The men’s lacrosse team entered their contest at Albany this weekend wielding a top-10 national ranking and riding a winning streak in which the Bulldogs played some of their best lacrosse of the season.
But the Great Danes had an equally impressive resume. While Yale was able to overcome a four-goal deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead, the Bulldogs (9–3, 3–2 Ivy) ultimately fell to Albany (11–2, 5–0 America East) by a single goal, losing 12–11 and dropping their first game in nearly a month.
While the Albany-Yale matchup was hyped as an even contest between two top-10 teams, the Bulldogs appeared overmatched at the game’s outset. Albany opened up a 3–0 lead by the middle of the first quarter, and when attackman Seth Oakes scored off of a feed from Tewaaraton Award winner and attackman Lyle Thompson to extend the first-half lead to 6–2, there were no signs that Yale would remain competitive.
But the Bulldogs came roaring back in the second half. After falling behind 8–4, the Bulldogs rattled off three consecutive goals, including two in a 10-second span late in the third quarter. Thompson scored to extend the Great Danes’ lead to two as the quarter closed, but Yale had shown signs of life.
The Elis took their first lead of the game in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Attackman Ben Reeves ’18 scored the last of three Yale goals recorded in a 54-second span to break the tie, giving the Bulldogs a 10–9 lead.
Albany answered with its own trifecta of goals and then shut down Yale’s offense until a goal from midfielder Eric Scott ’17 with only 36 seconds left, leaving the Bulldogs without enough time to find the net once more and tie the score.
Describing Yale’s streaky scoring, Scott pointed to aggressiveness as a key to the Elis’ struggles.
“In the first half, we weren’t being aggressive enough,” Scott said. “But then in the second half when we got aggressive, we got sloppy with the ball on a few possessions and gave up turnovers that we couldn’t afford.”
Despite the loss, a number of players excelled in Saturday’s contest. In particular, Scott tallied a career-high four goals, three of which were unassisted.
While Scott did much of the offensive heavy lifting by himself, he credited Yale’s other threats for creating the openings he was able to find.
“Personally, I had some success because the other guys on our offense did a great job of occupying their man off-ball,” Scott said. “A lot of times, that left me with a one-on-one matchup with room to operate.”
In addition, all three of Yale’s starting attackmen — Reeves, Conrad Oberbeck ’15 and Jeff Cimbalista ’17 — scored two goals, with Reeves adding an assist to boot.
On the faceoff X, specialist Conor Mackie ’18, who had not appeared in a game since March 28, won 13 of his 18 faceoffs, led the team with 10 ground balls and added an assist. Jon Reese ’16 was also solid in his faceoff opportunities, converting five of eight chances. Mackie cited the pair’s preparation for their success against Albany’s faceoff team.
“We had a great week of practice, game-planning for the different long-pole look that they gave us at the X,” Mackie said. “We really just executed there.”
Despite the excellent play from Yale’s offensive stars and their dominant faceoff performance, Albany’s trio of offensive powerhouses overwhelmed the Bulldogs on the other end of the field.
Thompson, the nation’s undisputed top performer, continued to have his way with opposing defenses, contributing three goals and four assists to add to his nation-leading 85 points this season. Oakes and Connor Fields, both of whom rank among the top 10 nationally in goals per game, benefited from Thompson’s brilliance. Two of Oakes’ four goals and two of Fields’ three were assisted by Thompson.
While these three players were deservedly the focus of the Bulldogs’ defensive game plan, keying in on individuals may have detracted from Yale’s overall team-based mindset.
“Albany had some great individuals that get a lot of hype,” Mackie said, “and we may have gotten caught up in that. Going forward it’s going to be important to focus on us and what we do as a team, dictating tempo, dominating the ground-ball war and maintaining the Yale lacrosse process.”
Yale moves on from the Albany loss to their final regular season game, a showdown with Ivy League archrival Harvard. While the postseason remains the team’s ultimate goal, both Scott and Mackie cited Saturday’s matchup against the Crimson as a game that they look forward to and a chance for the Bulldogs to build momentum headed into the Ivy tournament.
Yale faces Harvard in Cambridge on Saturday. Faceoff is at 4 p.m.