In a game to decide Ivy League supremacy and order amongst the top teams in the nation, the No. 1/2 Yale men’s lacrosse team dropped its first contest of the season at the hands of No. 4/5 Brown in front of a packed and raucous crowd on Saturday.
Brown prevailed 14–12 in a windy, fast-paced battle in Providence, Rhode Island between the top two Ivy League teams despite trailing by as much as four in the third quarter.
Yale (10–1, 4–1 Ivy) took a 9–6 lead into halftime, but Brown (10–1, 4–0) dominated faceoffs and ground balls in the second half to power past the Bulldogs and put itself in prime position to claim the regular season Ancient Eight title and home-field advantage in the Ivy League Tournament.
“This was a big gut check for the team,” Yale captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 said. “They got a lot of 50–50 ground balls which translated into possessions which they cashed in on. We didn’t do as well on the faceoff wing in the second half.”
Despite its second half woes, Yale performed decently at the faceoff X in the first half given that Brown’s faceoff man Will Gural came into the contest-winning 68 percent of his draws, the third-highest rate in the nation. Yale midfielder Jonathan Reese ’16 won the opening faceoff, leading to a goal by long-stick midfielder Reilly Naton ’16 just 14 seconds into the contest. Yale finished the half having won seven of 16 faceoffs, neutralizing Gural’s effectiveness.
After midfielder Jason Alessi ’16 scored in transition to give Yale a 2–0 lead, Brown answered with two goals within 11 seconds of each other, demonstrating an explosiveness that eventually sunk the Bulldogs.
Yale countered Brown’s momentum with a few goals of its own and was set to carry a 5–3 advantage into the second quarter until Brown attackman Kylor Bellistri scored his second goal of the day with eight seconds to play in the period to cut Yale’s lead to 5–4. Although the first quarter and much of the game was played at the frenetic pace that has characterized Brown this season, Yale head coach Andy Shay insisted the quick tempo was not a factor in the defeat, noting the shot difference between the two teams on Saturday. The Elis attempted 42 shots to Brown’s 37. Still, that total for Brown marked a season-high for any Yale opponent, as Bulldog opposition had averaged 28.5 shots per game.
Both teams opened the second quarter with a nearly nine-minute scoring drought, a rarity for each side considering Brown entered the contest as the nation’s most prolific offense with 16.9 goals per game, with Yale not far behind at 13.3 per game.
Yale attackman Shane Carr ’16 snapped the scoreless stretch with an extra-man goal from a narrow angle to give the Bulldogs a 6–4 advantage. The man-up unit was a bright spot for the Elis, who converted on three of their four opportunities.
However, Gural won the ensuing faceoff for Brown and added an unassisted goal. He finished the day with two goals and two assists, a productive day for the faceoff man and a clear show of Brown’s ability to strike quickly from the faceoff X.
Three straight goals gave Yale a 9–5 lead, the largest of the day by either team, with 13 seconds remaining in the first half. The Bulldogs received contributions up and down the lineup, as nine different players scored Yale’s nine goals in the half.
However, the tide turned for the Bulldogs when the nation’s leading scorer, Brown attackman Dylan Molloy, scored his first of the contest as time expired in the half. Molloy’s strike blew life into his team and the 3,400-plus fans in attendance before the intermission, but he was quick to credit his teammates for Brown’s second-half success.
“The key in the second half was our faceoff play and getting back to the basics,” Molloy said.
Brown secured 11 of the 13 faceoffs in the second half, while also scooping up 22 of the 33 ground balls.
Although Reeves scored with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter to put Yale up by four once again, Brown tallied the next six goals. Molloy provided three of them en route to a five-goal performance, two more than any other player for either team. Yale was held scoreless for 16:26 of game time after the Reeves goal, until midfielder Eric Scott ’17 reduced the deficit to 12–11 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Scott had a chance to tie with 3:48 left, but his attempt hit the post, the second Yale shot of the fourth quarter to ricochet off the cage. Brown goalie Jack Kelly made three crucial saves in the final period on a day when the nation’s top goalie by save percentage — Kelly entered Saturday with a 63 percent mark — stopped 48 percent of the shots he faced.
“This was definitely a great result for us,” Kelly said. “Yale is a great team and really well-coached. We knew it would be a battle. We just made more plays.”
Bellistri, the fourth-highest scorer in the country despite being overshadowed at times this year by Molloy, added his third goal of the game with 2:32 remaining to give Brown a 13–11 advantage.
Soon thereafter, however, Yale midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 finished an outside shot on an extra-man opportunity to bring the Bulldogs within one with 1:24 to play. But following the trend of the whole second half, Brown won the ensuing faceoff and bled the clock as Molloy added his fifth goal of the game on an empty net with 15 seconds to play.
“We don’t like to lose but it was an incredible game and both teams played hard,” Shay said.
The Bulldogs will have to recover quickly, as they face another top-10 opponent next weekend. No. 6/7 Albany visits Reese Stadium on Saturday in Yale’s final nonconference matchup of the regular season.
Also in the picture for the Elis is a potential rematch with Brown in the Ivy League Tournament, which begins on May 6.
“There is some solace in the fact that we might run into them again down the road,” Quinn said.
Yale defeated Brown 11–10 in the Ivy League semifinals last year.