The No. 6 Yale men’s lacrosse team is off to a hot start after defeating UMass Lowell 17–7 and knocking off then-No. 4 Maryland 8–5. The Elis will look to keep the momentum going as they travel to Bryant this Saturday.
Yale’s season has opened much the same way it did in 2015, when the Bulldogs took down Maryland — en route to a 5–0 start to the season — before posting just a 3–3 record in Ivy League play. With that history in mind, this year’s Elis (2–0, 0–0 Ivy) are making sure not to celebrate early season success.
“We need to keep the pedal to the metal,” captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said. “We beat Maryland at home last year in the second game of the season, and we thought we achieved something and took our foot off the gas. We must reset after every game.”
Quinn and his teammates will face a Bryant team (3–1, 0–0 NEC) that has shown offensive firepower in the early going, averaging 13.5 goals per game. Although the Bryant Bulldogs have yet to face a ranked opponent, the matchup should provide a formidable nonconference test for the Yale defense.
Bryant attackmen Tucker James and Shane Morrell are the central weapons in Bryant’s offense, having combined for 17 goals and 11 assists through four games. Last year in a 16–9 Eli win over Bryant, Morrell scored four times and James added another three.
Yale’s defense, meanwhile, has quickly proven itself a top unit nationally in the Elis’ first two games. Yale’s average of six goals allowed per game is now tied for fourth in the country. Yale has also caused 10 turnovers per game, good enough to put the team in a tie for third best nationally.
On the other end of the field, midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 noted that the Elis, who have received goals from 12 players through two games, will need another balanced attack this weekend. In last season’s contest against Bryant, Yale’s offensive stars all contributed, with attackman Ben Reeves ’18, attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 and midfielder Eric Scott ’17 each scoring three times.
“We try to play unselfish and stick to our menu, as we call it,” said Keasey, who scored twice against Maryland last week. “We let the ball do the work for us.”
That style of play may be important for Yale to beat Bryant goalie Gunnar Waldt, who was named the Northeast Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week after his effort last weekend against Hartford. Waldt is averaging nearly 12 saves per game and is on the preseason watch list for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate lacrosse player.
In addition to that challenge, Yale will look to improve upon several facets of its game that the team struggled with last week.
The Elis won just three of 16 faceoffs in the Maryland game, and will be challenged at the faceoff X again this weekend against a Bryant team that has won 57 percent of its faceoffs on the year.
Ground balls were also an issue for the Bulldogs against Maryland, as Yale picked up only 13 of 46 ground balls. Gaining possessions by picking up ground balls and winning faceoffs will help keep the ball out of the stick of attackmen such as James, who comes into the contest as the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
“We need to improve on our ground ball play,” Bonacci said. “We take pride in being a tough team to beat off of the ground. It is still early in the season, and generally speaking we hope to get better as individuals and as a team each and every day.”
Saturday’s game will be played in Rhode Island at 1 p.m.