The regular season opener for the No. 18 Yale men’s lacrosse team started off in the best possible way. Going into halftime the visiting Bulldogs (1–0) held a commanding six-goal lead, pelting St. John’s Red Storm goalie Jeff Lowman with 17 shots on goal and beating their opponents to nearly every ground ball. But the Red Storm dominated the second half, coming within a single goal of Yale with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Yet the Bulldogs’ defense stifled the home team’s attack from then on and a goal by Mark Dobrosky ’12 sealed the deal on a 10–8 victory and the first tally in the Elis’ win column.

Nearly-perfect clears and narrow advantages on ground balls and face-offs made the difference in what evolved into a heated match. But players said a failure to capitalize on man-up opportunities and a few too many turnovers in the midfield leave room for improvement as the Bulldogs prepare for home games this week against unranked Presbyterian and Mercer.

“It’s nice to come out of St. Johns 1–0,” midfielder Colin Still ’12 said. “But we’re going to need some good, hard practices starting tomorrow to prepare us for the two games on Thursday and Friday.”

Going into Saturday, Yale had defeated St. John’s in all five meetings, with the last game dating back to 1993. The 17-year hiatus seemed to matter little, as the Yale attack picked up where it left off, scoring just over four minutes in on an unassisted effort by Brian Douglass ’11. The offense didn’t let up, with three goals coming from the Bulldogs’ midfield, before St. John’s freshman Kevin Cernuto put one past Yale goalie John Falcone ’11. A fast strike by 2010 All-American attackman Matt Gibson ’12 silenced the Red Storm bench 20 seconds after Cernuto’s goal, capping the first quarter with a 5–1 Yale advantage.

While the Bulldogs failed to put as many points on the board during the second quarter, the Yale defense suffocated the St. John’s attack, allowing just one shot on goal, which was easily handled by John Falcone ’11. As Still and Douglass netted their second goals of the game, the visitors entered the locker room confidently with a 7–1 advantage. For the first 30 minutes, the Bulldogs out-hustled and out-toughed the Red Storm, snagging 15 out of 21 ground balls and winning eight of 10 face-offs. But a very different St. John’s team stepped on the field in the second half, reversing anemic first-half efforts by the Red Storm attack and face-off man and putting pressure on veteran Yale players to keep the Blue composed.

The third quarter was hard-fought, with St. John’s closing the gap to five goals, thanks to two scores by freshman attackman Kieran McArdle. After Douglass completed a hat-trick with a man-up goal at 12:17 in the fourth, the St. John’s offense dominated for the next 10 minutes, berating the Bulldog defense with five unanswered goals.

“As St. John’s was making their comeback we tried to focus on the process that made us successful earlier in the game,” Falcone said.

Under the leadership of captain and longstick midfielder Patrick Coleman ’11, the Bulldogs applied additional pressure on the Red Storm middies, while forcing crucial turnovers with great teamwork in close defense. With Yale winning 9–8 with just over three minutes left in the game, the Yale defense forced a turnover with a strong double team and defenseman Phil Gross ’13 beat the St. John’s attack to a loose ball to lead the Bulldogs into the offensive end. Careful not to give the Red Storm any more opportunities, the Yale attack controlled the ball in the St. John’s end, with Dobrosky’s goal off a Ryan McCarthy ’14 feed demolishing the home team’s momentum with 1:13 left on the clock.

“We knew going into the game that they were a very fast, dangerous team,” Still said. “Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for each opponent that we play, and coach Shay told us every day last week that this one was going to come down to the wire.”

Yale fans will have their first chance to see the Bulldogs play a regular season match at Reese Stadium this week with home games against Presbyterian on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. and Mercer on Friday at 7:00 p.m.