Yale Plays Princeton Sunday For NCAA Berth
PRINCETON, N.J. – Deron Dempster and Matt Gibson saved their best collegiate performances for the biggest stage of the 2012 season. Dempster scored eight goals and Gibson dished out eight assists as the No. 14 Yale men's lacrosse team beat No. 13 Cornell 14-10 at Princeton's Class of 1952 Stadium in the opening semifinal of the Ivy League Tournament.
The victory, which propels the Bulldogs (10-4) into Sunday's noon championship game (ESPNU vs. Princeton), was Yale's eighth straight, the second longest winning streak in school history.
Dempster (in photo), who registered the best Yale offensive performance since 1990 (10 goals, Jon Reese vs. Army), found the net eight times on nine shots. His first seven attempts got past Cornell netminders as the Blue built a huge lead against the No. 2 seed and then held on at the end for its first win over the Ithacans since 1999 (14 straight). His only miss was a blind, turnaround jump shot with 14 seconds left in a quarter.
"We didn't have him in the early part of the season, but he has really come into his own since," said Yale head coach Andy Shay about Dempster.
The significance of the win is not just that Yale will play for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament or that the it earned a 10th victory for the third straight year. The Elis dealt a crushing blow to the Big Red's hopes for a ninth straight NCAA appearance.
"You can never expect to have a night like that. It was great, it was just there tonight. I was in the right spot at the right time," said Dempster, who now leads the team with 30 goals. "If you don't keep your foot on the gas pedal, you are not going to beat Cornell."
Gibson's feeding frenzy enabled him to tie Jason O'Neill (1990, Adelphi) for the school assist record. The amazing thing was that Yale's leading goal scorer did not attempt a shot. Gibson, who connected with Dempster on five goals, was clearly looking to hungry teammates.
"He always looks for me," said Dempster of Gibson. "On the last one, I knew he could have scored. I said 'you are going to make me look selfish.'"
The Yale senior didn't see it the same way. "I really didn't get any shooting opportunities. The ball ended up on my stick when guys were open and I was able to get it to them. Obviously Deron got open a lot and did a great job finishing," said Gibson.
The Bulldogs came out as hot (goals on first three shots) as the bright sunshine hitting the FieldTurf on Sherrerd Field. Brandon Mangan (3 goals) bounced one in from the left side, the first of five straight by Yale over the first six and a half minutes.
Dempster dazzled the crowd with three consecutive pretty goals (in just over two minutes), including a conversion of a Dylan Levings pass after a face-off win. On that tally, Dempster caught the pass while falling and flipped it past A.J. Fiore at 6:36 to make it 4-0.
His fourth goal increased the Eli lead to 6-2 to kick off the second-quarter scoring, while his fifth gave the No. 3 seed an 8-4 advantage 80 seconds before intermission. That had the Yale faithful buzzing, but captain Michael Pratt's tally (long lead pass from his goalie) with nine seconds left really set them off.
"I was standing out there and we were a man down. Jack [Meyer] has made great outlet passes," said Pratt. "He saw me and hit me. I didn't have much to lose."
The hands of Jack Meyer, the sophomore Yale goalie, were as hot as Dempster's in the offensive end. Meyer stopped nine Big Red shots in the first half, including a pair of point-blank attempts by Cody Bremner in the second frame. He finished with 13 saves and was a key to Yale getting the win.
"I am really confident in our defense, and I thought they would give me good looks. They were playing well, and I got some easy chances," said Meyer. "I bailed them (teammates) out a couple of times and they helped me out far more times than I bailed them out."
The Yale coach felt his goalie's play was even more significant. "He (Meyer) was huge, he played great. Nine to one saves in the first half is the separator," said Shay, who will face Princeton in the Ivy Tournament for the second time in three years.
Cornell (9-4) may have been without the services off Ivy League Rookie of the Year Matt Donovan, who suffered a leg injury early in the first quarter and did not play in the second half, but the Yale defense was on no matter who was wearing white. Junior Peter Johnson (3 caused turnovers) and the Elis blanked the Red for 28:09 while Gibson and company were scoring seven straight goals and exploding for a 13-4 lead early in the fourth.
"The best thing we did was have ones and twos ready to go and stopped all of their transition for the first three quarters of the game," said Johnson.
Levings, the nation's No. 2 ranked face-off specialist, was in for the first dozen battles on the X. Cornell decided to use four different players to wear down the sophomore on the hottest day of the season. That didn't stop him from winning 13 of 26 and taking all but two attempts. He won five of the first eight, and that was enough to get the Elis a lead they never relinquished.
Bulldog Bites: Yale has won two straight games at Princeton; The last time Yale played at the Class of 1952 Stadium, Brandon Mangan scored the game-winning goal in OT against the Tigers in an 8-7 win… Michael Pratt got a big cheer when he threw a perfect, behind-the-back pass to a Yale defender in his own end in the first quarter… The biggest body blow of the game came from Yale D Peter Johnson on Cody Bremner in the second quarter… Big Red tempers really flared in the third quarter. Five flags and a hat were thrown at 5:59, and Cornell had to three men down… Five of Yale's top seven scorers are underclassmen who return next season.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director
photo courtesy of the Ivy Group