Courtesy of Steve Musco

The Yale men’s lacrosse team emerged from a dismal start and a back-and-forth late rally to come out on top with 12–11 against UMass in the Elis’ second overtime thriller in three games.

The No. 4 Bulldogs (2–1, 0–0 Ivy) hosted the Minutemen (1–3, 0–0 Colonial) on Saturday afternoon at Reese Stadium. The defending champions struggled with their worst start of the season so far and fell behind by five early in the second half before pulling off a timely turnaround to flip the lead in the low-scoring bout. But just as victory for the Bulldogs seemed imminent, the Minutemen put together two goals in the game’s final minute to force sudden-death overtime. The Elis — who dropped their season opener to Villanova in overtime — managed to stave off the Minutemen and score the game-winner late in the overtime period to notch a 12–11 victory and improve to 2–1 on the season.

“It was sticky, it was physical and it was difficult,” head coach Andy Shay said. “If you play the scoreboard, it’s never going to work out well for you, so we just worry about the next play. With this team, we’re still trying to convince guys that this actually works. Last year might have been a hard reset for us. We did the same things, but we would blow teams out … we’re still a work in progress.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs initially struggled to overcome the tight, aggressive Minutemen. UMass won the first faceoff and took it straight to the cage, where Ben Spencer handed the Minutemen the opening lead just 42 seconds into regulation.

The opening goal rattled the Elis, and Yale struggled with turnovers and ball movement. UMass took advantage of the momentum, putting up three goals before the Bulldogs could respond through attacker Matt Gaudet ’20.

For the rest of the quarter, Yale continued to put up shots, but the Minutemen staved off the Elis’ attempts to cut into the deficit through tight, aggressive defense, anchored by senior goalie Sean Sconone. Sconone, who finished the day with 14 stops, put out four saves in the first quarter to keep UMass ahead 4–1 headed into the second period.

Faceoff specialist TD Ierlan ’20, who has dominated this season, struggled in the second quarter. Once again UMass went straight from the first faceoff to the goal, extending its lead to 5–1. On the period, Ierlan picked up just one of five wins; two of UMass’s wins were called on technical violations.

The Elis continued to battle UMass, taking advantage of the Minutemen’s rough play — UMass picked up three penalties over the course of the period and seven over the course of the match. The Elis capitalized on the first advantage of the quarter to make the score 5–2, as attacker Jackson Morrill ’20 found attacker Brendan Rooney ’19. Although the Minutemen responded with a man-up goal of their own, captain and attacker John Daniggelis ’19 found the back of the net for the Elis to make it a 2–2 quarter.

Five minutes into the third quarter, the Minutemen had added another pair of unanswered tallies to lead the Elis 8–3. But when it finally rained for the Bulldogs, it poured. Ierlan had settled in again in the second half and consistently guaranteed the Elis an offensive possession. After the Minutemen’s lead grew to five, Sconone frustrated the Bulldogs with a pair of saves. But Yale goalie Jack Starr ’21 pulled out a critical save of his own, and with another man-up, the Elis began to chomp into their deficit with a score from attacker Lucas Cotler ’20, who was assisted by attacker Jack Tigh ’19.

The Cotler goal set off a four-score streak in which the Elis saw contributions from a familiar and varied cast of players: midfielder Brian Tevlin ’21, Morill, Gaudet and rookie Matt Brandau ’22. Increased defensive pressure complemented the offensive revival, and the Elis ended the quarter trailing by one.

“Early on in the game we started to see more and more that the [UMass] attack was only looking to feed,” defender Chris Fake ’21 said. “An in-game adjustment was made … to try to get out on their hands more when the ball was behind the cage, making them uncomfortable.”

The Elis opened final-quarter scoring to knot the game, but the Minutemen fought back. With another Rooney score, the Bulldogs tied it up at nine, then scored twice more in the next minute to pull ahead 11–9 for their first lead of the afternoon.

But the Elis slipped, beginning with a turnover with a minute left. The Minutemen then took a ground ball to the back of the cage with just 41 seconds on the clock. In the final regulation faceoff, Ierlan registered his only loss of the period, and UMass — with a dramatic 0.04 seconds on the board — sent the ball flying past Starr and pushed the match into overtime.

In overtime, UMass had the upper hand. The Minutemen won the faceoff and immediately called a timeout. Yale was then called for its third penalty of the match on a cross check and gave the Minutemen, who were set up in front of the cage, a full minute of advantage. Starr put up another clutch save, but the Elis continued to stumble. Ultimately, after a clean clear and initial wide shot, Tevlin found Gaudet, who stuffed the ball into the cage to hand Yale the win.

“It’s just about turning the page,” Gaudet said. “It’s a lacrosse game. Things aren’t going to go our way. No game’s going to be easy.”

Yale has four players on the initial 50-player watchlist for the 2019 Tewaaraton Award, the most of any school.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu