Leading by four goals early in the fourth quarter, the Yale men’s lacrosse team was 12 minutes away from extending its win streak to eight games. However, the Bulldogs let the top-five win that would have boosted their NCAA tournament resume slip away, allowing five unanswered goals as Albany rolled to a 13–12 victory.
The No. 11 Bulldogs (8–4, 5–0 Ivy) won the majority of faceoffs in a contest that saw both teams put up a staggering 40 shots each, but Yale was ultimately unable to shutdown the nation’s top offense as the game came down to its final seconds. No. 5 Albany (11–2, 5–0 America East) spent most of the contest playing catch up but finally punched its ticket to victory with just 34 seconds left on the clock.
“It was a great college lacrosse game,” head coach Andy Shay said. “I thought we played well at times and played poorly at times. We lost a bunch of possessions in a row in the fourth, and that proved to be the end of the game. When we had the ball we were able to go on runs, but we went offsides and turned the ball over … you have to be clean in the fourth and we weren’t.”
Midfielder Jack Tigh ’19 scored the opening goal of the Saturday night contest less than a minute into the game, driving down the right side of the field straight toward the net. Midfielder Lucas Cotler ’20 added another point to the scoreboard for the Elis, but the country’s top scorer, Albany’s Connor Fields, responded with his first of three goals. A first quarter that featured a combined 19 shots between the two teams displayed the dynamism of the two offenses, with Albany enjoying a 4–3 lead after 15 minutes.
Despite the Great Danes’ second highest faceoff win percentage in Division I, Bulldog midfielder Conor Mackie ’18 outperformed his counterpart TD Ierlan throughout the night at the X, winning 16 faceoffs to the Albany freshman’s 13. However, Yale reached its peak offensive dominance during the second period, when Mackie won just two draws. The Bulldogs outscored their opponent 3–1 with consecutive goals from attacker Jackson Morrill ’20 and midfielders Joe Sessa ’19 and Jason Alessi ’18 to give Yale a 6–5 advantage heading into halftime.
Yale’s leading goal scorer, attacker Ben Reeves ’18, who came off a 10-point effort against Brown, had just one goal in the contest. Half of the Eli goals came from either Alessi or Sessa, who both had three goals Saturday after entering the game with just 19 combined in Yale’s first 11 contests.
“[Saturday’s game] definitely shed light to the fact that we don’t rely on one specific person to get the job done, rather a collective group,” Tigh said. “[Alessi and Sessa] are both tremendous athletes and played a great game.”
The Elis quickly extended their one-goal lead at the onset of the third quarter. Defender Robert Mooney ’19 was left wide open in transition and converted a bounce shot into his second goal in three games, and the Bulldogs gained their biggest lead of the night when Alessi also sent a bounce shot past Albany goaltender JD Colarusso. Alessi completed his hat trick with another goal midway through the third, but Albany rallied back with three goals of its own to pull back within one heading into the final period.
With just under 11 minutes to play, Fields ended a 3–0 Yale scoring run with a shot past Eli goalie Phil Huffard ’18. Although Fields tallied a respectable five points against the Bulldogs, it was Albany midfielder Bennett Drake who led the team with four goals, including the game-tying strike in the fourth quarter.
After Drake tied the contest at 12 with just under three minutes to play, Albany won the ensuing faceoff, giving the Great Danes the chance to take the game. The home team did just that when freshman Mitch Laffin wound up for the final shot of the night, riling up his home crowd and giving his team its first lead in over 30 minutes.
With half a minute left, Yale’s hopes of a late goal were dashed as Albany won the final faceoff. The Great Danes were then able to run down the clock, defeating Yale 13–12 in the top-15 clash.
“It’s important that we learn from this game,” Tigh said. “There’s a lot of areas in which we can improve to put us in better shape in the weeks to come.”
Putting the nonconference loss in the rearview, Yale will travel to Cambridge to play Harvard in its final regular season game this weekend. With a win against the Crimson, the Bulldogs would clinch their first undefeated Ivy League season since 1956, the first year the Ancient Eight competed in lacrosse.