Courtesy of Yale Athletics
After dropping three consecutive games, including one against a winless UMass squad, the Yale men’s lacrosse team went 3–0 over spring break, clinching victories over Fairfield and Ivy league foes Cornell and No. 13 Princeton.
On March 11, the Bulldogs (4–3, 2–0 Ivy) squeaked out an 11–10 victory over Fairfield (3–6, 0–0 Colonial) at Reese Stadium in a game that went to double overtime. The Elis carried their newfound momentum while traveling to Ithaca and then Princeton the following week. Both offense and defense found their rhythm to beat Cornell (1–6, 0–2 Ivy) 17–8 and then best the Tigers (5–3, 1–1) 16–13 just six days later.
“[The game against Cornell] was the first complete game we’ve played all season,” captain and defender Brian Pratt ’17 said. “We’ve had a lot of trouble coming out of halftime in the past, and we harped on it all week that we wanted to play a complete game, and I think we did that on both sides of the ball.”
The freshman class continued to step up and help the team, tallying points and making huge plays on both sides of the field for Yale. Attackers Matt Gaudet ’20 and Jackson Morrill ’20 and midfielder Lucas Cotler ’20 combined for seven of the Elis’ 16 goals over Princeton.
The Bulldogs also made a big defensive change, putting goalie Brody Wilson ’20 in the net for all 186 minutes of play over break. The freshman not only helped the Bulldogs to three straight wins, but also recorded a career high eight saves in the victory over Cornell.
“A lot of young guys stepped up,” attacker Ben Reeves ’18 said. “I thought we played great as a team.”
Much of the Bulldogs’ season seemed to hang in the balance in the closing moments of the Fairfield contest. Yale led by as many as six goals early in the third quarter, but let the Stags tie the game up with just over three minutes to play.
Reeves scored the game-winner with just 1:14 left in the second overtime period as Gaudet found the junior on a cut towards the net. The season-saving goal was the third of the game for Reeves. The Tewaaraton finalist from last season scored a combined 11 goals over the break while Gaudet tallied eight.
Although Yale improved in virtually every facet of the game over spring break, no change was as apparent as on face-offs. In its first four games, Yale won just 43.6 percent of its draws. Over the last three games, Yale is an incredible 75.2 percent from the X, limiting the pressure its defense and freshman goalie face.
The dominance at the face-off X of midfielder Conor Mackie ’18, who struggled in Yale’s first few games, fueled the Bulldogs’ success over Fairfield. Mackie won 20 of 25 draws against the Stags.
In the Ivy opener against Cornell on March 18, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 4–1 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Holding the Big Red to just three goals in the first half, Yale played arguably its best defense of the season. Head coach Andy Shay credited the stifling of Cornell’s offense to his team’s aggressiveness.
“We played with an edge on defense which we haven’t seen enough of,” Shay said.
The Elis’ most impressive win of the season came on the road against top-ranked Princeton on Friday afternoon. Princeton saw early success this season, beating then-No. 3 Johns Hopkins, Penn and Quinnipiac. However, the Tigers were no match for the Bulldogs, even on their home field. Yale jumped to an early 5–2 lead by the end of the first quarter thanks to goals from Cotler, Gaudet, Reeves and midfielder Eric Scott ’17.
Princeton managed to keep the game within a few goals throughout the second quarter with tallies from leading-scorer Zach Currier. However, the Tigers saw their closest chance at victory during the third period when Currier scored his third of four goals on the day to tie the game at eight.
Yale responded with five unanswered goals in the next seven minutes to take back a five-goal lead. Princeton’s Gavin McBride scored twice in the final minutes of the third, but an unassisted goal by midfielder Joseph Sessa ’19 secured Yale’s 14–10 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Final goals from Cotler and Sessa resulted in Yale’s final three-goal victory.
With the win, the Elis have now scored at least 15 goals in three games this year and in each of their last two. Midfielder Jack Tigh ’19, who has eight goals and four assists this season, credited the unit’s success to its unselfishness.
“We share the ball,” Tigh said. “The ball never sits in one person’s stick, which allows the offense to move more freely and allows us to get more open looks. We try to hit singles and make the easy plays.”
Next Saturday, Yale travels to play Penn at Franklin Field at 1 p.m.