While battling St. John’s on Tuesday night, the No. 4 Yale men’s lacrosse team was knocked down, but refused to be knocked out. Down at the half, the Bulldogs managed to avoid an upset and maintained their perfect record in the process.
The Elis entered Reese Stadium on Tuesday with their highest-ever national ranking, while St. John’s was fresh off its first victory of the season. Yale trailed the Red Storm at the end of the first quarter and halftime, reaching a low point of 7–1 fewer than four minutes into the third. But through seven consecutive goals and a strong final frame, Yale came back to win 13–8.
“We knew this was going to be a battle and our coach stressed that in games like these we need to be the better team and to stick to what we do — I think we did a great job of that and were resilient on offense,” said midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16, who added two goals and one assist in the victory. “We never got away from what we do, despite only one first-half goal. We are happy to come out with a win against an underrated St. John’s team and now we have to turn the page and start preparing for Fairfield, who gives us a great game every year.”
Bonacci added that the Red Storm’s goalie Joseph Danaher played exceptionally well in the first half, offsetting the fact that Yale outshot St. John’s 27–11.
Nevertheless, the Red Storm capitalized on its early opportunities, going up by two at the end of the first quarter and finishing the half up by four. Eric DeJohn, a St. John’s senior, registered two assists and a goal in the first half and assisted on two additional goals at the start of the third, extending their lead to six.
“We got away from playing our game in the first half and made a good amount of mistakes on defense,” captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said. “We weren’t really feeling the pressure though, we knew that if we stuck to the process and focused on making one play at a time that we would get back into the game.”
Attackman Ben Reeves ’18 said at halftime, the team discussed the importance of focusing on the next play rather than the scoreboard. The team had been playing well, he said, but just not finishing at the net.
Facing the prospect of their first defeat of the young season, the Bulldogs stepped up to the plate and scored seven unanswered goals in the third quarter to go up 8–7. Reeves led the comeback, registering all three of his goals during the Yale run. Entering the fourth tied at eight apiece, the Bulldogs scored five additional goals and shut the Red Storm out to win by five, nearly matching their average margin of victory of more than seven goals per win.
Goalie Phil Huffard ’18, who moved to 4–0 in his career after his seven-save performance, said he and the rest of the team had to buckle down in the second half and especially the fourth quarter.
“As a goalie you’re always looking to play your best in the fourth quarter,” Huffard said. “It took our defense some time to settle in and understand what they were trying to do. By the fourth quarter we felt pretty comfortable with the game plan we had and we just had to execute.”
Huffard added that an adjustment made at halftime proved effective at shutting down DeJohn — who he described as the team’s “best player” — for the remainder of the game. After his two assists to open the second half, DeJohn did not register another point and only managed two more shot attempts.
Midfielder Conor Mackie ’18, who registered an assist on the team’s tying third-quarter goal, said Yale outlasted St. John’s by remaining calm and focused.
“At halftime it was all about coming out and continuing to play our game,” Mackie said. “In the first, our shots weren’t falling and the ball wasn’t bouncing our way. We stuck with our process and turned it around. We always say one at a time. Whether that’s one goal or one ground ball, it’s important to have that mentality. It wasn’t going to happen at once in the second half but we started chipping away one play at a time.”
Next on the schedule is Fairfield, a team that has taken Yale to overtime twice in the past two seasons.