Yale Takes Down No. 17 Fairfield
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The No. 20 Yale Bulldogs extended their winning streak to three today by defeating No. 17 Fairfield, 12-8, in the home opener at Reese Stadium.
The crowd of 1,300 watched the Elis come back from a 4-1 deficit early in the second quarter with an offensive run that took them into halftime with a 6-5 lead.
The Bulldogs never lost their lead. Senior Kirby Zdrill had a career-high four goals, while junior Brandon Mangan had four points with two goals and two assists. Junior Dylan Levings had his best face-off performance yet (74 percent), winning 17 of 23 battles on the X. Sophomore Eric Natale tied his career-high of 12 saves, with nine of them coming in the second half.
The visitors had the edge in the first quarter, but the Elis found their footing and their characteristic unselfish play was too much for the Stags. The Bulldogs also won the ground ball battle by 40 to 26.
"It was a great game, obviously - it's a win. We thought it was going to be a tough game and certainly it was," said Ryan & Forst Family Head Coach Andy Shay. "We felt we were wound a little too tight at the start of the game. After the first quarter, we settled in a little bit and we started making smart plays and did a much better job."
Senior captain Michael McCormack added, "We started out a little slow, but I think that was more nerves than anything. Once we started getting the ball rolling a little bit, we opened up and started to play looser, and got a couple of goals off that. Once we got a little bit of a cushion, we were able to loosen up and play a little better."
Helping them get their cushion was Levings at the X. He won every face-off in the first and third quarters, and went 4-for-8 and 3-for-5 in the second and fourth quarters, respectively.
"It was obviously a close game, so I wasn't thinking so much about how I was doing and more about how my team needed the ball," Levings said.
Shay was proud of his performance as well. "I think going 17-for-23 is a great day for him, and that's something that we need out of him. He did his job today."
Zdrill also kept his team in the game, scoring the first three goals for the Bulldogs. His fourth goal also came at an important time. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were up 8-7. Sophomore Colin Flaherty scored his second goal of the game to bring the lead to 9-7. Forty seconds later, the Stags responded with a goal, making the game that much closer with 12:15 left on the clock. Less than a minute later, sophomore Shane Thornton found Zdrill posting in the middle, passed it, and Zdrill turned to shoot and score, bringing the score to 10-8. The Stags did not score again.
"The reason I'm getting open inside so much is because all of our other dodgers are drawing their defensemen, so the team offense is just gelling really well right now," said Zdrill.
Coach Shay gives Zdrill more credit. "We're psyched for him. He was awesome, he scored in 6-on-6 and on man-up."
Sophomore Conrad Oberbeck also added to the list with two goals. McCormack scored one as well, which he directly accounts for their work in practice.
"All week we had been practicing transition because this is a team that likes to sub off their offensive middies and get their defensive middies on, so coach was telling us to get ahead of your man. And that's what I did. I was able to get open in the middle of the field and Conrad Oberbeck found me. A lot of it was due to the drills we did all week."
Junior defensive midfielder Alex Otero found the net for the first time in his career.
"There was a scramble situation where Harry had the ball on the right wing, and no one ended picking me up because they assumed I would sub off so then I stepped in. Harry passed me the ball; I closed my eyes, shot it and scored," Otero said. "It feels really good. You kind of think that it's going to happen but you can't plan on it, so it felt good."
The defense had a slower start, but came together to hold the Stags to two goals in the second half.
"The overall effort was great. Obviously the early lead they were able to get out to was not our best performance, but I think the last three quarters are indicative of how we can play collectively as a unit," said McCormack.
Natale had a great day in net, saving 12, including a couple in the second half at point-blank range.
"Throughout the game, coach kept telling me on the sideline, 'Stick with the fundamentals,' so when it came to it in the point-blank save, I just did the fundamentals and it worked out," Natale said.
Overall, it was a great win for the Bulldogs, giving them a three-game winning streak heading into Ivy League play.
"It's great to see the team playing so well. We're working hard and it's great to see it pay off. We're just trying to get better all the time, so everyone's pumped about it. It's a great win, but we have to focus on Cornell for next week," said Zdrill.
Yale opens the Ivy League season against the Big Red Saturday at 1 pm at Reese Stadium.
Filed by Lilli Janney '13, Yale Sports Publicity Student Assistant