Shelley Burger

The No. 5 Yale men’s lacrosse team’s hopes to repeat as national champions remain alive after a first-round victory over Georgetown.

The fifth-seeded Elis (13–3, 5–1 Ivy) earned a home game in the first round of the NCAA despite a loss in last week’s Ivy League Championship final to No. 4 Penn. In the first round of competition, the Bulldogs seemed poised to handily defeat this year’s Big East Champion, Georgetown, as they got off to a white-hot start in the first quarter. But the Hoyas battled back in the second and third quarters and closed a deficit that was at one point nine scores to within reach of an upset. And although Yale opened the final period strong, a late surge by Georgetown kept the Bulldogs on their toes through the game’s final seconds, as the Elis escaped with a 19–16 win.

“Georgetown played incredibly tough today,” head coach Andy Shay said. “To be down nine to one and come back on us is just…it’s incredible. [The Hoyas] should be very proud of their effort and their performance…we pride ourselves on playing hard, and they matched us lock step.”

The Bulldogs looked absolutely unstoppable from the opening faceoff, scoring seven straight goals on Chris Brandau — Georgetown’s starting goalie and the twin brother of Yale starting attacker Matt Brandau ’22 — before the Hoyas could even find the back of the net once. Although Yale cooled down late in the period, scoring just two more to close out a nine-goal first period, the Bulldogs entered the second quarter with a 9–3 lead.

But the Elis, plagued by eight first-half turnovers, allowed Georgetown a glimpse of hope in cutting down the initial lead. Led by an eight-goal effort from captain and attacker Daniel Bucaro on the day, the Hoyas demonstrated poise as they slashed through the lackadaisical Bulldog defense. But Yale regained its composure and notched scores from captain and midfielder John Daniggelis ’19 and attackers Jackson Morrill ’20 and Matt Gaudet ’20, which allowed the Elis to jog into the halftime break with a six-goal lead.

In the third, two tallies from Georgetown attacker Jake Carraway and another from attacker Robert Clark cut the Yale lead down to just three goals with the momentum shifting heavily in Georgetown’s favor. Managing to stop the bleeding for just a moment, Brandau and fellow rookie Jack Ocken ’22 put a couple past Brandau. The Hoyas roared back and ended the third quarter strong, adding two more goals to diminish the Eli lead back to down to just three heading into the final 15 minutes of play.

Then Yale’s offense exploded for the second time of the afternoon. Five straight tallies to start the fourth quarter from the Bulldogs with no response from the Hoyas regenerated an eight-point advantage for Yale. But, again, Georgetown battled back. The Hoya defense shut down the Eli offense, forcing turnovers and running on breakaways, while its offense put up five more to close out the match, including Bucaro’s seventh and eighth strikes, which closed out the senior’s collegiate career. As the clock ran out, the Elis managed to walk away with the 19–16 win thanks to the early scoring cushion.

“If the game started at probably about [15 minutes later], it might be a little different,” Georgetown head coach Kevin Warne said. “But [Yale] jumped out on top. They’re really good; they have the x-factor at the faceoff X. They capitalized right away.”

TD Ierlan ’20 dominated on the faceoff from start to finish, with 31 wins on 35 attempts. However, the possessions did not come as easily for the nation’s top FOGO as the stat sheet suggests — once the Hoyas settled into the game, they put significant pressure on Ierlan, trying to force passes and turnovers.

Nonetheless, the junior transfer and Ivy League Player of the Year remained rock solid for the Elis and notched his 1000th career faceoff win in the process.

“For me, I try just to go out and do my job, and same thing with our whole unit,” Ierlan said. “Just try and get our offense the ball, and we know we’re going to get stops when it matters, and we know our offense is going to put the ball in the cage. Every team is going to go on a run, you just have to weather the storm and just keep at it.”

Brandau, who owns the Yale rookie records in both goals and points, and Matt Gaudet ’20 led the Eli offense, with four goals apiece.

With the win, Yale punched its ticket to the tournament quarterfinals next weekend in East Hartford. The Elis will face the winner of Saturday evening’s match-up between Penn and Army.

Angela Xiao |

Cristofer Zillo |