Levings Named MVP With 19 Face-Off Wins Today
ITHACA, N.Y. – The Bulldogs have qualified for the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season. The Yale men's lacrosse team erased a 2-0 deficit with six straight goals and then broke open a 6-6 game in the third quarter with five straight tallies on the way to a 12-8 win over Princeton in the 2013 Ivy League Tournament Championship Game at Schoellkopf Field.
The Elis, who improved to 11-4 with their third straight win, successfully defended the league tournament title and became the first school to win a pair of Ivy post-season championships.
Yale, ranked No. 15 and the second seed in the Ivy Tourney, earned the victory by dominating possession time thanks to face-off specialist Dylan Levings, who won his first 12 attempts on the X and finished 19 for 23, earning him the tournament MVP award.
Levings thanks his teammates for his success: "It was really a team effort. We had great play on the wings - we were tenacious on the ground balls, and that really helped a lot. I thought I struggled a little bit in the draws, and McCormack picked up a lot of great ground balls to keep the play alive, and the ball bounced our way and I was able to benefit from that." On being named MVP, he felt it was an honor, "but it's cooler to be going back to the NCAA tournament. That's definitely much more exciting to me."
Ryan & Forst Family Head Coach Andy Shay added, "He had a bad game against Princeton the first time around. He's a competitor, he's tough, and he cares, and he knew that if he could do what he can do then we would have a good chance of winning. And he did that."
Levings' dominance allowed a balanced Yale scoring attack that included a pair of goals each from Brandon Mangan, Kirby Zdrill and Conrad Oberbeck. Speaking to the team's versatility, Colin Flaherty, Ryan McCarthy, MIchael Lipin, Sean Shakespeare, Michael Bonacci, and Jimmy Craft all added tallies of their own.
Coming off a slow start against Penn in the semifinal game, the Bulldogs were solid for the full 60 minutes.
"Today was probably one of our better games all season. From February 1, the first day we came together, it was evident that we all cared about each other, and it really showed today on the field. This season has been a little bit of a roller coaster with ups and downs, but that's natural in any season. Today proved how much each guy cares about the rest of the team - it was a collective effort from everyone whether you were on or off the field," senior captain Michael McCormack said.
Princeton went up 2-0 in the first six minutes, but Yale soon took over and went on a six-goal run. The strong Bulldog defense held the Tigers from scoring for 23 minutes, until seconds before half-time.
McCarthy was the first to score, receiving a pass from Flaherty on the right wing and then firing a shot into the low left to make it 2-1.
Ninety seconds later, Oberbeck used a pick set by Mark Glicini to dodge his defenseman and pass it up the right wing to Bonacci, who shot it five-hole to score and tie the game at 2. The next Eli score did not come until there were six seconds left in the quarter when Zdrill caught a pass one-handed, quickly switched hands, faked and shot to score and give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 3-2 heading into the second quarter.
"Otero had the short stick, so he was dodging behind. I was trying my best to get open, and he fed me, but it was a little bit behind, so I tried to lay out for it and luckily it worked out," said Zdrill.
Early into the second, Yale scored their only man-up goal when sophomore Shane Thornton passed the ball up to Mangan on the left wing. He took a couple steps before shooting a bounce shot to score, making it 4-2. Six minutes later, McCormack caused a turnover in the defensive zone, which ultimately led to the first career goal for defenseman Craft.
"McCormack stripped Schreiber, allowing Kucharczyk to pick up the ground ball and bring it up field. He passed it off to McCormack, who carried it and drew a defenseman. I was trailing the play, and he threw it back to me. I got lucky enough to put the ball in the cage," Craft said. He added, "It's been a long time coming. It feels awesome just to be able to contribute and help the offense a little bit. They played so well today, so it's nice to know we can help contribute on that side of the field as well."
Five minutes later, senior Michael Lipin increased the Bulldog lead to 6-2, when he scored top right corner on an unassisted play. Princeton scored with 27 seconds left in the half, and continued their streak by scoring the first three goals in the second half and tying the game at 6-6. But Yale did not let that get them down. They stayed positive and went on a 5-goal streak to lead 11-6 going into the fourth quarter.
"We focused on playing unselfish lacrosse. We knew they were going to slide early, so most of those goals in that drive were assisted goals - catch and shoot goals, so that's what we harped on. Also, we didn't want to get behind ourselves. Every time we scored on attack, we were throwing each other high-fives and wanted to keep at it. We really just stuck to our toughness," said Oberbeck.
Princeton scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 11-7, but the Eli defense stayed tough.
Senior Peter Johnson said, "I thought we played very solid as a full unit, and it helps to have Eric playing as well as he did. Our game plan was to slide to their guys, and we did and made them throw the ball away and got the ball out of their sticks. All around, everybody came together and really put their foot in the ground, so I was very proud of our defense today."
McCormack added, "We didn't have much preparation with only one day between the semis and championship, so we put in our game plan yesterday and focused on the mental effort to rest our legs a little bit. We were able to execute and cause turnovers on a very good offense. Tom Schreiber, Mike MacDonald, Jake Froccaro are all great players, so it was nice we were able to limit a high-power offense to not as many goals as they usually score."
The last Eli tally came with seven and half minutes left in the game when McCarthy passed the ball across the offensive zone to Mangan high on the left wing, who fired a shot under the crossbar to bring the score to 12-7. Princeton scored the last goal of the game four minutes later, to make it 12-8.
Coach Shay credits the win to the team's character: "I don't know if I could put into words the character of this team. Michael and I were talking about it before the game. It's been a long road - I think that when you're missing 156 points from one of the best team's in Yale history, you don't think that you're necessarily going to repeat.
But no one told them that. It's a credit to them and his leadership as a captain was amazing. I felt like I was on the ride the whole time, just watching these guys play better and tougher. We've gotten better every step of the way this season."
Oberbeck added, "I'm thrilled we're here for a second straight time - finally getting our reputation up in the league. We pride ourselves on our toughness but now we've been able to prove what our method's about and what we believe in. I'm really proud of the whole team effort today. Our defense stood up, our offense was able to rally against a few Princeton drives, so it was a really great effort."
The Bulldogs outshot the No. 15 Tigers 44-34 and got 10 saves from goalie Eric Natale. Natale, Oberbeck, Johnson, Levings, and McCormack all made the All-Ivy Tournament Team, but they were most excited to be heading back to the NCAAs.
Natale felt it was a nice honor to make the all-tournament team, but the best part about the day was winning the championship as a team: "That's what we came here to do and we met our goal and got the second one in a row." He added, "I'm ready to get back at it and start working again. We had a tough loss to Notre Dame last year, and we're looking to do better this year."
Last year was the first year they made it in 20 years, and they want to take it all the way this season.
"It's very sweet to have won today. We're the first team to get two consecutive tournament championships, so that's something I'm very proud of, but I'm still hungry for the big ring."
The Bulldogs will watch tonight's NCAA Tournament Selection Show at 9 pm on ESPNU to see who they face in next weekend's first round.
2013 ALL-IVY TOURNEY TEAM
Mike MacDonald, Princeton
Conrad Oberbeck, Yale
Peter Johnson, Yale
Dylan Levings, Yale
Eric Natale, Yale
Rob Pannell, Cornell
Tom Schreiber, Princeton
Max Van Bourgondien, Cornell
Kip Orban, Princeton
Michael McCormack, Yale
Tournament MVP - Dylan Levings, Yale
Filed by Lilli Janney '13, Yale Sports Publicity
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