Last year, the Yale men’s lacrosse team began its season with an overtime loss to Villanova then went on to win the program’s first national championship. This year, the Wildcats again proved a tough opening opponent and handed the Elis a second consecutive overtime loss.
On a sunny day at Reese Stadium, which featured a new turf field and large video board, the reigning national champion Bulldogs (0–1, 0–0 Ivy) began their 2019 title defense against a familiar foe: the No. 12 Villanova Wildcats (1–1, 0–0 Big East). But despite the Elis’ No. 1 preseason ranking, the game remained close throughout, with the visitors grabbing a slight edge in the middle two periods. With a late surge, Yale appeared it might be able to emerge victorious in the back-and-forth matchup, but ultimately, the game entered into overtime, and the Wildcats notched a goal to humble the defending national champions, 11–10.
“They’re a well-coached team with well-coached players,” head coach Andy Shay said. “We couldn’t get a handle on who we were the whole game. Everytime we got in the huddle, it was like, you gotta clean up mistakes and you gotta play a little better mentally.”
Still showing signs of rust from the offseason, both teams got off to a shaky start by combining for a total of 14 turnovers in the first 30 minutes of play. The Wildcats entered the match having already played this season, losing by ten goals to No. 4 Penn State two weeks ago.
Consistency from Albany transfer and faceoff specialist TD Ierlan ’20 — who won nine of his 12 faceoffs in the first half — and goalie Jack Starr ’21 prevented Villanova from taking over control of the game in the first half despite numerous missed opportunities from a Bulldog offense clearly missing its all-time leading scorer Ben Reeves ’18.
Attackman Joey Froccaro sent a shot past Starr to open up second-half scoring and give the Wildcats a lead that would eventually grow to three-points after sloppy clearing attempts and heroics from Froccaro and midfielder Colin Crowley.
Villanova opened the final period with a goal to widen its lead to three, and Yale began to mount a comeback in response. As the clocked wound down, the Elis settled in, notching scores at the ten- and three-minute markers before a clutch Ierlan faceoff win led to a goal from Joey Sessa ’19, assisted by rookie Matt Brendau ’22, to even the score at 10–10.
In overtime, the Bulldogs lost the faceoff and the Wildcats capitalized on the opportunity to put one past Starr and notch their first win of the season.
The Elis return to Reese next Saturday to host Penn State — the team that defeated the Villanova 17–7.