Maybe if they had had a few more games under their belts, the men’s lacrosse team would have been able to defeat the University of Delaware.

In the end, though, after an extremely close game that kept everyone questioning the outcome, the Bulldogs (0-1) were defeated, 9-7, in their season opener on Saturday at Rullo Stadium in Newark, Del. As the No. 13 ranked Blue Hens (4-0) came from behind with a game-clinching 3-0 run in the final minutes of the game, the Bulldogs saw their hopes for a great season opener plummet. The loss was due to a combination of Delaware’s strength and Yale’s rawness, several team members said.

“We had good effort and desire,” defender Tap Kolkin ’07 said. “But we were kind of rough around the edges and didn’t pull it all together.”

While players said they were disappointed with the loss, the Elis did play a tough game. Daniel Brillman ’06 led the team with three goals, while Christopher Kempner ’07 added two goals and an assist and goalkeeper George Carafides ’08 made 11 saves. Brian Belskey ’07 also scored, helping to break one of the game’s many ties.

But despite individual efforts and signs of team improvement, the Bulldogs could not pull through in the final minutes of the game. Team members said they were not discouraged, though, since it was only their first game of the season and Delaware’s third.

“Unfortunately, it was a tough first game since they had some experience,” Brillman said. “Every team has growing pains their first game.”

The Bulldogs managed to keep up with the Blue Hens throughout most of the game, though, in spite of their relative greenness. Neither team led by more than one goal until the final minutes.

One of the focal points of the game was the competition between Delaware’s Alex Smith and Yale’s Dan Kallaugher ’06, who were ranked first and second, respectively, in the NCAA last year in faceoffs. On Saturday, Smith won 11 of 19 faceoffs with Kallaugher.

Still, midfielder James Rump ’07 said Kallaugher had an impressive showing.

“If a few ground balls had come up a different way, [Kallaugher] easily could have beaten him,” Rump said. “And [Kallaugher] won a few big faceoffs at the end of the game which set us up for the win, which was huge.”

With the help of these faceoff wins in the final frame, Yale took the lead with goals by Kempner and Belsky. But Delaware’s Cam Howard scored three goals in the final nine minutes of the game, and although the Bulldogs managed to cut the lead to 8-7, Howard’s impressive 3-0 run secured the game for the Blue Hens.

“I thought we played to our potential for good parts of the game and showed what our team is capable of,” Brillman said. “Unfortunately, we could not hang on at the end. However, it was a very close game throughout, and we never gave up.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against University of Massachusetts, the Bulldogs said they are hopeful, citing the recent loss as preparation for an even tougher match.

“We just didn’t pull through last Saturday,” Rump said. “But we have been practicing really hard and preparing well for Saturday, so hopefully we can head into spring break 1-1.”

The University of Massachusetts was ranked ninth in the preseason poll, and the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them if they want to come back from their disappointing opener.