Jack Warhola

Riding a three-game win streak, the No. 10 Yale men’s lacrosse team will continue to travel as it plays Fairfield this Saturday in the first of its three contests over spring break.

Coming off an 11–8 victory over Bryant last weekend, the Bulldogs (3–1, 0–0 Ivy) travel south to Fairfield (2–4, 0–0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) to take on the Stags in a Nutmeg State battle on Saturday. The following weekend, the Elis face off against Ancient Eight opponent Cornell in their first Ivy League game of the season, before closing spring break at home against a talented Princeton team.

“It definitely wasn’t our best offensive performance,” midfielder Lucas Cotler ’20 said of the game against Bryant. “But we did capitalize on some good opportunities and overall it was another step forward.”

When the two Connecticut teams met in the 2017 season, Yale walked away with the 11–10 win in a double overtime game. Led by a career-high four goals from attacker Matt Gaudet ’20, the Bulldogs clinched the victory that snapped a three-game losing streak to turn around the momentum of their season. This year, the Stags’ offense is led by attackers Joe Rodrigues and Dylan Beckwith, who have tallied 15 and 13 points, respectively, in six games to top the team’s roster.

Sophomore goaltender Sean McKee started the opening five games of the season for Fairfield. However, last weekend against Hartford, the Ambler, Pennsylvania native was pulled from the net in favor of Sam Gindhart, after allowing 11 goals in just 36 minutes. Yale’s prolific offense will need to take advantage of the potential instability in the net while captain and attacker Ben Reeves ’18 continues his show of offensive dominance after recording 14 goals and 10 assists through four games.

On the other end of the field, Yale goaltender Brody Wilson ’20 made his starting debut in the net against Bryant after rookie Jack Starr ’21 played the opening three games of the young Eli season. Despite not playing since last April, Wilson’s 10 recorded saves and overall solidity in the net helped guide Yale to its third consecutive win and keep Bryant to eight goals. The goalie position has been an open competition with Phil Huffard ’18 no longer on the roster.

“I approached the game like I would any other,” Wilson said. “I fell back on my team’s preparation and made sure to go into the game with composure.”

Both Fairfield and Yale show their strength in the faceoff X. Midfielder Conor Mackie ’18 recorded the highest win percentage in the Ivy League last season and this year despite going up against some of the nation’s best faceoff men already, the 6-foot-1 senior has showed composure in the midfield and has helped give the Elis necessary offensive possessions so far this season. However, Mackie has struggled in the last two games, winning just 37.5 percent of his faceoffs, compared to 59.6 percent in the first two games of the season as he has battled a wrist injury. He will face a talented opponent in the form of Will Fox, who has notched a 0.630-win percentage this year.

Looking further ahead, the Bulldogs will head north to Ithaca in two weeks to battle Cornell. The Elis whipped the Big Red 17–8 last year. Cornell’s program has struggled in recent years, despite claiming three national championships in the 1970s, the Big Red hasn’t made the tournament since 2015 and last made an appearance in the National Championship game in 2009. Cornell ranks first in the conference in goals per game, boasting an average of 13.25, but has recorded just two wins, with neither coming over noteworthy opponents.

Yale’s biggest challenge of spring break will likely come when it returns to Reese Stadium to host Princeton. The Elis edged the Tigers last year in a 16–13, a high-scoring affair that was a common sight for Princeton. The Tigers averaged almost 14 goals a game last year and scored more than 17 on eight occasions.

Princeton’s offensive prowess has remained this year, as it has netted an average of 12 goals a game. Freshman attacker Michael Sowers has been the Tigers’ most dangerous offensive weapon, with eight goals and 15 assists in four games. The Tigers are 2–2 this season, but their two losses have come at the hands of No. 8 Virginia and No. 17 Johns Hopkins. Princeton has enjoyed success on the defensive end as well, it tops the conference in ground balls and caused turnovers.

The first portion of the season has left the Elis relatively untested against top-tier competition, aside from the defeat against Villanova. The Bulldogs will need to maintain their focus in the coming weeks as they gear up for more intense Ivy-league matchups and the tournament in April and May.

Saturday’s contest begins at 1 p.m. at Rafferty Stadium in Fairfield.

Jane Miller | jane.s.miller@yale.edu