The men’s lacrosse team’s early-game woes continued Saturday against rival No. 17 Princeton, when they found themselves playing catch-up for most of the game, eventually falling 11-8 in New Jersey.

Attackman/middle Kyle Washabaugh ’08 led the Elis on offense, matching a personal career high of four goals in the loss. Attackman Brendan Gibson ’10 scored two goals, and both Tyler Casertano ’08 and Matt Fuchs ’10 added a goal and an assist each.

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For the second straight Ivy League contest, the Bulldogs could not withstand an early surge by their opponents. The home team scored two goals in the first five minutes, eventually adding a third goal with less than four minutes left in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.

But true to form, Yale answered back with a Fuchs score less than a minute later off an assist from Casertano. Washabaugh racked up another one for the away squad on a man-up goal from Fuchs less than two minutes later.

Despite responding positively to its early 3-0 deficit, slow starts continue to plague the team. According to attackman Brian Douglass ’11, starting strong is not something that can be learned in one practice.

“Over the last couple of games, we’ve been trying to go into the game more excited,” Douglass said. “Although we have made progress in that respect, we’re going to continue to work on it. This week we’re going to address these things in practice by trying some situational things. But it’s not something that will change overnight — individually, and as a team, we have to go out at the beginning of the game thinking to score a goal right off the bat.”

The Elis were unable to draw any closer during the next two quarters, outscored 4-1 by the Tigers, with a lone goal from Casertano coming with 3:01 left in the first half. This gave the home team a commanding 8-3 advantage heading into the final period.

The Bulldogs mounted a comeback in the fourth, with three straight goals in the first three minutes of play. Gibson scored a man-down goal 25 seconds into the quarter, which was followed by two more from Washabaugh, giving the Elis hope for a late-game comeback.

There would be no chance for heroics, however, as a string of penalties midway through the fourth quarter shifted the momentum back to the home team. Trailing 9-6, three-straight slashing penalties between 10:54 and 5:24 prevented the chance for a comeback.

“We made that run in the fourth quarter, [Greg] DuBoff ’08 won some face-offs, but penalties really killed momentum,” Captain Pat Grimm ’08 said. “The man-down situations tired us out, so we were exhausted at the end of the game.”

With the game nearing its end, the Bulldogs began desperately applying pressure, even pulling their goalie, George Carafides ’08. Princeton capitalized on Yale’s failed attempts to score, tacking on two more of its own. Although Washabaugh and Gibson notched a goal apiece in the final two minutes, it was too little too late.

Although the Elis outshot Princeton by a narrow 33-31 margin, home-team goalie Alex Hewit continuously foiled the Bulldogs, saving 17 of 25 shots on target. Despite the prospect of facing the two-time All-American player, Casertano said the team’s strategy against such a formidable goalie was no different than those used against other teams.

“Sometimes you can over-prepare for a particular team, but we had the same strategy as against most goalies, except that we knew he was left-handed” Casertano said. “We generated a lot of quality shots from outside, but we just struggled to finish close to the net. [Hewit] made some great saves. It was tough because he makes himself really big in front of the net.”

After beginning the season with a pre-season No. 19 ranking in the Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Poll, the team’s season has been filled with close finishes. Another disappointing performance against a nationally ranked team leaves the Bulldogs looking to turn their season around.

“People aren’t happy with our performance against Princeton,” Grimm said. “No one thinks we played to our full potential. No one expected to be 2-5, so there’s definitely frustration. We just need to take it one game at a time now and start having fun again to turn things around.”