The No. 9 Yale men’s lacrosse team, with national championship aspirations, took a good first step on Saturday in its season opener. The Bulldogs proved why they have such high hopes in a 17–7 rout against UMass Lowell.
Yale (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) caught fire with its high energy and strong play, particularly from underclassmen, on the way to outshooting the River Hawks (0–2, 0–0 American East) 47–20.
“The biggest takeaway from Saturday was that we are going to need some freshmen and sophomores to step into their roles and play big,” captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said.
Most prominently among those players expected to step up was attackman Ben Reeves ’18, who picked up right where he left off after being named Ivy League Rookie of the Year last season. On Saturday, Reeves led the team with four goals and three assists, including the team’s first goal of the season just 55 seconds into the contest.
Yale also received major contributions from freshmen. Midfielder Jack Tigh ’19 earned a start, before notching his first collegiate assist in the first quarter and scoring his first collegiate goal in the third. Attackman Brendan Rooney ’19 led all freshmen with three goals, which was second overall only to Reeves. Additionally, midfielder John Daniggelis ’19 scored twice and Brendan Mackie ’19, considered by Inside Lacrosse to be the seventh-best freshman midfielder nationally, tallied his first goal at the end of the first quarter.
Beyond the impressive play of the team’s underclassmen, several seniors also excelled as they embarked on their final collegiate campaign. Midfielder Mike Bonacci ’16 looked crisp as he returned from an ACL injury that caused him to miss the final nine games of last season.
“My knee feels great. I am getting more comfortable with it every day,” said Bonacci, who scored on his lone shot attempt of the afternoon. “It was awesome to be back out there with the team.”
Besides the final scoreline, Yale dominated UMass Lowell statistically in virtually every facet of the game. The Bulldogs picked up 51 ground balls compared to just 29 for the River Hawks. Yale also won 18 of 28 faceoffs, with midfielder Jonathan Reese ’16 leading the way by winning 10 of his 15 faceoffs.
Defensively, the Elis also forced 22 turnovers and conceded a mere two goals in the first three quarters. By the beginning of the fourth, Yale possessed a 16–2 advantage, one that would swell to 17–2 just 42 seconds into the fourth and final quarter.
“Everyone was working on all cylinders. We executed the game plan as we prepared during the week,” Quinn said of the defense.
The Bulldogs featured a tenacious ride — lacrosse’s equivalent of a full-court press in basketball. The ride gave Yale numerous extra possessions, as UMass Lowell successfully cleared the ball on only seven of its 16 attempts, unable to effectively handle the Eli pressure.
“We worked on that particular ride throughout the week,” Quinn said.
As the defense showed its might, the offense showed its ability to score in a variety of ways. The Bulldogs took advantage of a lethargic defense on multiple restarts, scoring before the River Hawks could effectively set up their defense.
At the same time, Yale’s offense showed patience when the initial opportunity did not present itself.
“Our team thrives off unselfish play and always looking for the offense to develop rather than trying to be the hero,” Reeves said.
Attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 matched Reeves’ three assists to tie for the team lead, in addition to notching a first-quarter goal.
Yale also converted on three of five extra-man opportunities, while the River Hawks went 0–2.
“It was a good overall team win,” Bonacci said. “But we still have a lot of things we need to improve on.”
The Bulldogs turned the ball over nine times in the second half, including six in the fourth quarter, while UMass Lowell finished the game with five unanswered goals.
The biggest question coming into the season related to the replacement in net for goalie Eric Natale ’15, who led the Ivy League in goals against average last year. Phil Huffard ’18 got the start and although he faced limited shots because of Yale’s dominance of possession, he did concede two goals on three shots. Hoyt Crance ’19 played the fourth quarter and saved four shots while allowing five goals.
“It was a tough game. We did not respond with the energy needed to compete at this level,” UMass Lowell coach Ed Stephenson said.
Despite the result, the River Hawks did see promise from midfielder Sam Klingsporn who scored three goals and freshman goalie Grant Lardieri, who made nine saves on 25 shots while enduring the Bulldogs’ barrage.
Yale will return to action this weekend in its home-opener. On Saturday, the Bulldogs will take on No. 4 Maryland, the team that knocked Yale out of last year’s NCAA Tournament, at 1 p.m. at Reese Stadium.