Head coach Andy Shay thinks the men’s lacrosse team is ready to compete. And that’s a good place for the squad to be in right now, as the Elis will see their first action of the season this coming Saturday against Holy Cross at home.

“I think the guys are hungry,” Shay said. “I think they want to win a lot of games, and I think that we’ve shown a lot of heart and hustle in practice. I hope it translates over to the field.”

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7831″ ]

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7832″ ]

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7833″ ]

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7834″ ]

The Elis finished the 2009 season tied for sixth in the Ivy League with a 5–8 record overall and a 1–5 conference record. Their sole Ivy League win came by edging out Penn 14–13 in overtime on the road in mid-March. But those statistics are just as much a reflection of the Ancient Eight competition as they are of Yale’s abilities, Shay said. The Bulldogs compete in one of the nation’s toughest leagues and played one of the 10 toughest schedules in the country last year, he said. Brown, Cornell and Princeton all made the NCAA Tournament last season, with the Big Red advancing all the way to the finals.

Middie Mark Dobrosky ’12 said Yale often struggled last year to string together four quarters of consistent play. That’s something the Elis plan to change this season.

“Last year our biggest problem was we lost a lot of games in the second half,” Dobrosky said. “We’re working on just putting complete games together, playing well for four quarters and just finishing games.”

Dobrosky is one of 10 sophomores on the 38-person squad, which accounted for six of the team’s top-10 scorers last season.

“Our class got a really good group together — we’re all really close on and off the field,” Dobrosky said. “This year we’re just trying to take it to another level. When you’re playing as a freshman that’s good, but as a sophomore you want to add some more leadership roles.”

Shay said the team graduated several defenders, as well as middie Kevin Discepolo ’09 — who ranked among the top-15 face-off men in the nation last season — leaving holes to fill on the field. But Shay added that all but one of the group’s top-10 scorers will return this spring.

The Gibson brothers are the Bulldogs’ leading returner scorers: Captain Brendan Gibson ’10 was an honorable mention All-Ivy pick last season with 23 goals and 12 assists, and Matt Gibson ’12 added 20 goals and 11 assists. Three-year starter Matt Fuchs ’10 and Greg Mahony ’12, who was named to the pre-season All-New England Team on Feb. 10., will likely be prominent contributors in the midfield for Yale.

Defender Patrick Coleman ’11, who has started every game in his Yale career, brings experience on the defensive end, while Johnathan Falcone ’12 has the most experience in net for the Elis.

In addition to those veteran players, this year’s roster includes 11 freshmen — many of who will try to fill out the space left by those 2009 defenders. Yale’s class of 2013 earned a top-15 ranking in the magazine Inside Lacrosse.

“I think that the freshman class is going to help with the defense,” middie Collin Still ’12 said. “Our defense is young this year, but they are very, very talented guys.

Still said three of the newcomers — defenders Michael McCormack ’13, Peter Johnson’13 and Phil Gross ’13 — are scheduled to start against Holy Cross.

Four of Yale’s Ivy League foes — Cornell, Princeton, Brown and Harvard — are currently ranked in the top 20 in the latest USILA Division I Poll. UMass, whom the Bulldogs play March 5, is ranked No. 14 in the nation, while two of the Elis’ other non-conference opponents ­— Holy Cross and Lehigh — also received votes in the poll.

This year marks the inaugural Ivy League Men’s Lacrosse Tournament. The top-four teams in the conference will compete in the tournament, with the winning squad earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships in late May.

“We’d obviously like to win the Ivy League regular season, but our main goal is get to the tournament and give ourselves a chance to win that automatic qualifier,” Still said. “We’re a pretty young team, but we have some really good athletes and I think we have the chance to surprise a lot of people.”

Saturday’s game begins at 11:30 a.m. at Reese Stadium.