The opponent was different, the setup nearly the same.
The last time the Yale men’s lacrosse team played a weekend game at Reese Stadium, the Bulldogs tied the score with just 17 seconds left in regulation and proceeded to win 11–10 over Penn in thrilling overtime fashion.
On Saturday, against No. 6 Albany, the No. 4 Elis leveled the contest even more dramatically, as just 5.8 seconds remained on the clock when attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 fired a shot off the stick of Albany goalie Blaze Riorden and into the net. Momentum on its side once again with the score knotted at 13, Yale looked poised to complete another come-from-behind victory and bounce back from its first loss of the season last weekend at No. 3 Brown.
But three weeks earlier against the Quakers, the Bulldogs did not need to put their game winner past Riorden. The six-foot, 210-pound senior, who entered Saturday third in the nation in save percentage, produced two crucial stops in overtime before Albany attackman Seth Oakes scored to win the contest nearly three minutes into overtime.
The game was as close as they come, with Albany (10–2, 5–0 American East) barely outshooting Yale (10–2, 4–1 Ivy) 37–36 while winning just two more faceoffs and turning the ball over just once more than the Bulldogs. With the defeat, Yale has now lost two straight games and conceded 14 goals in each.
“Another incredible lacrosse game between two awesome teams,” head coach Andy Shay said. “[Before the Brown game] our team hadn’t lost this season, in scrimmages, or in our fall games. I thought we were a little off-kilter in practice this week; maybe we needed another loss to shake us a little bit more. I’m excited to get back to practice on Monday.”
A significant loss for the Bulldogs, which will likely drop them further down the national rankings, was made even more significant in the second quarter, when Yale captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16 fell to the turf with an apparent knee injury and did not get up for some time.
Quinn was able to walk off under his own power and, an hour later, walk to the center of the field for the overtime coin toss, but he spent the second half on the sidelines on crutches with his knee wrapped up. Shay did not comment on the severity of Quinn’s injury, but noted his absence affected the team.
“[Quinn] is our leader and best player. It was rough to finish the game without him,” Shay said.
Yale struggled in the early going, conceding the first three goals of the game. Much of Albany’s early success was inspired by Riorden, who saved the Elis’ first two shots to gain momentum and transition opportunities for his team.
Riorden’s early success was indicative of what was to come, as the senior would finish the game with 14 saves. Teammate and attackman Connor Fields said after the game that Riorden is the top goalie in the nation, and Shay said the opposing netminder was the best goalie Yale has faced this year.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Riorden said. “Both teams are very athletic. The defense held Yale to shots that I could save.”
With Albany up 3–0 and 6:16 remaining in the first quarter, Yale was in need of a wake-up call, and got it from the program’s newest pair of brothers.
Midfielder Conor Mackie ’18 won the ensuing faceoff and scored just eight seconds after the third Albany goal. After his tally, Mackie won another faceoff, and after a minute-long Yale possession, younger brother and midfielder Brendan Mackie ’19 brought the Bulldogs within one.
Attackman Ben Reeves ’18 finished the Bulldogs’ run, one of many by both teams in a game characterized by shifting momentum. Reeves, who led Yale with three goals in the contest, took the ball from behind the net, drove to the right and buried it in the top corner to level the score.
With eight seconds remaining in the first quarter, Albany attackman Justin Reh put the Great Danes up 4–3. The teams traded goals to start the second quarter before Yale finally got its only lead of the day, 6–5, after a two-goal run with scores by midfielder Jason Alessi ’18 and attackman Jack Tigh ’19.
Just three minutes remained for Yale to take that lead into halftime, but Albany managed to shift the momentum and score two goals of its own to end the second quarter up 7–6.
Quinn was not the only Bulldog to leave the field before the second half, as goalie Phil Huffard ’18 was replaced by Hoyt Crance ’19 after registering one save and giving up seven goals in the first half. In the second half and overtime, Crance made seven saves and conceded seven goals.
“[Crance] was great,” Shay said. “We talked about playing both of them at the beginning of the game and we would evaluate each of them and give them a chance to prove themselves. We wanted to make sure we were fair to both of them.”
In a hectic third period, four consecutive two-goal runs — two for each side — kept the Albany advantage at one but increased the score to 11–10.
Both teams then traded goals again in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, and with 5:14 remaining in the contest, the Great Danes scored another, looking to close out the game with a 13–11 lead.
Midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16 kept Yale alive with his second goal of the game at 3:47. Albany attempted to milk the remainder of the clock until Yale reclaimed possession with 27 seconds to play.
In one last possession, midfielder Michael Keasey ’16 made a run at the goal and threatened to shoot before lobbing a pass across the field to Cimbalista, who shot from the goalie’s right and netted the deflection goal off Riorden’s stick — one of the few gaffes for Albany’s superstar on the day.
Continuing to be the hero on the Yale side, Cimbalista picked up the first ground ball of overtime to give the Bulldogs a chance at victory. He and Keasey, both looking for their third goals of the game, took shots on net in the extra frame, but were denied by Riorden.
“We’ve been riding the big guy [Riorden] for four years now,” Albany head coach Scott Marr said.
After playing over two minutes of defense, Albany finally cleared, and 30 seconds later Oakes scored his fourth goal of the game, leading all players on both teams, to solidify the Great Dane victory.
“I had a step on my guy,” Oakes said after the game. “I was just looking for a step and the slide came late.”
Saturday was the first overtime loss for the Bulldogs since they fell 11–10 to Fairfield in 2014. Yale will face Harvard at home next Saturday with a chance to lock-up the two-seed in the Ivy League Tournament.