The No. 13 men’s lacrosse team, buoyed by balanced scoring and tenacious second-half defense, blew open a close game in the third quarter, scoring four goals en route to a 10-6 opening victory over No. 19 St. John’s. The Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) had eight different goal scorers while holding the Red Storm (1–1, 0–0 Big East) to three goals in either half.

“We weren’t good off the ground and we turned over a lot of possessions, but everyone stuck to the process and played one play at a time,” said captain Jimmy Craft ’14. “This was a big team effort and a big team win. Now that we have the first game jitters behind us, we can move forward and get better each day.”

The much-maligned Eli defense looked tough on Saturday, with solid defensive play from the whole unit. In net, second-year starter Eric Natale ’15 made 10 saves, including three crucial stops in the fourth quarter when St. John’s was pressing for a comeback. Craft and Michael Quinn ’16 each had three controlled takeaways, while Quinn led the team with five ground balls. Freshman Christopher Keating ’17, one of three rookies to start for the Elis, made his first collegiate start and had two controlled takeaways.

“Going into Saturday we had a game plan that everyone was completely confident in,” Craft said. “We knew that if we did our jobs individually that we were going to shut them down. It was definitely a step in the right direction for the defense, however we have a ton to keep working on and we simply have to get better in killing possessions by picking up tough groundballs.”

Even though preseason all-Ivy selection Harry Kucharczyk ’15 missed the game due to injury, the Bulldogs’ defensive midfielders were a force to be reckoned with. Midfielders Alex Otero ’14 and Jackson Logie ’14, along with long-stick midfielders Reily Naton ’16 and Jack Ambrose ’14, helped the defense restrict a St. John’s offense that had 15 goals in its last game to just six goals on 29 shots.

The Eli offense spread the rock around against the Red Storm, getting four points from attackmen, nine from midfielders and one from defense. Attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 scored the first goal of Yale’s 2014 season halfway through the first quarter. The rookie found the back of the net off a feed from face-off specialist Dylan Levings ’14 after one of the midfielder’s 13 wins from the face-off x.

After the first quarter the game was tied 2–2, but the Bulldogs lit up the Red Storm’s goal in the second period with 14 shots, scoring three goals to open up a lead. Yale’s star attackmen, Conrad Oberbeck ’15 and Brandon Mangan ’14, scored their first goals of the season, helping the Bulldogs go into the half up 5–3.

Midfielders Mark Glicini ’16 and Eric Scott ’17 each scored shortly after the half to expand the lead to 7–4. In the third period, however, the Bulldogs were pressed by the St. John’s offense, which outshot the Elis 10–8 and threatened to get back into the game. But with less than four minutes remaining in the quarter, Craft broke the back of the Red Storm’s defense, scoring from 20 yards after great collective-play by Yale’s defensive unit. Midfielder Sean Shakespeare ’15 checked an opposing player, causing a ground ball that Quinn scooped up. The sophomore raced up field and found his defensive partner, Craft, open in space to receive his pass. Yale’s captain approached the goal unguarded, eventually releasing a hard bounce shot that nestled in the net for an 8–4 lead. The defenseman’s goal took the sting out of the Red Storm, who was never able to effectively respond.

“Jimmy’s goal was a huge momentum surge,” midfielder Colin Flaherty ‘15 said. “It happened at a critical part of the game and we never looked back.”

St. John’s star attackman Kieran McArdle, who had five points on the day, scored with just 47 second left in the third. The Bulldogs responded after Levings won yet another face-off, allowing midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16 to score his second of the game with just eight seconds remaining in the quarter to restore the Elis’ four goal cushion. Mangan and McArdle each scored in the fourth quarter to finish off the scoring at 10–6.

“Offensively we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked,” Mangan said. “We did a lot of good things, yet it could have been better. That said, it was great to have such balanced scoring. It’s great to see guys like Jimmy Craft and Mark Glicini go coast-to-coast to score a goal. Before Bryant we could really improve on our pace of play and starting the game a little stronger.”

The Bulldogs head east to face the Bryant Bulldogs next Saturday. Face-off for the game is set for 1 p.m.