After defeating the Maryland team that bounced it from last year’s NCAA tournament, overcoming a six-goal third quarter deficit against St. John’s and celebrating a game-winning overtime goal by attackman Ben Reeves ’18 against Penn, it seemed the Yale men’s lacrosse team could not have a more memorable win at Reese Stadium this season.
But Saturday against Harvard (7–7, 3–3 Ivy), the No. 6 Bulldogs found a way to rival all of those victories. Entering the game riding a two-game losing streak and just a week removed from a season-ending injury to captain and defender Michael Quinn ’16, Yale (11–2, 6–1) erased a four-goal deficit with a little over 10 minutes to play to win 9–8, the team’s third one-goal win of 2016.
Goalie Hoyt Crance ’19 made 10 saves in just his third start and attackman Shane Carr ’16 scored the game-winning goal — only the seventh goal of his Yale career — on his senior day. The victory in the Elis’ regular season finale secured Yale a No. 2 seed in the four-team Ivy League tournament, which will begin next Friday with a game against Penn on the home field of Brown.
“I’m really proud to be the coach of these guys,” head coach Andy Shay said. “They never quit and never disappoint in these moments. We’ve been here before and even though it [sounds like] a broken record, you know they are going to keep fighting. It might not be pretty but sometimes we play better when we are just grinding it out.”
With both teams putting up 31 shots and winning half of the faceoffs in the game, each team needed a difference maker, and the Bulldogs found theirs between the pipes. Crance, the freshman goalie who made seven saves in the second half of last weekend’s game against Albany, stopped the first two Crimson shots of the game, foreshadowing the dramatic game-clinching save he would make with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
Despite Crance’s efforts, Harvard surged ahead 3–0 after the first quarter, largely because five Yale turnovers prevented the Bulldogs from generating offensive rhythm.
Yale’s attackmen came to life in the second quarter, with Reeves scoring twice and Jack Tigh ’19 weaving through almost the entire Crimson defense before burying the ball in the back of the net. Reeves said after the game that experience helped the offense to avoid panicking during stretches of both halves when Harvard held large leads.
“We’ve been there before. I’ve only been here for two years, but we’ve done it countless times,” Reeves said. “It’s about a cool mindset, good communication and one play at a time.”
Although Reeves’ second goal tied the game with 4:43 remaining in the half, it took less than a minute for Harvard attackman Morgan Cheek to scored his third goal of the first two quarters, allowing the Crimson to carry a 4–3 lead into halftime.
After nearly 10 scoreless minutes began the second half, Harvard dominated the rest of the third quarter. The Crimson overwhelmed the Bulldogs by picking up 10 of the 12 available ground balls in the period, scoring three times compared to a lone Eli goal from midfielder Eric Scott ’17.
The Crimson opened the fourth quarter expanding on its 7–4 lead, with Cheek pushing the margin to four and finishing the day as the game’s leading scorer. Scott would come to the rescue for the Bulldogs less than a minute later, narrowing the deficit to 8–5 with 10:12 remaining in the game. With a total of five points for Yale in the second half, Scott served as a major offensive contributor to Yale’s comeback.
“Today I was a little more aggressive than I usually am,” Scott said after the game. “In the first half we were a little tender to dodge at poles, but in the second half we changed that up and had all six guys on the field dodging regardless of the matchups and that felt great.”
On the next possession, Scott beat his man and dished the ball the midfielder Jason Alessi ’18, who briefly broke free on the crease and, with little time to get off a shot, found a way to sneak the ball past the goalie. Midfielder Michael Keasey ’16, also assisted by Scott, scored on the extra-man to bring the score to 8–7 with 8:16 remaining.
Reeves then tied the game at eight with just over six minutes to play by receiving a pass from Scott and stinging the top corner on a long range shot, finishing his team-leading third goal while Scott tallied his team-leading third assist.
Defense was also required in the Yale comeback, as the Bulldogs did not surrender a goal in the final 10 minutes of play. Despite playing without the senior Quinn, defender Christopher Keating ’17 credited the experienced players on the team for the defense’s performance late in the game.
“Maybe we got caught up in the moment a little bit [early in the game],” Keating said. “I think we calmed down and relied on our senior class and stuck to our process.”
Less than three minutes after Reeves’ game-tying goal, Yale attackman Joe Sessa ’19 was shoved into the crease and drew a penalty, giving the Bulldogs a man-up opportunity and their first strong chance to capture the lead.
With 3:18 to play, Carr, Yale’s unlikely man-up hero, struck for the fifth time in five games, and on the extra man for the third time in that span. Carr had only scored once before his senior year.
“We were struggling on extra man earlier in the game,” Carr said. “They were shutting off Ben Reeves and we were having trouble getting into a groove, but towards the end we started clicking a little bit more, and luckily Jack [Tigh] found me on the inside.”
Shay noted after the game that he was proud of his senior, who found a way to win the game in what could will be Carr’s last game at Reese Stadium if the Bulldogs do not get any home games in the NCAA tournament.
The fourth-quarter work was not done for the Bulldogs after Carr’s goal, as Harvard won the ensuing faceoff. After the teams traded possessions, Harvard had a chance to tie the game with under a minute remaining. Quick ball movement found Crimson attackman Will Walker, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, open in close range of the Eli net.
Walker fired low, but Crance made his 10th and most important save of the game with his leg and scooped up the ensuing ground ball to clear the danger.
“I stayed calm and collected,” Crance said. You have to have that mindset that no save is bigger than the next one or the previous one. I didn’t try to overstress it too much and just watched the ball.”
Although Yale failed to successfully clear the ball and Harvard recovered the ball with 14 seconds remaining, the Crimson was unable to generate a shot on net, and the Bulldogs prevailed 9–8.
Yale travels to Brown on Friday for the first round of the Ivy League tournament. Second-seeded Yale will square off against third-seeded Penn at 5:30 p.m. before first-seeded Brown — the No. 2 team in the nation — plays fourth-seeded Harvard at 8 p.m.