Courtesy of Yale Athletics
After receiving a scare on Tuesday night from St. John’s, the Yale men’s lacrosse team recovered and picked up its fourth consecutive win to open the season. Standing in the way of the Bulldogs’ second 5-–0 start is in-state foe Fairfield, which has taken Yale to overtime each of the past two seasons and will test the Elis again on Saturday.
The Elis (4–0, 0–0 Ivy) prevailed last year, while Fairfield (2–4, 0–0 Colonial) triumphed two years ago. Despite the Stags’ lackluster beginning to this season, Yale understands the challenge Fairfield poses.
“With the last two games going to overtime and the proximity of our schools, I think we have a little bit of a rivalry with them,” captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said. “I’m expecting a really tough game.”
Yale’s defense, which ranks third in the country with an average of six goals allowed per game, will face a talented Fairfield offense. The Stags return midfielder TJ Neubauer, who has scored a combined five times in his last two meetings with the Bulldogs.
The senior is already off to a hot start to the season thus far. Neubauer has scored 11 goals in Fairfield’s first six games, including a four-goal effort this past Tuesday in the Stags’ 13–9 win at Georgetown.
Fairfield has added offensive firepower to a squad that averaged less than 10 goals a contest last season. This year’s offensive unit features Villanova transfer Charlie Horning and freshman attackman Colin Burke. Burke, who has scored a team-high 14 goals this season, ranks third nationally among freshmen in goals per game.
The Bulldogs, who have outscored their opponents 52-–24, are looking to keep things simple versus the Stags.
“It’s about sticking to the fundamentals and doing the little things right,” Quinn said.
Yale’s offensive has begun to heat up as of late, scoring a combined 27 goals in its past two contests. Against St. John’s, the Elis needed a half before they got going, overcoming a 5–1 halftime deficit in large part thanks to a stretch of seven unanswered goals in the third quarter.
Several Bulldogs will look to replicate the success they had against Fairfield last year. Midfielders Mike Bonacci ’16 and Eric Scott ’17, as well as attackman Ben Reeves ’18, all scored twice in the overtime victory. The game-winning goal came with 1:01 remaining in overtime as Bonacci found Scott, who zipped the ball pass the goalie from the left side with a sidearm rip.
Bonacci credited the coaching staff for the Bulldogs’ unblemished open to the season, but he added that it is up to the players to take care of business on the field.
“We need to stick to what we do, which is play unselfish and execute the game plan,” Bonacci said. “We have a great group of coaches and they put us in a position to be successful every week.”
Opportunities could be abundant against Fairfield’s vulnerable defense, which is giving up nearly 11 goals per game, one year after finishing fourth in the nation with 7.47 goals allowed per contest on average.
Despite facing a barrage of shots, Fairfield goalie Tyler Behring has held his own in net by averaging more than 13 saves per game, which is the seventh-most nationally.
Yale will also look to gain additional possessions by dominating ground balls. The Bulldogs picked up 31 of 47 in last season’s meeting between the two schools.
In addition, Fairfield has struggled this season to secure the ball effectively, having only picked up 22.7 ground balls per game, which ranks tied for 62nd among 68 Division I teams.
Beyond the matchups, both teams will also have to deal with the task of their third game in eight days.
“Midweek games make the weekend tough,” Reeves said. “Guys are banged up and tired.”
Saturday’s chapter of the local rivalry will begin at 1 p.m.