The Yale men’s lacrosse team lost its claim to an undefeated Ivy record to Penn on Saturday, but not before fighting through three overtime periods.
The No. 2 Bulldogs (6–2, 2–1 Ivy) travelled to Franklin Field to take on the No. 13 Quakers (5–3, 3–0) in a battle of two squads with perfect league records. The bout, which was billed as one of the most exciting matchups of the Ancient Eight season, proved to be exactly that, as the two teams wrestled for control of the game on multiple fronts: faceoffs, shots and goaltending. The Elis grabbed the early lead and, breaking out of tied scores multiple times, did not trail until the second half. The Quakers pulled ahead with a strong third quarter, but Yale — as it has done several times this season — overtook the lead in the final minutes of regulation play. A Penn buzzer-beater pushed the game into sudden death overtime. After nearly three full extra periods and despite the Elis’ possessive dominance, the Quakers found the back of the cage and put themselves atop the Ivy League with a 13–12 win — Yale’s first loss to a league opponent since 2017.
“A big takeaway from the game is shooting,” attacker Matt Brandau ’22 said. “[Penn goalie Reed Junkin] was playing very well, and we didn’t have much variation in our shooting, so he could stay in his groove. It’s good that we could produce a lot of shots, but moving forward, we definitely need to finish our opportunities.”
Both teams entered the match with high-scoring wins against Cornell and Princeton under their belts. But ultimately, it was defense and goaltending that made the difference, as Junkin frustrated the attempts of Eli attackers.
Faceoff specialist Td Ierlan ’20, whose 0.781 win percentage led the nation heading into the match, started the game off shaky, going 2–7 in the first quarter. Although Ierlan recovered considerably throughout the course of the afternoon — he won five of seven in the fourth period — the Quakers’ Kyle Gallagher put a sizable dent in the near-monopoly of possession the Elis have grown accustomed to enjoying. On the whole, Ierlan and Gallagher went essentially fifty-fifty on the X, with Ierlan grabbing 15 of the 29 total faceoffs — four of which were handed to Yale by violations.
From the first faceoff, Penn played fast and hard, compared to the Elis’ more methodical runs. Although Yale built up a 3–1 lead halfway through the opening period, the Quakers pressed on and recovered to make it even at three heading into the second half. With a score from attacker Lucas Cotler ’20 to open the second frame, the Bulldogs regained their lead but were never comfortable. The teams traded goals for the remainder of the quarter, and the Elis ended the half up 6–5 after spending most of the period tied.
The Quakers recovered at the beginning of the second half by finding the back of the net twice, gaining their first lead of the day. Although Yale still got off 12 shots in the period, only one from Brandau’s stick snuck past Junkin. Penn dominated again in the closing minutes of the third period of play, scoring three straight goals within five minutes for a 5–1 advantage on the period and a three-tally lead heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
Having grown accustomed to late-game deficits, the Bulldogs barked back. Less than a minute and half after Ierlan secured possession, midfielder Joseph Sessa ’19 found the back of the cage to cut the deficit to just two goals. The Quakers answered with a goal from attacker Dylan Gerger just roughly three and a half minutes later.
Still, the Elis owned the majority of the quarter. Attackers Jack Tigh ’19, Jackson Morrill ’20 and Matt Gaudet ’20 sent ones past Junkin to secure a one-point lead with roughly two minutes left. Ierlan secured the next faceoff, and Yale tried to outrun the clock but failed to put the game away when a shot from Morrill sailed wide of the net. The Quakers marched up the field and found midfielder Tyler Dunn, who fired an unassisted shot below his knees and by goalie Jack Starr ’21 as the buzzer sounded, locking the score at 12–12.
“We missed details on defense and in clearing the ball, and didn’t play in concert as well as we can,” Starr said. “A lot of defense is about making quick mental decisions based on multiple factors such as the orientation of their offense and which players are on the field. We’re going to watch the film, correct the errors and reset our minds.”
Strong performances in goal kept the game a low-scoring affair on both ends of the field in regulation — Junkin made 18 saves, first to keep his team in contention early, and then to fend off a full-blown Eli comeback — and continued to make the difference in overtime.
Despite dominating 8–2 in shots during the three overtime periods, the Elis failed to capitalize on their shot opportunities, allowing Penn several chances to decide the outcome of the game. With just under a minute played in the third session of overtime, Sam Handley scored to lift the Quakers over the Bulldogs and secure first place in the Ancient Eight.
“Both teams played hard,” head coach Andy Shay said. “We had our chances in the extra frames, but ultimately we didn’t convert when we needed to.”
Junkin ended the day with 22 saves on 34 shots. Starr pulled out 14 stops in regulation and another in overtime, coming up just shy of his career record of 16.
Yale will return to Reese Stadium next week to continue conference competition against Dartmouth.
Angela Xiao | email@example.com
Cristofer Zillo | firstname.lastname@example.org