The No. 6 Yale men’s lacrosse team traveled to Bryant on Saturday, looking to extend its perfect start to the season. And the Elis did so in convincing fashion, winning 14–4 to begin a three-game stretch lasting eight days.
Yale (3–0, 0–0 Ivy) excelled across the board on Saturday, executing on offense while relentlessly defending all afternoon as it outshot Bryant (3–2, 0–0 Northeast) 49–25.
“We had a good plan on offense and tried to play patiently and unselfishly,” midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 said. “We tried to not make any home-run plays but rather slowly let good plays stack on top of each other.”
Yale’s offense did not panic after falling behind 1–0 in only five-and-a-half minutes of play. Less than a minute after Bryant’s opening goal, attackman Jack Tigh ’19 found the net on a feed from Keasey. Tigh then picked up a ground ball at midfield to start a fast break finished off by attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17, who picked up his third goal of the season. Yale kept its foot on the gas pedal as Keasey, attackman Ben Reeves ’18 and midfielder Joe Sessa ’19 each beat their men in quick succession as the Elis scored three more times in the first quarter to go up 5–1.
Keasey finished the day with three goals and an assist. Sessa, who found the net for the first time in his collegiate career, matched Keasey’s three scores. Reeves scored twice and added an assist to remain the team leader in both categories, with eight and five, respectively. The final score would have been more lopsided had Bryant’s goalie Gunnar Waldt not made 12 saves.
In addition to scoring points, the offense also helped out the defense by limiting Bryant’s possessions and making it challenging for Bryant to clear the ball out of its defensive zone.
“The attacking midfielders really hustled and rode the ball hard,” captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said. “They created some turnovers in Bryant’s defensive end.”
As a whole, Yale forced 16 Bryant turnovers while committing 10 of its own.
The Elis also did a great job of covering Bryant attackman Tucker James, who entered the contest having led his team with 17 points through four games. Quinn drew the matchup against James and held him without a goal or assist for the entire game.
“One of the principles of our defense is to set a wide perimeter,” Quinn said. “We can do this because we’ve got some really athletic defenders. When we are able to get our sticks into offensive player’s hands, we cause some turmoil for those guys.”
Bryant faced continuous pressure from the Yale defense, as Quinn and his teammates hassled the home team with constant checks.
After forcing the ball out on numerous occasions, Yale was often able to collect the ensuing ground ball. When all was said and done, the Elis had scooped up 31 of the 54 ground balls in the contest.
“We had a good scout on Bryant coming in,” goalie Phil Huffard ’18 said. “As a whole we communicated well and limited their second chances. We made them put the ball on the ground and were able to pick it up and get it to our offense.”
Huffard made 11 saves, the most of his three collegiate starts. His save percentage has increased every game, improving from 0.333 against UMass Lowell to 0.545 against Maryland and 0.786 Saturday against Bryant.
The season began with many unanswered questions about how the Bulldogs would replace Eric Natale ’15 in net, who led the Ivy League in goals-against average his senior year. Huffard has started to show that head coach Andrew Shay may have found his answer.
“The more experience I get the more confidence I take from it,” Huffard said. “Experiencing the highs and the lows has helped me grow. Obviously we’ve been successful this season but there have been some rough patches in the games and we have learned how to reset.”
Yale also showed significant improvement at the faceoff X. Midfielder Jonathan Reese ’16 won 15 of 20 efforts, his best performance thus far this season. Reese won all but one of the seven faceoffs in the first quarter, facilitating the offense’s five-goal run to close out the period.
Although these improvements may boost the Elis’ confidence, they will not have much time to celebrate the victory. The Bulldogs play St. John’s at home on Tuesday, their first of two midweek games all season, and travel to Fairfield on Saturday.
“Midweek games are tough,” Keasey said. “You only have one day to prepare and St. John’s is a really strong opponent. With Tuesday games, Monday is usually a shorter practice as we try to mentally prepare.”
This is the second consecutive season that the Bulldogs have started the season with three straight wins. The 2015 squad, which played an identical slate of opponents, opened 5–0 after overtime wins versus St. John’s and Fairfield.