In his 15 years as the head coach of Yale men’s lacrosse, Andy Shay has brought the program to national prominence, but one objective has always eluded the Bulldogs. Although Yale has appeared in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments and held the No. 1 ranking in the nation for part of the regular season two of the last three years, Shay’s team has never made the Final Four.
That streak ended on Saturday, when No. 3 Yale defeated No. 6 Loyola 8–5 in the quarterfinal in miserable conditions on Long Island.
For the first time since 1990, the Elis will advance to the semifinals. After a standout, six-point performance from captain and attacker Ben Reeves ’18 and a nine-save effort from goaltender Jack Starr ’21, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to Gillette Stadium, and will be one of four teams competing for the national championship on Memorial Day weekend.
Reeves proved why he is one of the nation’s top players when he opened up the first quarter of the NCAA quarterfinals with back-to-back goals in just over two minutes. Yale boasted a two-goal lead nearly immediately, but Loyola’s Pat Spencer was quick to respond with a goal of his own. Greyhound midfielder Alex McGovern found the back of the net next to put his team right back into it and tie the game at two midway through the first quarter.
As midfielder Conor Mackie ’18 remained consistent in the faceoff X, the Eli offense enjoyed heavy ball control. Mackie won nine of 12 faceoffs in the first half, giving Yale the ball for the majority of the first 30 minutes.
Less than two minutes after McGovern tied the game for Loyola, Yale midfielder Brian Tevlin ’21 fired a shot past Greyhound goaltender Jacob Stover. Attacker John Daniggelis ’19 notched Yale’s fourth goal and attacker Jack Tigh ’19 added another bullet that sailed over Stover’s shoulder.
Leading 5–3 at the beginning of the second quarter, Yale’s next goal came after Reeves schooled his defender and found an open attacker, Matt Gaudet ’20 who subsequently flicked in the ball for his first goal of the day. Again, Loyola answered when Spencer notched his second goal of the day and 35th of the season to keep the Greyhounds within two goals for the remainder of the quarter. As the half came to a close, both teams entered their locker rooms drenched from the rainy conditions that only would only worsen in the second half.
Neither team managed to score for much of the third period as the Bulldogs dominated ball control but tallied 12 missed shots. It would be Daniggelis, a Long Island native, who would break the 15 minute scoring drought for either team by scoring a goal from behind the net to hand Yale its largest lead of the day.
Recording a career-high 19 saves throughout the contest, Stover kept Loyola in the game, but the Bulldog offense had already done enough damage to hold on. A late bounce shot from Loyola’s John Duffy cut the Eli lead down to two with just over four minutes left to play, but a huge save from Starr 17 seconds later and a successful clear from midfielder Jason Alessi ’18 allowed the Elis to successfully run down the clock.
Fittingly, Reeves scored the game’s final goal with just under 90 seconds to play to cement the score at 8–5 and allow Yale to advance past the second round of the tournament for the first time in 28 years. Reeves finished the day with three goals and three assists.
The Elis will have a week to prepare for their matchup against the winner of the Albany/Denver quarterfinal.