Bulldogs Nearly Stun Orange in NCAA Quarters
2-Goal Lead Evaporates in Last Few Minutes
COLLEGE PARK, MD. – The Yale men's lacrosse team, which scored six straight goals to erase a four-goal deficit while holding No. 1 Syracuse scoreless for 43 minutes, needed to protect a two-goal lead with a little over three minutes left to earn its first national semifinal appearance since 1990. The 6-4 lead evaporated in a span of 44 seconds and then Dylan Donahue found the net with 13 seconds left as the Orange squeezed past the Bulldogs 7-6 in the NCAA Quarterfinal at Byrd Stadium.
Junior Brandon Mangan led the Bulldog scoring with three, while sophomore Conrad Oberbeck had two, and senior Michael Lipin had one. Assists came from freshman Mark Glicini and senior captain Michael McCormack.
While it was not how the Bulldogs and their fans wanted it to end, Ryan & Forst Head Coach Andy Shay continues to be proud of his team: "It was a tough pill to swallow for us. I would like to congratulate my team for its performance. I couldn't put into words how proud I am of this group. Every moment, I enjoy coaching them and, true to form, they are just so tough and gritty. It's an amazing group to coach."
Syracuse started the scoring with the only man-up goal in the game at 12:31 left in the first. In the next four minutes, the guys in white shirts scored two more. With 1:22 left, the Orange scored their last goal for the next three quarters, to lead 4-0. Not letting the quarter end scoreless for the Elis, Mangan took the ball from behind the left side of the net, ran along the crease and while getting pushed, managed to shoot below the crossbar to score with four seconds left, making it 4-1 heading into the second quarter.
The next Bulldog tally came from Oberbeck with 8:03 left in the half. Picking up a missed shot by Lipin behind the net, Oberbeck ran to the front, faked high twice, and shot it five-hole to cut the Syracuse lead to 4-2. Both teams were held scoreless for the rest of the half and deep into the third quarter.
Mangan was the next to find the net with 5:23 left in the third. After getting the ball behind the net, he ran it up the right wing and sent a bounce shot to the bottom left corner to score and bring the Cuse lead to one, at 4-3.
Nine seconds later, Oberbeck erased the Bulldog deficit. Junior Dylan Levings won the following face-off and passed it off to Glicini, who quickly passed it across to Oberbeck on the right wing, allowing him to shoot a beautiful riser to hit the back of the net and tie it at 4-4.
Five minutes later, Mangan scored his third goal off a great defensive play led by McCormack. The captain caused a turnover in the defensive zone, allowing senior Peter Johnson to pick up the ground ball. By the time Johnson had it, McCormack was at the midfield line, ready to push the transition. Johnson passed it off, and McCormack ran it into the offensive zone before seeing Mangan on the left wing. The junior attackman scored and give the Elis their first lead of the game at 5-4.
Mangan addressed the offenses' recent tendency to start slow: "Lately we've been starting a little sticky on offense. I mean we started down 5-1 against Penn State. We've been able to make adjustments on the line and just playing with a little bit more sense of urgency, swing the ball earlier. In the first couple of possessions we stalled out a little bit. There were some guys stuck to guys' sticks so we were just trying to move the ball a little bit. We hit four pipes in the first quarter. Once we started to get the ball to fall, we started to get into a bit of a rhythm and it felt good."
Sophomore goalie Eric Natale added, "We've been down every game this year and every game we've managed to fight and at least be in it. It's great going into the locker room at halftime and knowing even if we're down as much as four goals against Penn State, that our offense and our defense is going to buckle down and keep playing and work to put ourselves into a position to win the game. Then from there, we've done it so many times that it just becomes habit. We know that if we're down a few, we're just going to come back and keep playing and see what happens at the end."
Natale helped his team immensely with 11 saves on the day. With many coming from point-blank range, he, along with the defense, kept the team in the game.
McCormack felt the defense "started to figure out their big-little set a little bit. Once we sort of hashed out the kinks during halftime on what we were doing wrong, we were able to get some stops. The biggest thing is that we were getting first time kills. Once we got the ball on the ground, we were able to get the ball out, which was huge in the third quarter and carried into the fourth. Obviously, Syracuse is a great team and I wish them the best of luck. They have a high-powered offense. They were able to score three goals in 3.5 minutes, but to hold them scoreless for 2.5 quarters is a testament to our defense."
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs took their two-goal lead when Lipin crossed from left to right along the top of the offensive zone and shot it high in the left corner, bringing the score to 6-4.
The Yale defense continued to hold strong. With 4:40 left in the game, Glicini made a diving save in the crease to save a shot and recovered the groundball. Ninety seconds later, Syracuse ended its 43-minute scoring drought, to make it 6-5. Forty seconds after that, the Orange scored again to tie it at 6. With a little over a minute left, Oberbeck took a final shot but the Syracuse goalie was able to make the save.
Syracuse scored their final goal with 13 seconds left: "We shoved off when we probably wanted to hang tight with our man. Kevin Rice is a great feeder. He has excellent vision and had a full look at it and was able to throw it through and they made a play," said Shay.
Levings, who had a great day with 12 wins in 17 attempts, won the final face-off and passed it off to sophomore Harry Kucharczyk, but there just wasn't enough time.
The Bulldogs' season may have ended, but this game does not define their season. They became the first team in Ivy League history to win back-to-back Ivy League Tournament Championships, and became the first Yale team in 21 years to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Shay could not say enough about this team: "I can't thank these seniors enough. When you graduate as much as we graduated last year, we all knew it might have been an uphill battle to do what we did last year, much less surpass it like we did, so I think we have gotten better every year. This senior class wouldn't accept anything less than surpassing last year, so I could talk forever about their contributions to this team and you wouldn't understand. They're just unbelievable. We've been down in every single game this year, and we've just come back. It's funny. Even today, we were like, 'Okay, is this the day we don't come back?' Sure enough, these guys just keep grinding. I'm very proud to be their coach and I think hopefully we as a program have learned every year these last four years and we can build on this. I think we're going to have to work as hard as we did this year, which is saying something."
filed by Lilli Janney '13, Yale Sports Publicity
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Brandon Mangan image by Brian Schneider