May 7, 2010

Bulldogs Fall 7-6 to Tigers in Ivy Tourney

Mahony Nets 3 As Comeback Falls Short

ITHACA, N.Y. – The Yale men's lacrosse team's first post-season game in 20 years was nearly one of the great comebacks in the recent history of the program. The No. 15 Bulldogs trailed 7-2 before notching four straight goals in a 7-6 loss to No. 9 Princeton in the first semifinal of the 2010 Ivy League Tournament at Schoellkopf Field.

Time ran out on the Elis, who found themselves down five goals with just under nine minutes to play. Sophomore attackman Gregory Mahony got two of his three goals and senior Matt Fuchs notched both of his to suddenly make it a one-goal contest. Two turnovers followed and Yale (10-4) was eliminated from the inaugural league tournament after finishing in a four-way tie for first place.

“I am very proud of our effort. There was no quit in them, which is the kind of team we've been all year,” said Yale Head Coach Andy Shay.

Princeton, which won by the same score as the regular season meeting at New Haven, had to make a comeback of its own after being blanked in the first quarter. The Tigers dominated the middle two frames but lost all the momentum and the statistical battle halfway through the fourth.

Yale had more (38-34) shots and ground balls (26-23) and won 11 of the 17 face-offs. Senior Max Rodman lost five of the seven battles in the first half but came on strong to take nine of the last 10 and give the underdogs a shot at a stunner. Bulldog freshman Michael McCormack led the team with six ground balls.

Junior goalie Johnathan Falcone finished with seven saves while battling a tough late afternoon sun. At the other end, Tyler Fiorito stopped 11 shots to earn the win.

The first half of the opening quarter consisted primarily of turnovers and missed shots. The ice was finally broken by Yale captain Brendan Gibson, who took a pass next to the football yard-line numbers - nearly on the goal line extended - and rifled a low shot past Fiorito at 8:20. It turned out to be the only tally of the frame.

The Tigers won both face-offs and the shots (9-8 Yale) were close in the first. The difference was Falcone's three saves, and his hot start continued until the 27th minute of the half.

That's when Princeton attackman Jack McBride (3 goals) found Scott Mackenzie open a few feet from the crease. MacKenzie bounced one past Falcone with 2:13 left. Twenty-four seconds later, Mike Grossman found an open side of the net from the edge of the crease before McBride made it three goals in 55 seconds by flipping home a low shot to make it 3-1. The momentum had clearly shifted toward the higher seed.

The Bulldogs re-grouped by winning the next face-off and having Mahony, who made the all-tournament team, fire a bouncer from 17 yards out to make it 3-2 with 24 second left.

Princeton had the advantage in almost every statistical category after 30 minutes including shots (20-17), ground balls (13-7) and face-offs (5-2).

Tigers' attackman Rob Engelke opened the scoring in the third with an unassisted tally (while falling to the ground) at 12:11 to make it 4-2. Then Alex Capretta's shot from the left side of the cage in transition at 6:42 made it a three-goal margin.

The Bulldogs had two point-blank chances to get a goal in the third but Fiorito came up big with a save on the first and Matt Gibson hit the pipe on the last. Despite winning all three face-offs and having seven more ground balls, the Elis could not put anything on the scoreboard.

McBride hit the net twice to open the fourth and it seemed the game was out of reach.

“We had some quality shots in the third but couldn't score. We told the guys they were going to start falling and they did,” said Shay.

Fuchs' low shot went through Fiorito's legs at 8:43 to cut the margin to 7-3. Then Mahony scooped up a ground ball and while falling down flicked a rolling shot into an open side of the cage at 7:37 to cut the lead to three.

Mahony stuck again at 6:11 with a jump shot that sailed over the Princeton goalie's shoulder and then hit the pipe at 4:34. After a Princeton holding penalty, Fuchs converted a pretty feed from Matt Miller at 1:59 to bring the Bulldog to within 7-6.

Yale's next possession in the Princeton end resulted in a turnover and so did the last one. Fuchs, who had four points last Saturday against Harvard, tried to find Matt Gibson behind the cage but the pass was low and wide and sailed out of bounds with 13 seconds left.

The Bulldogs, which had a 13-5 ground ball advantage in the fourth, hope to be invited to the NCAA Tournament but will have to wait for the Sunday night (8:30, ESPNU) selection show to find out if they are going. Despite being drained from the game, Shay seemed optimistic about their chances.

“We hope it's not over. We are 10-4 and hoping they [NCAA selection committee] are talking about us. Some things will have to break our way, but it's important to have hope.”

 

Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director

 

Michael Pratt image by Dave Burbank