After a shaky start to the season, the No. 20 Yale men’s lacrosse team has found its rhythm.
With its 14–12 defeat of Penn, Yale (5–3, 3–0 Ivy) clinched its fourth consecutive win and third straight conference victory, this past weekend. Attacker Ben Reeves ’18, the Elis’ leading scorer, posted five goals and two assists on the day to help the Bulldogs maintain a perfect Ivy League record and hand Penn (4–4, 1–2) another loss. Holding off a fourth quarter charge from the Quakers, Yale is now the only team undefeated in conference play.
“I think we could have done a better job taking care of the ball, but our guys fought through those errors and finished the ball,” head coach Andy Shay said. “[Penn] didn’t get a lot of saves, and we did.”
The Quakers jumped out to an early lead, grabbing the opening goal of the game just over a minute into the first quarter. However, Yale dominated for the rest of the first 15 minutes and led 4–1 after the first quarter.
Three of those goals came from attacker Matt Gaudet ’20, who scored in a variety of ways, including a highlight-reel tally to get Yale on the board. Reeves found Gaudet on the crease swarmed by three Penn defenders, but the freshman found the back of the net with an underhand, behind-the-back shot. Reeves got into the scoring himself just 15 seconds later, with a left-handed laser into the top corner on an unsettled situation off of a faceoff.
Yale’s third and fourth goals came from Gaudet off another feed to the crease, finished more conventionally this time, and a low-angle right-handed rip. Gaudet’s ability to find space in the Penn zone defense forced the Quakers to play man-to-man for the rest of the game, which allowed Yale’s arsenal of quick dodgers to thrive.
Penn rallied in the second quarter and cut the deficit to just two heading into halftime. Yale’s second-period goals came from Reeves and midfielder Eric Scott ’17, who showcased one of the hardest shots on the team after dodging to his right.
Goalie Phil Huffard ’18, who sat out for three games after starting the first four, returned to protect the goal from the Quakers. Huffard had arguably his best half of the season in the early going against Penn, making eight saves while allowing just four goals.
A lone blemish in the Elis’ complete first half effort was starting defender Camyar Matini’s ’17 apparent knee injury late in the second quarter. He did not return for the remainder of the game.
Matini also missed five games last year with an injury.
The Bulldogs committed 10 turnovers in the first half as several sloppy passes and failures to clear the ball gave Penn extra offensive possessions.
“We gotta take better care of the ball,” Reeves said. “We emphasized it at halftime. We turned the ball over in a lot of ways … [and] have to tighten it up.”
Penn pulled goalie Reed Junkin at halftime after he made just two saves on eight shots, but his backup Alex DeMarco did not fare much better against the Eli attack.
The Quakers pulled within one midway through the third quarter, but Yale scored the next six goals over an 11-minute span to pull away 13–6. The six goals came from five different players, and midfielder Lucas Cotler ’20 had two — his seventh and eighth tallies on the season — in the 6–0 run.
Several more saves from Huffard, who finished with 14, kept the Yale momentum going as did the play of midfielder Conor Mackie ’18 at the faceoff X. The junior won 17 of 30 draws in the contest and five of six during Yale’s rally. Mackie has won 59 percent of his draws this year, emerging as one of Yale’s biggest X-factors in its now four-game win streak.
Penn made a run late, scoring six goals in the final eight minutes of the game, but Yale’s deluge earlier in the second half was too much to overcome.
“Obviously at the end we’d like to have a few of those possessions back, but you have to give credit to Penn,” Huffard said. “We played a solid 55 minutes. When you start looking at the scoreboard and the clock, it’s never going to be a good result.”
The Yale defense held attacker Simon Mathias, Penn’s leading goal scorer and reigning co-Ivy League Rookie of the Year, without a goal, although the sophomore did tally three assists.
With Princeton defeating Brown by 10 goals on Saturday, Yale remains the only team undefeated in Ivy League play. Back-to-back away victories against Princeton and Penn allow the Elis to come away unscathed from the toughest gauntlet in their Ivy League schedule. Yale is favored in the remainder of its conference games.
The Bulldogs have little time to celebrate the victory, returning to action with a nonconference clash against St. John’s at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.