Famous Iroquois lacrosse player Oren Lyons Jr. once said, “There are two times of the year that stir the blood. In the fall, for the hunt, and now for lacrosse.”
For 11 members of the No. 18 men’s lacrosse team (7-2, 2-2), tomorrow could very well be the last time they step on the Reese Stadium field with their blood stirring.
On Saturday, Yale’s seniors will go to battle against a hard-nosed Brown team that is coming off of a victory over No. 15 Penn. The Quakers beat the Bulldogs in triple overtime earlier this season and all but eliminated the Elis’ chances for an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs. Brown holds a 34–18 record against Yale and has beaten the Elis in three of the teams’ last four meetings. The Bulldogs will almost certainly need to win their last two conference matches to secure a spot in the second annual Ivy playoffs, whose champion automatically gets an NCAA tournament berth.
Against Brown, the Bulldogs will attempt to play their first “complete” game of the season, free of lengthy scoring droughts and defensive miscues. Possibly Yale’s best team effort this spring came against Dartmouth last weekend, in a match that saw the Elis leading 9–3 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. But penalties and a loss of focus on defense gave the home crowd a scare, as Dartmouth tallied four goals to close the game at 9–7 before eventually falling.
“We put together about 58 minutes of great lacrosse against Dartmouth, but took our foot off the pedal for the last two minutes,” midfielder Matt Miller ’12 said. “We’re almost there, but we definitely need to focus on putting teams away.”
The most consistent part of Yale’s game all season has been the performance of face-off/get-off specialists Cole Yeager ’13 and Dylan Levings ’14. The combination of Yeager and Levings leads the nation in face-off win percentage (.670).
Meanwhile, Yale’s long poles are causing their own commotion, causing an average of 11.56 turnovers per game. Close defenseman Michael McCormack ’13 and captain and long stick middie Pat Coleman ’11 have each showcased their slick stick-checking abilities by forcing 2.33 turnovers per game, putting them in a tie for fifth-most caused turnovers per game in Division I men’s lacrosse.
Regardless, the Bulldog defense will need to tighten up on fundamentals before Saturday’s game, focusing on decreasing turnovers and winning every loose ball. Brown’s deadly attack, comprising Rob Schlesinger, Parker Brown and Andrew Feinberg, can and will make the Bulldogs pay for loose balls left unattended and sloppy clears in the defensive end.
“We know we have some stuff to work on,” Coleman said following Yale’s victory over Providence. “We need to get the ball off the ground when we put it there.”
Yale’s top attackman, Brian Douglass ’11, returned to true form last week with seven goals in two games to lead the Bulldogs to victory over Providence and Dartmouth. Yet on Saturday, Yale’s offense will have to contend with All-American defenseman Peter Fallon and Brown’s goalie Matt Chriss, who is sixth in the nation in save percentage.
Chriss has been at times brilliant in the cage for Brown this season, averaging 12.2 saves per game with a .607 save percentage. Yet for all the shots he blocks, Chriss gives up his fair share of rebounds and occasionally pays for his aggressive style of play, in which he “baits” attackers to shoot high by dropping his stick and bending down low in goal.
In order to beat Brown on Saturday, the Bulldogs will need to focus on possession off of the face-off, ball control, consistent sliding efforts on defense and quality shot selection. Standing on the shoulders of their seniors, the Bulldogs will need to fight hard for 60 minutes against Brown, in the hopes of making their last regular season game at Reese Stadium their best.
Yale faces off against Brown at Reese Stadium at 1 p.m. on Saturday.