Head coach Andy Shay’s season-long motto of “one game at a time” finally paid off for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

With a 9–8 win against archrival Harvard at Reese Stadium, the No. 13 men’s lacrosse earned a ticket to the inaugural Ivy League post-season tournament and a share of the Ancient Eight title. The Elis (10–3, 4–2 Ivy) are the No. 3 seed for the league tournament and slated to play No. 2 Princeton. No. 1 Cornell will take on No. 4 Brown. All four teams are contending for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in late May.

“We came into today knowing that this could be our last game of the season,” attacker Brian Douglass ’11 said. “It’s great to know we get to play again.”

Yale trailed the Crimson for much of Saturday’s contest, only rallying in the second half to bridge a three-goal deficit and eke out the one-goal victory.

“It was an unbelievable win,” Shay said. “To play that much defense in the first half but still get that effort in the second was amazing.”

Yale struck first in Saturday’s contest when attacker Matt Fuchs ’10 scored an unassisted goal just 91 seconds into play. Long stick midfielder Patrick Coleman ’11 added another one — his first goal of the season — soon after.

But the early 2–0 lead turned out to be the last one Yale would see for most of the game.

After nine minutes of scoreless play, Crimson attacker Jeff Cohen beat goaltender Johnathan Falcone ’11 with three minutes left in the first quarter to make it 2–1. Then Harvard midfielder Jason Duboe hit the net 71 seconds into the second frame to tie the score at two.

Harvard pulled ahead for the first time when Cohen notched another goal with 6:51 left in the half. Attacker Brendan Gibson ’10 tied things up again 50 seconds later, but then Harvard tallied a pair of goals — including another one from Cohen — to take a 5–3 lead heading into halftime.

While the Elis only trailed by two at the half, the home team’s offense still had been largely shut down by Crimson players during the opening 30 minutes. Harvard outshot Yale 23–9 in the first two quarters and had significantly greater possession time than the Bulldogs.

That’s why Eli captain Gibson took his teammates aside twice during the halftime intermission, telling them he didn’t want the next two quarters to be his final ones of college lacrosse.

“I told the guys, ‘Don’t even think about going on the field if you’re not going to give it your all,” Gibson said.

The Crimson tallied three minutes after the restart to make their lead 6–3, but then the Blue finally began to cut the deficit. Douglass, who has a team-leading 32 goals, hit the back of the net with 10:45 left in the quarter. Six minutes later, Fuchs got his second goal of the day on man-up time.

Harvard attacker Dean Gibbons added another for his squad with 3:08 left in the frame, but Yale had the final say that quarter. Midfielders Colin Still ’12 scored with 1:07 remaining to make it a one-point game, and Gregory Mahony ’12 snuck in another goal just before the period expired to even the score at 7–7.

Cohen broke the tie five minutes into the final frame, giving Harvard an 8–7 lead with his fourth goal of the day. But the Crimson edge didn’t last long.

Midfielder Mark Dobrosky ’12 turned the momentum back around when he knocked the ball from a Crimson player’s stick, forcing him to turn over possession to Yale. Seconds later, Douglass scored off a feed from Still to tie the score at eight.

And Douglass came up big once more. The Yale attacker scored the game-winner with 5:48 left to play, taking a pass from Fuchs and diving to send the ball past goalie Harry Krieger.

Both sides scrambled to gain possession for the final five minutes of play — Yale fighting to maintain its thin edge and Harvard trying to make a comeback. But the Elis repeatedly prevented the Crimson from equalizing, and defenseman Phil Gross ’13 finalized the win when he snagged the loose ball and heaved it to the other side of the field as time ran out.

Yale outshot Harvard 18–14 in the second half, won nine of eleven face-offs and won 18 groundballs to the Crimson’s 13. Falcone, who finished his day with five saves, said he thought halftime was the turning point on Sunday — allowing the Elis to regroup before the last 30 minutes.

Harvard head coach John Tillman said he was disappointed for his seniors but that Yale played a strong game.

“I think they had a little quicker touch than we did and played a little harder for 60 minutes,” Tillman said of the Elis. “I give them a lot of credit for that.”

Brown, Cornell, Princeton and Yale will all compete in the first round of the Ivy Tournament in Ithaca, N.Y., on Friday, at times still to be determined. The final game is slated for Sunday.

“We don’t know when we’re going to play,” Shay said. “We’re just happy to be there.”