The No. 20 Bulldogs head into the penultimate game of their regular season riding a five-game winning streak and two straight overtime wins. But on Friday night at Reese Stadium they will go up against another one of the hottest teams in college lacrosse right now.
The No. 19 Bryant Bulldogs have won ten games in a row and will be looking to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in their first game against another ranked opponent.
Yale is coming off a thrilling overtime win over the Seawolves of Stony Brook. Midfielder Greg Mahony ’12 needed only one minute and six seconds of overtime to find the net and bring the small but energetic crowd of Yale supporters to its feet. Mahony had one of his best games of the season against Stony Brook and recorded his second hat trick of the year.
But Bryant will be coming in with a sparking midfielder of its own. Brian Schlansker had three goals at Bryant’s most recent contest against Quinnipiac, and the freshman has scored seven goals in Bryant’s last four games.
The Yale defense has been playing well, averaging 8.8 goals against during the current winning streak. The unit has been playing particularly well against opposing teams’ midfield units and has not conceded three goals in one game to a single midfielder in almost a month.
One key to the defense’s effectiveness recently has been forcing turnovers. The Elis rank fifth in the nation in caused turnovers. Defensemen Michael McCormack ’13 and Peter Johnson ’13 are fifth and 17th, respectively, in the country at causing turnovers, and their stellar play has anchored the Bulldog defense.
Also crucial to the Bulldogs’ success has been the dominance of faceoff specialist Dylan Levings ’14. Levings owns a .641 winning percentage at the X — good enough for fifth in the nation — and his .692 mark in Ivy competition is even better. Between the defense’s caused turnovers and Levings’ faceoff prowess, the Elis can always count on controlling their share of possessions.
On the offensive side of the ball, Mahony has been aided by attackers Matt Gibson ’12 and Deron Dempster ’13. Dempster has been one of Yale’s key players during this five-game winning streak. In his first game back from injury against Penn, the junior scored five goals, including the game winner with 11.9 seconds left. He has scored 15 goals in the last five games and has been a major sparkplug for the Bulldogs’ offense.
Gibson has been even hotter. He had two goals and four groundballs for Yale on Monday, only a few days after scoring a season-high five goals against Brown last weekend. Gibson has totaled 14 goals in his last four games and shows no signs of slowing down as Harvard and the Ivy League Tournament approach.
“We’ve been playing our best lacrosse of the season the last couple games,” Gibson said, “and we don’t want that to slip away. We’re going to try to use [these non-league games] to build up our momentum so we end up playing at our highest level in May.”
The Bulldogs have clinched a spot in the Ivy League Tournament, although their season finale against Harvard could determine their seed. This will be head coach Andy Shay’s third straight trip to the Ivy League Tournament.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.