Coming off of a dominant season-opening win at home against an overmatched UMass-Lowell, the No. 14 men’s lacrosse team will play host to a significantly tougher opponent this weekend — No. 7 Maryland. This Saturday, the Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) host Maryland (1–0, 0–0 Big Ten), a traditional national powerhouse and a tough early-season test of this team’s ability to compete with the country’s best programs.
“As a team, we feel as though our biggest key is just to play fundamental lacrosse for 60 minutes,” midfielder Jonathan Reese ’16 said. “We can’t try and get too flashy or out of character, because then we get away from our process that makes us successful.”
Last weekend, the Bulldogs quickly took care of business against the River Hawks, a team entering Division I competition for the first time in program history. After surrendering a surprise early goal, the Elis fired off 12 straight tallies to take a commanding lead heading into the locker room, allowing many of their younger or less-experienced players a chance to get a feel for the game in the second half.
Against UMass, both returning stars and promising newcomers made an impact for the Bulldogs. Attackmen Conrad Oberbeck ’15 and Ben Reeves ’18 tied for the team lead with six points each, and midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 and attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 added another five goals between the two of them. Face-off specialists Reese and Conor Mackie ’18 combined to win 17 of 20 face-offs as well, a promising sign for a team worried about replacing star face-off specialist Dylan Levings ’14.
While the tune-up against UMass-Lowell was not a competitive matchup for the Bulldogs, players still feel it served an important role in preparing the team for its showdown with Maryland this weekend.
“We have one game under our belt. Hopefully we can get over our pre-game jitters and come out against Maryland more confidently,” Oberbeck said. “Each player now has more game experience, and we hope that can translate to more maturity out on the field, especially if the pressure and the stakes are raised.”
For Maryland, a program which has reached 12 consecutive NCAA tournaments and began their 2015 season with a dominant 8–1 victory over Navy, early-season non-conference wins have been the norm. The Terrapins are 37–2 all-time in February games, and they have also won their past 10 matchups with the Bulldogs. Most recently, when the two teams faced off in College Park in 2013, Maryland escaped with an 8–7 victory.
“They are a very good team that we respect highly,” Reese said. “We know that in order to be successful, we have to be very good at being tough off the ground and disciplined with the ball.”
In many ways, the Terrapins provide an especially tough matchup for the Elis. Although they graduated two first team All-American midfielders and the first team All-American goalie, the Terps still return many key pieces from last year’s third-ranked defense and will look to shut down the high-powered Bulldog attack. Additionally, Maryland employs a preseason All-American face-off specialist, Charlie Raffa, who won over 68 percent of his face-offs in 2014 and should provide a significant test for the unproven Bulldog face-off corps.
Regardless of the game’s outcome, Yale’s veterans understand the importance of learning and gaining experience from high-intensity contests like this one.
“They have a really talented and well balanced offense, a strong face-off guy and a goalie who’s saving 90 percent on the year,” defenseman Mike Quinn ’16 said. “This is going to be one of our biggest tests we face this season, and having a game like this so early on will be a good benchmark for us moving forward.”
The Bulldogs take on Maryland at Reese Stadium on Saturday. Face-off is set for 12 p.m.