The men’s lacrosse team got off to a scorching start this season, winning their first five games in February and early March and rising to No. 6 in the national rankings.
After a two-game slip-up in the early part of the Ivy League schedule, the Bulldogs fell to seventh in the national rankings but have gone on another long winning streak. With a win tomorrow against No. 8 Albany (10–2, 5–0 America East), the Elis (9–2, 3–2 Ivy) can equal their season-opening five-game win streak and build momentum heading into postseason play.
Defeating the Great Danes will not be an easy task, however. Albany boasts the nation’s most formidable offense, scoring 17 goals per game, more than 1.5 times second place Syracuse. In one four-game stretch in March, the Great Danes scored 96 goals.
“They have an extremely high-powered offense capable of putting up absurd numbers,” defenseman Alirio DeMeireles ’15 said.
Two Albany players, sophomore Seth Oakes and freshman Connor Fields, rank in the nation’s top 10 in goal scoring. Nonetheless, despite those gaudy totals, neither Oakes nor Fields will be the center of Yale’s defensive attention.
The Bulldogs have constructed their entire defensive game plan around shutting down Albany senior attackman Lyle Thompson, the consensus best player in the country and national leader in points per game. Indeed, when asked to pinpoint the key to an Eli victory, DeMeireles and attackman JW McGovern ’16 focused on the team effort and communication required to stop Thompson as a team rather than merely assigning him to an individual defender.
Thompson leads the nation with a whopping 6.5 points per game, ranking first overall in assists per game and 19th in goals per game. In his junior season, he set the NCAA record for points in a single season while sharing the Tewaaraton Award with his older brother.
“[He’s] arguably the best player in the country; the best player in the world,” McGovern said. “He’s definitely going to be a handful for our defense, but I think Michael Quinn … and our whole defense is going to do a phenomenal job defending him.”
Thompson, not surprisingly, was drafted first overall in the 2015 Major League Lacrosse draft, which also saw Yale star attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15 selected in the sixth round.
Just like the Bulldogs, Albany comes into Saturday’s contest riding a hot streak, having won three consecutive games against America East opponents Vermont, Binghamton and Bryant. The Great Danes’ only losses have come against Syracuse and Cornell, both consensus top-10 teams.
Despite facing a challenging opponent, the Bulldogs feel confident with their level of play. But with senior day behind them and road trips to Albany and Harvard remaining on the schedule, Yale must find its comfort zone while playing in hostile road environments.
“Road games add more adversity,” defenseman Camyar Matini ’17 said. “Whether it’s the tiring traveling process or the heckling away crowd, road games bring another element to the game. We’ve been trying to work on mental toughness all year, so the next two games will be a great test for us.”
After facing the Great Danes and the Crimson, Yale will return home to await its Ivy and NCAA tournament fate. When asked about the postseason, though, DeMeireles emphasized that the Bulldogs are focused on the task at hand.
“All I care about is the fact that we have an enormous game this Saturday night,” DeMeireles said. “Successful teams take the season one game at a time.”
The Bulldogs visit Albany on Saturday. Face-off is at 7 p.m.