In almost any other lacrosse game, a team outshot by nearly 20 would not have much of a chance. But this was not the case for the men’s lacrosse team, which scored on almost half of their shots to defeat Fairfield at Lessing Field on Saturday night, 12-9.
Attackman/middie Kyle Washabaugh ’08 led the Elis’ efficient offense with four goals, while attackman Brendan Gibson ’10 had three goals and four assists of his own.
The Bulldogs’ high conversion rate on shots is a testament to their offensive strategy, which stresses waiting for the best shot. In the second and fourth quarters, despite only getting eight combined shots, they scored goals on five of them. In contrast, Fairfield only converted on five of 31 shots in these two quarters, showing that quality, not quantity of shots is what really matters.
“Our game-plan was to generate high quality shots,” Gibson said. “We didn’t want to always shoot on the first opportunity. We did a good job of waiting for the second or third chance at goal.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the 45 shots taken by Fairfield shows not so much a problem with the Elis defense as much as the Stag’s trigger-happy offense, said captain and defenseman Pat Grimm ’08.
“They run a freelance offense whereas ours is more structured,” he said. “They played a fast-paced game and took shots that we would consider ill-advised.”
Earlier on in their season, the Elis sometimes fell to early deficits, yet this was not the case against the Stags, as Yale got off to an early lead in the first quarter, fueled by two goals by Washabaugh in the span of only five seconds. After getting out to a 2-1 advantage midway through the first, Washabaugh’s goals with 3:59 and 3:54 left gave the away squad a comfortable three goal lead.
The Stags showed they had some fight in them, answering back with three straight goals, including a man down goal with 11 seconds left in the first. But the Bulldogs went on to dominate the rest of the second quarter, scoring three more times and taking a 7-4 advantage going into the break.
The Elis expanded their lead to four goals during the third quarter, going into the final period with a 10-6 lead. Despite an early goal by Gibson, the Stags mounted a comeback in the fourth, scoring three straight. This put them down by only two with three minutes remaining, setting the stage for another possible late-game loss for the Bulldogs.
Yale, however, was able to keep its composure and hold onto the ball as the game neared its end. A costly Fairfield penalty with 3:54 left helped the away squad prevent the Stags from getting opportunities to erase the two-goal deficit.
With less than two minutes to play, attackman Tyler Casertano ’08 assured a win for Yale, on what could be described as a “free play.” After being fouled by a Fairfield defender, Casertano took a shot from 30 feet away, knowing the Elis would have an up-coming extra man opportunity as soon as the play stopped. The ball bounced under the Fairfield goalkeeper’s legs, giving Yale a 12-9 lead that they would keep until the final buzzer.
After scoring a season low four goals in their last game, the Eli offense responded with an impressive performance. According to Washabaugh, the offensive resurgence was not due to strategic changes, but a different mind set. On a personal level, Fairfield’s Senior Night also served as a reality check for the senior.
“We played with confidence,” he said. “It was more of a mind set than X’s and O’s. Personally, in the back of my mind, it helped to realize that itwas their senior night. It made me realized that I only had five games left.”
A change in formation also proved to be a breath of fresh air, as Casertano, who is normally an attackman, switched to middie.
“The change is something the coaches and I had talked about for a while,” he said. “I played middie freshman year and since our offense is more midfield orientated, it enables me to have more of an active role. It changes things up to provide a new spark.”
Grimm also noted the team’s effort as a major positive from the game, especially following the team’s loss against Albany.
“We played hard,” Grimm said. “We killed them in ground balls and that’s the best indication of how hard you’re playing.”
The team now returns to its grueling Ivy League schedule when it travels to Hanover, N.H. to face Dartmouth on Wednesday at 6 p.m.