The No. 7/9 Yale men’s lacrosse team continues its quest to climb back up the Ivy League standings with a key matchup against No. 12 Brown tomorrow.
Despite a pair of conference losses early on this season, the Bulldogs (8–2, 2–2 Ivy) remain in control of their own destiny heading into the home contest at Reese Stadium. A win against Brown (8–2, 2–1) combined with a win at Harvard in two weeks would guarantee Yale a spot in the four-team Ivy League tournament. A loss, meanwhile, puts the Elis at risk of losing their fourth-place spot in the conference standings and in danger of losing an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
In order to avoid that scenario, Yale, potentially playing its final home game of 2015, will need to stop a Brown offense that currently ranks second in the nation in scoring with 15.6 goals per game.
“[Brown] likes to attack early in its offense and catch defenses off guard,” defenseman Michael Quinn ’16 said. “For us to be successful, we are going to have to defend their early offense and have a heightened sense of urgency.”
Central to that fast-paced Brown offense is sophomore attackman Dylan Molloy, who leads the nation with 44 goals in 10 games this season — 16 more than the 28 goals that attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15, Yale’s leading scorer, has tallied in 2015.
The Bulldog defense struggled the last time it faced attackmen with similar statistics. Princeton’s Mike MacDonald and Kip Orban, two of the top 12 scorers in Division I, combined for six goals and four assists in the Tigers’ 11–10 win on March 21st.
But Yale’s defense has shown considerable improvement since that game. The Elis are now ranked seventh nationally with an Ivy League-best 7.60 goals allowed per game, following three consecutive games of allowing seven or fewer goals over the past two weeks. The merits of that defensive performance are clear: Yale is now on a three-game winning streak that it can extend to four tomorrow.
Defenseman Alirio DeMeireles ’15 attributed part of Yale’s defensive success to the offense’s ability to control time of possession. He added that the defense has done a good job with communication, on-ball defense and off-ball movement.
“Most importantly, we play with a certain humility that keeps us in a ‘cornered dog’ mentality,” DeMeireles said.
Brown’s defense, meanwhile, has fallen to 38th in the country with 10.30 goals allowed per game, following a 14–11 loss to Penn last Saturday.
Yale, ranked fifth in the Ivy League but 13th nationwide in scoring, may be able to take advantage of the mismatch and win in a potential high-scoring shootout.
“We have an incredible offense that goes head-to-head with one of the nation’s top defensive units every day at practice,” captain and midfielder Harry Kucharczyk ’15 said. “Both sides compete and get better every practice.”
Tomorrow’s contest begins a stretch of three consecutive top-25 opponents through the end of Yale’s regular season. The Elis are 2–2 against such teams this season after losses to No. 10 Cornell and No. 18/14 Princeton, a win over No. 20 Fairfield and a notable 10–6 victory over No. 3 Maryland, whose only loss came at the hands of the Elis.
Though the upcoming games against strong teams will either make or break the Elis’ chances at a tournament bid, Kucharczyk said that he is too focused on the present to think about playoff chances.
“There is too much parity in college lacrosse today to predict playoff odds,” Kucharczyk said. “Even with three games left in the season there is still a very wide range to how our season could end. We have harped on taking it one game at a time and letting the bracketologists decide our ranking.”
The opening face off from Reese Stadium is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Jonathan Marx contributed reporting.