The pastoral setting of Iowa and Nebraska, with their rolling crops of wheat, friendly country folk and equally friendly livestock, show promise for the Bulldogs.

The Elis (2-2) will play Drake (4-4), a team that Bulldogs captain Jordan Reiger ’07 said “is very physical and likes to battle a lot,” today in Des Moines, Iowa, after which they will travel to Omaha, Neb., to face Creighton (5-2-2).

“We’re facing two really good teams,” Reiger said. “It’s important for us to just get the ball down the field and try to play it right.”

Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said he is fully confident in the hard work that his team has put forth during the early season. He added that this weekend will set the tone for the beginning of the season.

“This is a weekend which will tell us a lot about the kind of team we are going to become,” he said.

Tompkins described the team as “balanced,” and said its strong offense, promising defense and general enthusiasm, coupled with a positive overall team atmosphere, contribute to a cohesive group capable of strong team play.

The view from the field appears to be the same.

“Our team has gelled as well this year as it has in the past,” Reiger said. “And that all starts during preseason. It’s the key to our success.”

Forward Liam Leonard ’09 said the strength of play in the first couple of games can be attributed to the team dynamic built up over the last few years. The offense, specifically commended by the coach for its ability to create numerous scoring opportunities, did not lose many graduating seniors after last season.

“The fact that the majority of the players are returning helps because we’ve been working hard and know how to play well together,” Leonard said.

Although the team has proven solid on all fronts, Tompkins said, the main focus in recent practices has been improving the basic skills of possession and strengthening the already solid defense.

“We’ve been working on making sure that we are keeping our shape and being aware of the field and the team,” Reiger said. “It’s all about communication and the more time we spend together, the stronger the bonds we form and the better off we are on the field.”

Working hard, he said, has never been a problem for the Elis. The team’s biggest strength is its desire and commitment.

“Every game we know that every guy is going to work his tail off,” Reiger said.

While both coach and players agree that the most cherished rivalries are between the Ivy League schools, the Elis said they do not want to get ahead of themselves.

“The biggest game is always the next one,” Tompkins said. “If we prepare well, are well organized, good things will happen and we will deserve it.”