After beginning the season with a 17–7 win over UMass Lowell, the No. 7 Yale men’s lacrosse team moves on this weekend to face one of its biggest challenges of the year. No. 5 Maryland, the team that knocked Yale out of last season’s NCAA Tournament, visits Reese Stadium on Saturday in an early season top-10 matchup.
The Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) will need a complete effort against the Terrapins (1–0, 0–0 Big Ten) in order to avenge the devastating end to last season.
“Maryland is a very talented team, so we need to execute the game plan on both sides of the ball for us to be successful,” midfielder Mike Bonacci ’16 said.
The Bulldogs were able to gain confidence for the matchup during a strong performance in their season opener. Yale’s defense held UMass Lowell to two goals in the first three quarters, and Yale’s offense showed its diversity and patience as 10 Bulldogs found the net.
Most prominent of those scorers was attackman and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Ben Reeves ’18, who led the team with four goals and three assists.
“We want to be able to use that momentum and bring it into this Saturday,” Reeves said of the effort last weekend.
Yale will be going up against an entirely different beast facing the nation’s fifth-ranked team, which met with the Bulldogs twice last season. Yale won the regular season meeting 10–6 on Feb. 21, 2015, but narrowly fell to the Terrapins 8–7 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament less than three months later.
In that season-ending loss, Yale held a three-goal lead with 13:17 remaining in the fourth quarter but proceeded to allow four goals before the game’s end. An Eli shot that would have tied the game with 20 seconds on the clock hit off the crossbar and appeared to bounce inside the net, but it was not ruled a goal by the officials. Yale’s season ended as Maryland progressed to its third championship game in five years, losing 10–5 to Denver.
However, both teams have since lost key players from last season, making the two lineups look quite different heading into the rematch. Yale has graduated five starters from 2015, including attackman Conrad Oberbreck ’15 and midfielder Colin Flaherty ’15, who collectively scored seven of the Bulldogs’ 17 goals in last season’s two battles with Maryland. Yale appears to have reloaded with its freshman class, which combined for seven goals in last week’s win over UMass Lowell.
The Terrapins, meanwhile, have replaced four starters, including midfielder Joe LoCasio, who found the net three times in the NCAA Tournament matchup. Although Maryland will be without LoCasio, the Bulldog defense will have to contend with attackmen Matt Rambo and Dylan Maltz, who combined for five goals in Maryland’s 15–10 defeat of High Point last weekend. Midfielder Henry West also returns after scoring the go-ahead goal in last years’ tournament game against the Bulldogs.
Maryland’s greatest strength, however, may be its defense, led by preseason All-American goalie Kyle Bernlohr. The Terrapins led the nation with just 7.05 goals allowed per game last season, and although they graduated two starting defenders from that 2015 lineup, they have since acquired Virginia transfer Greg Danseglio, who was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his performance last weekend.
Considering the stinginess of Maryland’s defensive unit, captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 noted that every possession will be crucial on Saturday.
“We need to win the ground ball battle and play gritty,” Quinn said.
If playing gritty is what is required in Saturday’s matchup, then Yale set itself up well last weekend, leading UMass Lowell 51–29 in ground balls.
Still, Yale benefited from a UMass Lowell team that turned the ball over on nine of its 16 clearing attempts, and the Bulldog ride may not find that same success against Maryland. The Terrapins cleared all 16 of their attempts against High Point last weekend.
Maryland has won 10 of the 12 official games played between the schools. The 13th contest between the Bulldogs and Terrapins starts at 1 p.m. at Reese Stadium.