The Elis have had a rollercoaster season, ending up just under .500 and posting a subpar Ivy record. But a happy ending may be on the horizon if the Bulldogs can beat a certain team from Cambridge this Saturday.
The men’s lacrosse team (5-7, 1-4 Ivy) faces Harvard (5-4, 2-2 Ivy), its biggest rival, this Saturday at home. The Bulldogs lead the all-time Yale-Harvard series, 50-31, although Harvard has won the last two games. Also, Saturday’s game is Senior Day because it is the last home game for the seniors.
“It’s a fun atmosphere to play in and we’ll have some hard and intense playing,” long-pole defenseman Gray Eklund ’06 said.
Both teams are coming off of hard losses. On Wednesday, the Bulldogs fought a close game against Dartmouth, but finished down two goals. Harvard suffered a defeat at the hands of the then-No. 11 Princeton Tigers, 9-7, on Saturday. The Bulldogs and Crimson are both vying for a much-needed victory to improve their season record.
“Every single year, it doesn’t matter what the record is, it’s like playing a whole new season,” faceoff man Dan Kallaugher ’06 said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
Harvard is always the last Ivy League game for the Bulldogs and the Elis have not beaten them since 2003 — when the current seniors were freshmen. Kallaugher, currently the No. 3 faceoff man in the nation, will hunker down with Harvard’s John Henry Flood in a matchup of the Ivy League’s two best faceoff men.
“I think they’re a well-balanced team, but I think we have a faceoff advantage,” attack Dan Brillman ’06 said.
Harvard is not known for having a particularly strong offense or defense. Most of Harvard’s goals this season have been unassisted plays notched by individual standouts such as Greg Cohen and Evan Calvert. Brillman said when a team has limited assists, you want to make them move the ball. Kallaugher said the Bulldogs have been doing a good job defensively in recent games.
“Our defense, six on six, has been doing a great job on man-on-man defense. This has been key to why we’ve been doing so well. We’re not forced to slide as much which saves our defense’s legs,” Kallaugher said.
Goalie George Carafides ’08 has been key to the defense, making 14 saves in the Dartmouth game.
Attackman Tyler Casertano ’08 said the Elis need to stick to their fundamentals and focus on getting the groundballs on defense. If the Elis can dominate the ground balls, they can make the transitions needed to give their offense a chance to score. Casertano said in the Dartmouth game, the Big Green dominated the ground balls and maintained possession throughout the game, something that cannot happen this weekend.
“We’ve fallen apart a little bit when we strayed away from our game plan,” Kallaugher said. “We need to focus on doing what we do the whole game.”
Winning the ground ball battle, moving the ball quickly and getting into position will be essential for the Bulldogs this Saturday.
Kallaugher said attack Casertano has been the quarterback from behind the goal. Attack Chris Kempner ’07 has also been making things happen for the Elis, especially in the past few games. Brillman and middie David Schecter ’06 need to keep hitting the net like they have been doing so far this season.
For the seniors, it’s going to be the last time they compete on Johnson Field. The energy is going to run high and what better way to end a career than with the Yale-Harvard rivalry.
“It’s going to be bittersweet stepping out on the field,” Eklund said.