Steve Musco

As the No. 5 Yale men’s lacrosse team approaches the last leg of its regular season, the Bulldogs will look to fine-tune their performance while honoring the class of 2019 during Senior Day against Brown.

The Elis (7–2, 3–1 Ivy) return to Reese Stadium after scoring a season-high 20 goals last week. The Bulldogs will honor their 11 seniors in their penultimate home game of the campaign against Brown (4–6, 2–1). The Bears arrive in New Haven following their first conference loss of the year to No. 6 Penn, to whom the Elis fell in triple overtime two weeks ago. In last year’s meeting between Penn and Yale, both played fast, offensive games and registered high scoring totals. Despite the Bears’ scoring 15 goals, the Bulldogs ran away with the win, thanks to a 27-score performance that saw 15 Bulldogs find the back of the net. This weekend, the Elis will look to apply the offensive strength they displayed against Dartmouth and up the aggression against the Bears.

“For us, we’re still trying to find our identity in terms of playing with a certain level of aggression on both ends of the field,” head coach Andy Shay said. “We didn’t play in transition against Dartmouth until the second half. We didn’t dodge or were opportunistic enough. We weren’t as aggressive on the defensive end as we wanted to be. … We didn’t feel like it was exactly how we want to play, so we want to do those things going into these next few games.”

For the third consecutive week, the Elis will face a top-30 goalie in saves per game. This installment features Phil Goss, who ranks 30th in the nation and continues to keep games close for the Bears. Against No. 14 Villanova — an opponent that downed the Bulldogs in Yale’s season opener — the San Francisco native collected 17 saves in an impressive comeback effort that fell just a goal short in a low-scoring bout.

The Bears have quietly accumulated an impressive season. In addition to the result against Villanova, Brown also suffered a valiant one-goal loss to No. 4 Virginia. In the month of March, Brown downed both Harvard and Princeton — two formidable Ivy foes — earning the Bears third place in the conference just below second-place Yale.

The Brown offense, led by attacker Luke McCaleb’s 25 goals and 10 assists, places 20th in the country in the 2019 campaign. The Bears’ impressive 12.30 goals per game ranks ahead of No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 11 Towson, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 15 Denver, No. 16 Johns Hopkins and No. 20 Army. Yale’s defense has shown steady improvement as the season progressed, even holding Dartmouth to eight last week, with just a single goal conceded in the second half. Brown’s goal-scoring abilities will surely be a valuable test for the Elis as the postseason looms.

With just three games left in the regular season, the Yale offense is yet to unlock its full potential. Yale boasts a plethora of scoring talent, with many of its top scorers returning from last year. Despite ranking sixth nationally in scoring offense, Yale possesses only two players in the top 50 in goals per game — attackers Matt Gaudet ’20 and Matt Brandau ’22 — a stat that demonstrates the unselfishness on which the program prides itself.

A year after notching three against Brown, Penn and Albany, Saturday’s 20-goal outing was the Elis’ first of the season. The second-half scoring explosion is something that the team is looking to build upon in this weekend’s matchup against another Ancient Eight foe.

“Obviously last game was big for our offensive chemistry, and we are going to do everything we can to carry the momentum and continue making little and smart plays that will lead to hopefully big results,” Brandau said.

Last year, the Bulldogs got off to a good start against the Bears — Yale was up 11–8 at the half — but put the game away with a stellar 8–1 third quarter before another close final period.

Yale’s third quarter dominance closely correlated with the Elis’ dominance on the faceoffs in that period: On the day, Yale won 22 faceoffs to Brown’s 21. In the third quarter, however, the Elis’ Conor Mackie ’18 went seven for seven.

Faceoff specialist TD Ierlan ’20, the nation’s best player at the position and a junior transfer from Albany, delivered a shocking 23 for 24 performance last week. If last year’s pattern holds, and Ierlan’s roll continues, the possibility of another high-flying offensive performance from the Elis against the Bears is high.

The opening faceoff at Reese Stadium is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

Angela Xiao | .

Cristofer Zillo | .