In front of over 3,000 spectators at Reese Stadium, the No. 7 Yale men’s lacrosse team knocked off No. 4 Maryland 8–5 in its home opener on Saturday afternoon, less than a year removed from the Terrapins’ 8–7 NCAA Tournament victory over the Elis.
In a matchup that featured two of last year’s top defenses in the country, the Bulldogs (2–0, 0–0 Ivy) earned the victory largely by winning that defensive battle. After turning the ball over eight times in the first half, Yale tightened up its game and outscored Maryland (1–1, 0–0 ACC) 6–2 over the final 31 minutes of play.
“The game got sloppy at times and the ball did not always bounce our way, but we battled through adversity and that’s what we pride ourselves in,” midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16 said. “When things get tough, we stick to our fundamentals.”
The game began, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a back-and-forth, low-scoring contest. Maryland got out to three separate one-goal leads in the first half — 1–0, 2–1 and 3–2 — but the Elis fought back to net an equalizer on each occasion.
The last of those goals, from attackman Ben Reeves ’18, gave the Bulldogs vital momentum heading into halftime. Yale’s defense forced a shot clock violation by Maryland with 18 seconds remaining, and the Elis cleared, giving Reeves a chance to dodge and score from the right side with just six seconds remaining in the half.
When the Bulldogs emerged from the locker room for the third quarter, they never looked back. Bonacci scored on the first possession of the second half, giving Yale its first advantage of the game.
With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 had a clean look at goal, but his shot was saved by Maryland goalie and preseason All-American Kyle Bernlohr, who saved seven shots on Saturday. However, less than 30 seconds later, Cimbalista found himself open again in front of the goal and buried his shot past Bernlohr to give the Bulldogs a 5–3 lead.
Long-stick midfielder Reilly Naton ’16 added to the lead on a fast break with 13:24 to play in the fourth quarter, one of many instances on the day where Yale’s stonewall defense created opportunities for its offense.
“We had success by sticking to the scouting report, doing the little things right and playing Yale defense,” Naton said.
Midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 and Reeves each scored in the final frame to ice the game for the Bulldogs despite a two-goal surge by the Terrapins with two minutes to play. Keasey and Reeves led Yale with two goals each. Reeves now leads the team through two games in both goals and assists, with six and four, respectively.
Despite the big performances by Keasey and Reeves, Yale’s offense struggled at times. The Elis converted on none of their five extra-man opportunities, often squandering the man-advantage with an early turnover.
“We struggled in the first half and tried to force some shots,” Keasey said.
The defense ultimately carried the day for Yale, forcing 18 turnovers from the highly regarded Terrapins. Defender Christopher Keating ’17 led the Elis with four caused turnovers.
Even when Yale’s defense did not recover possession, the unit checked the ball out of Maryland sticks on multiple occasions, preventing the Terrapins from developing any sustained offensive rhythm. In total, Maryland outshot the Bulldogs 34–24 but just 11 of those 34 attempts were on goal.
Much of that shot advantage came from the Terrapins dominating possession throughout the contest. Maryland faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen won 13 of the game’s 16 faceoffs.
“It seems like we played defense for the entire first half,” Quinn said.
Yale goalie Phil Huffard ’18, facing a tough challenge in just his second collegiate start, saved six of 11 shots on target from Maryland to move to 2–0 on the season.
The Bulldogs hope to carry the momentum from this weekend when they travel to Bryant on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest.