In the longest game in Yale men’s lacrosse history at Reese Stadium on Saturday, the Tigers finally got the better of the Bulldogs.
No. 13 Princeton (5–2, 2–0 Ivy) took a 10–9 win, but the Elis (2–4, 0–2 Ivy) pushed their opponents to the brink during the 78-minute matchup, which went into five overtimes.
“I’ve never played in, seen, or coached a game where a team put forth such an effort,” head coach Andy Shay said in an email. “I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
The crowd of more than 1,000, one of the largest ever at Reese stadium, witnessed one of the most exciting and memorable games in college lacrosse this year. Down by three goals with less than four minutes remaining, the Bulldogs came roaring back and scored their final two goals with less than one minute remaining to force overtime.
The teams battled back and forth for four extra periods, but neither was able to break the stalemate. In the fourth overtime, each team had an extra-man opportunity, and Yale almost scored on a clever trick play, but both goalkeepers and defenses held strong. It was the second outstanding defensive performance from the Bulldogs in two weeks, after they held the nation’s top-ranked offense to its lowest output of the season in last weekend’s one-goal loss to Cornell.
“Our coaches have been telling us during practice that there are two things we can control: hustle and communication,” goalkeeper Jack Meyer ’14 said of the defense. “We’ve been working very hard on those and I think it shows. Peter Johnson [’13] was covering one of the best players in the country and kept him quiet and Harry [Kucharczyk ’15] had some great ground balls for us [on Saturday].”
Finally, two minutes and 21 seconds into the fifth extra period, Princeton midfielder Alex Capretta scored from eight yards out off a pass from Tucker Shanley to bring the game to a close. It was Capretta’s third goal of the game and he led all scorers on both teams. Midfielder Tom Shreiber, who is tied for fifth in the country with 4.5 points per game also had two goals and two assists for the Tigers.
Attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 led scoring for the Bulldogs with two goals and three assists, and attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15 also contributed two goals and an assist. Oberbeck’s assist pulled the Elis within one when Mangan scored with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter and gave the team a chance to send the game to overtime.
After Mangan’s goal, midfielder Dylan Levings ’14 won the faceoff, pushing the ball cleanly in front of him, and came down the field looking to score. The Tigers had no answer for Levings, who won seven of the last eight faceoffs in the fourth quarter and overtime. Princeton sent four different men to the X against Levings, but he continued to dominate.
On this attempt, Levings’ shot flew high over the net. Yale backed up Levings’ shot, and 18 seconds later midfielder Greg Mahony ’12 ran through a double team, curled around the right side of the net and slotted the ball past Princeton netminder Tyler Fiorito to tie the game and electrify the Yale faithful watching.
In the first overtime period, it appeared this momentum would be short-lived, as the Princeton offense ran roughshod over Yale’s defense but failed to find the net. The Tigers had six shots in the period and hit the pipe twice, but the Bulldogs regrouped and proceeded to shut down the Tiger offense for the next three periods.
“Our communication lapsed a little bit in that first period,” Meyer said. “But we buckled down after we saw that we could survive and we kept playing hard and talking to each other the rest of the way.”
Meyer rose to the occasion on Saturday and played his best collegiate game. The sophomore had a career-high 14 saves, including three in the second overtime to keep the Elis in the game. When the Princeton onslaught threatened to overwhelm Yale’s defense in the first overtime period, Meyer composed himself in goal and recommitted his focus for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs also got an inspired performance from midfielder Michael Pratt ’12. Pratt, the team’s captain, was all over the field on Saturday and seemed to will the Elis into overtime. His goal with 3:19 remaining in the fourth started the Yale comeback, and his dodge from the left side set up Mangan’s goal a few minutes later. After a hard collision with a Tiger in the first overtime, Pratt had to be helped and almost carried off the field with little sign of returning. But a few minutes later he was right back on the field and continued to make big plays on the defensive end for the rest of the game.
During the last two weeks, the Elis held their own against their two toughest conference opponents, even if the team ultimately came up short. Two weeks into the conference season, the Bulldogs are hoping to gain a spot in the top four conference teams to enter into the Ivy League tournament.
“It’s a tough loss to take and we’re reeling right now, but this is going to make us a tougher team going forward,” Meyer said. “I’m really proud of the way we fought out there.”
Next Saturday, the Bulldogs face off against Penn at Reese stadium. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.