaugher ’06, who garnered an amazing 17 of 20 draws against the Tigers, solidified the place of his face-off proficiency as the third certainty in life — death and taxes being the others — the three freshman starters made invaluable contributions for the Elis.

Carafides, a mere afterthought behind incumbent Jordan Ellis ’07 following the fall season, has emerged as Yale’s most dependable defensive force. Making the most of playing time he received while Ellis was recovering from back surgery, Carafides has held the starting position all season despite the sophomore’s return. Carafides stopped 12 shots, including two from point-blank range in the final minute, to earn his fifth victory of the young season.

“George played like a veteran All-American,” midfielder Jonathan Koenig ’08 said. “He didn’t look like a freshman. He looked so calm and collected that I think Princeton attackers were actually scared of how confident he is. I can think of maybe six saves that stand out in my head.”

Handling things on the other side of the field was Casertano, a natural attackman who has played well despite a pre-season position change.

“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,” Casertano said. “Every game I’m learning more and more from Chris Kempner [’07] and Dave Schecter [’06], my two linemates. It’s been hard, but I’m still learning. And I’m getting more confidence playing up top rather than behind the net.”

Shay said Casertano was especially willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team.

“He’s a smart player,” Shay said of his rookie midfielder. “He’s playing out of position unselfishly. We ask him to do certain things that we hope are within his game. We’ve been asking him to do things like dodge from the top [as opposed to behind the cage, like an attackman], but he’s been great about it.”

Casertano tallied an assist against Princeton when he drew two Tiger defensemen before finding attackman Seth Goldberg ’05 on the doorstep for one of his four goals.

“Although Seth did shove it down [Princeton goalie Matthew] Larkin’s throat, Tyler made that goal,” Koenig said.

Grimm was a highly recruited player from the fertile lacrosse terrain of suburban Maryland. He has stepped in immediately and had little trouble covering some of the Ivy League’s most lethal scorers.

“Pat’s been great,” Shay said. “He’s a very good defenseman. He’s got a great nose for the ball. By virtue of the fact that he’s left-handed, he’s got to cover some of the most talented guys. [Princeton attackman Scott] Sowanick, for example, was their best player and he did an excellent job against him.”

Beyond the big three, however, Yale’s freshmen have all shown promise. Casertano had praise for each member of the class, pointing in particular to Koenig, who recently went down with a leg injury, and midfielder Kyle Washabaugh ’08, the 6-foot-7 product of Philadelphia’s Germantown Academy. Koenig and Washabaugh are the only two freshmen besides Casertano to register a goal this season.

“Before his injury, Koenig was playing really well at defensive middie for us,” Casertano said. “And Kyle, having switched from attack, is still learning the midfield position but has just an incredible shot.”

Washabaugh was the fourth and final Bulldog freshman to receive any playing time on Saturday, but he spent most of the game on the sidelines with the other freshmen, cheering on his teammates while they earned an improbable victory. While the freshman class assures Yale a promising future, that future, it certainly seems, is also now.

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