The No. 5 Yale men’s lacrosse team left campus yesterday to travel to Costa Mesa, California to take on the University of Michigan, with the Bulldogs scheduled to return next Tuesday.
The No. 5 Bulldogs (2–1, 0–0 Ivy) kick off spring break under the lights in Southern California against the Wolverines (3–2, 0–0 Big Ten) as part of the Pacific Coast Shootout. According to the event’s website, the Shootout attempts to lure two top ranked teams each year to the West Coast for a regular season game. The Elis, nurturing a tough 13–10 loss against No. 17 UMass Amherst last Saturday, will seek redemption across the country. Meanwhile, though the Maize and Blue bested St. John’s last weekend, Michigan has already suffered two defeats this season to unranked teams.
Despite the Bulldogs’ victories against national powers No. 14 Villanova and No. 2 Penn State early on in their season, the Blue and White fell short last weekend and suffered a 13–10 loss to UMass. The Elis, with a nine-point deficit at halftime, came back with an 8–2 run but failed to repeat last year’s overtime victory against the Minutemen.
“I don’t want to take away from their effort, but it didn’t look like we were prepared to play,” head coach Andy Shay said. “I think the guys maybe got a little full of themselves with the number one ranking, so hopefully we got a little more humility. We got it dished out to us pretty violently against UMass, and hopefully we’re better for it … [A loss is] helpful, but obviously you can’t have too many. You know, I think that’s the trick. You want to win every game, but you want to go in knowing that a team can beat you.”
When these two teams faced off two years ago, the Bulldogs were in a similar scenario: coming off of a close loss in which they had made too many errors.
Yet the Elis managed to secure their second win of the 2017-18 season against Michigan with the scoreboard reading 15–11 in favor of the Blue and White.
“We just need to get back to our basics that have made us a better team in the past,” attackman and team captain Jackson Morrill ’20 said.
The Wolverines most recently defeated St. John’s with scores notched by six different players. Attackman Bryce Clay led the way, finding the back of the net four times, while attackman Kevin Mack added three unassisted tallies.
Though Michigan defeated then-No. 10 Ohio State for their final game of the season last year, the young Wolverine roster leans on their first-year class to make up for the graduation of midfielders Brent Noseworthy and Decker Curran who ranked second and fourth for total points in program history.
Historically, Yale has won all three of its prior contests with Michigan. In the most recent duel, which occurred last year over spring break in Atlanta, the Blue and White emerged victorious in what was a decisive showing. Yale jumped on the board early and never let Michigan take the lead. Although the game was twice even in the first half, the Elis pulled away and departed Atlanta with a 17–11 win.
If the Bulldogs wish to do the same this weekend, they will need to clean up the basics. Numerous forced turnovers and failed clears put the Elis in a weak spot last weekend against UMass.
“We realize there’s still a lot of things that we have to work on,” Morrill said.
Before the matchup against the Minutemen, the Yale captain knew that a challenge lay ahead. “I have a feeling this one is going to be harder than the last two games,” he said.
Statistically, Yale and Michigan post the same shot percentage of 0.315, yet the Wolverines register on average 1.3 more shots on goal per game. Not surprisingly, Michigan also has a better clear percentage than the Elis, who have shown weakness in this aspect of their game as of late. According to Shay, the Bulldogs should expect to see a 90 to 95 percent clear success rate, and their percentage against UMass of 42.9 was “abysmal.” Yale, however, will pick up the slack in the form of face-off specialist TD Ierlan ’21 who won 20 out of 26 face-offs last weekend, giving Yale possession during critical moments over the course of the match.
Following its loss to UMass, the Bulldogs fell from No. 1 to No. 5 in the rankings. The top spot is currently occupied by Syracuse, who is currently undefeated. Penn State, which Yale bested two weeks ago in a preseason scrimmage, remains in second, while Ancient Eight foes Princeton, Cornell and Penn claim spots six, seven and nine,
The Bulldogs, currently in California, will spend a couple days preparing for the 10 p.m. EST face-off on Saturday.
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