There’s no question — something is clicking this spring for the men’s lacrosse team.
The red-hot No. 16 Bulldogs (9–2, 3–2 Ivy) notched their fifth-straight win Saturday with a 14–11 final against No. 19 Brown. The Elis entered the weekend’s competition in fourth place in the Ancient Eight standings but leapfrogged the Bears (5–5, 2–2) to take third place.
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Yale finished the 2009 season 5–8 overall and 1–5 in the conference, topping only Penn within the league. But things are different this year. With just two regular-season games left on the schedule, Yale is a prime contender for one of four spots in this year’s inaugural Ivy League post-season tournament in early May — the winner of which secures an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Championships.
“It feels amazing — I’m a senior and I couldn’t ask for a better senior season,” midfielder Max Rodman ’10 said. “Our main focus this year, kind of our mantra has been ‘one play at a time.’ I think the difference is partially that mindset.”
The Elis jumped out to an early lead for the third-consecutive game against the Bears on Saturday in Providence. Yale scored five times — with tallies from four different players — before Brown finally managed to get on the board two minutes into the second quarter.
Midfielder Matt Fuchs ’10 struck first, scoring off a feed from attacker Matt Gibson ’12 three minutes after the opening face-off. Midfielder Michael Pratt ’12 and defender Michael McCormack ’13 also hit the back of the net before Gibson added two more goals in the last 74 seconds of the quarter.
“We have a very good faceoff man, a very good offense and our defense played really well — and those three things together gave us a great opportunity to score early on,” head coach Andy Shay said. “If I knew why it happened I would make it happen every time, but I just don’t want it to stop.”
The Bears managed to cut Yale’s lead during the second frame with four goals, but the Blue still held an 8–4 edge heading into halftime. Three unassisted Yale tallies from midfielders Gregory Mahony ’12, Matt Miller ’12 and Rodman offset Brown’s four goals in the second quarter.
Seven different Yale players had scored by halftime, even though Brown outshot Yale, 19–16, during the first two quarters. Goalie Jonathan Falcone ’11 made six saves in the first half to hold Brown to only four tallies.
“You look at the stat sheet, I think we had three defense players that scored goals, and middies came up the field and transitioned and scored,” Fuchs said. “When you’re getting everyone on the field putting the ball in the net, that’s when it’s a great game.”
A five-goal third period gave the Bulldogs what seemed to be a comfortable eight-goal lead. They limited the Bears to only one goal that quarter — largely thanks to five saves by Falcone — and held a 13–5 advantage with one frame left to play.
But Brown made the most of those last 15 minutes. The Bears rallied to score six goals in the final quarter to Yale’s one, and outshot the visitors 16–9 during that time.
“We made some mistakes and gave up some goals with some inconsistent play in the middle of the field,” Shay said. “[Brown is] excellent in transition, and they proved that in the fourth quarter.”
The home team’s scoring spree began roughly four minutes into the fourth period with a goal by midfielder David Hawley. Two minutes later, Hawley hit the back of the net again. Brown scored once more with 3:20 left on the clock before Miller countered with an unassisted tally at 2:49.
The resolute Bears struck three more times between the 2:25 and one-minute marks, but the late-game rally wasn’t enough to take down Yale. Falcone made three saves in the final frame — totaling 14 on the day — and the Elis staved off Brown long enough to record the win.
“[Falcone] came up with some huge saves in this game,” Rodman said. “He’s been settling and improving over the past few years … He’s doing terrific, and every game, he’s had a couple of highlight-reel saves.”
Yale returns to Reese Stadium next Saturday to take on non-league opponent Bryant in its second-to-last game of the regular season at 7 p.m.