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NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! Bulldogs Knock Off Duke 13-11 For NCAA Title

Celebration at Gillette ( image)
Celebration at Gillette ( image)

Yale Take 1st NCAA Lax Championship




FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The most prolific season in the history of Yale Lacrosse has ended in ultimate glory. The Bulldogs scored the game's first 3 goals, built a lead as big as 5 midway through and then held on for a 13-11 win over Duke in the 2018 NCAA Men's Lacrosse National Championship Game at Gillette Stadium today.


Yale's first NCAA Lacrosse National Championship came to fruition because the No. 3 seed Bulldogs were barking out of the locker room in both halves. Three quick ones after the anthem and then the first three of the second half gave the Elis the spark they needed to grab their school-record 17th win before 29,455 fans.


Sophomore Matt Gaudet, the championship weekend MVP with 10 goals combined, found the net 4 times against the No. 4 seed Blue Devils (16-4). Junior Jack Tigh scored 3 goals while senior Ben Reeves, capping off what could be a Tewaaraton Award campaign, tallied once with 3 assists.


"I'm really proud of my guys for sticking with it. My guys are just a coach's dream. Really a coach's dream in every sense of the word. It's just unbelievable that they have accomplished this," said Yale Head Coach Andy Shay, who is in his 15th year at Yale.

The team's answer to any adversity over the 4-game stretch of national tournament contests was to go on a scoring run and have its rookie goalie come up with enormous saves. That worked again today. Jack Starr came up with 9 saves, including 4 during the decisive third quarter, on his way to making all-tournament honors. The Washington, D.C., native stole a few grade-A Duke chances to prevent potential big momentum shifts.


Yale jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a pair of Tigh goals and one from Gaudet. Tigh, after Yale won the opening faceoff on a violation, took a crossing pass and then ran down the right side and fired top shelf at 14:14.


The Elis got the next one after Jerry O'Connor forced a turnover and Christopher Keating grabbed the first of his 5 ground balls. When Yale briefly lost possession, Reeves needed to swipe a ground ball before Tigh zipped a shot over Danny Fowler's shoulder at 11:07 for the 2-0 advantage.  


Gaudet gave the Blue a 3-goal advantage two minutes later when he converted a Lucas Cotler (3 points) feed on an EMO. Gaudet, who had 6 goals in the semifinal, caught the pass, turned and took a few steps before going high.


"This weekend I thought that our midfielders and both Ben [Reeves] and Jackson Morrill were able to draw a lot of attention. As soon as I saw the back of my defender's helmet, I just went under him," said Gaudet. "They'd be able to draw the slide, and I was able to get my lay-ups. I just owe it all to my teammates."  


Yale jumped all over another EMO after Duke found the net for the first time. Brendan Rooney, who has been a productive specialist before and after starting a few games on attack, used a great Cotler feed to shoot from a low angle and bounce one past the Duke goalie at 12:42.


There were a combined 9 saves in the first half and both netminders made a few amazing stops. Starr, who had 4 saves in the first 30 minutes, stole a Justin Guterding shot at 11:35 to keep the Blue up by 3, and then the rookie Bulldog took a goal away from Joe Robertson, who was standing on the edge of the crease 2 minutes later. They may have been his top 2 saves this season, but it wasn't enough to prevent the ACC squad from tallying two straight and cutting the margin to 4-3.


Fortunately for Yale, Tigh wasn't done shooting. He took a feed from Reeves and fired righty for his third goal of the game at 6:47 of second. The Blue Devils closed the gap to a goal again, so the guys seeking their first national title needed to call on other heroes. Conor Mackie won a faceoff and Joseph Sessa, who contributed to the efforts at both ends of the field, took control.


Feeding off the advantage provided by the big Yale crowd, Sessa ran out from the sideline and made a few dekes before getting to within 15 feet of the cage. He faked a pass and then released a sneaky shot top shelf with 1:52 left for the 6-4 lead and his second goal of the weekend.


Reeves, after All-American midfielder Tyler Warner helped the Elis win another faceoff, bounced one down the middle at 13:33 for a 7-4 lead. They doubled up Duke a few minutes later with a Brian Tevlin and Reeves pick-and-roll that ended with the freshman midfielder scoring.


Duke had 4 penalties in the game, and some were timed poorly. The Elis made the Devils pay for simultaneous infractions, which allowed the Yale captain to insert the knife. Reeves slung a pass through a sea of poles to Gaudet, who was a foot from the crease. The sophomore attackman faked high and slipped it low at 10:14 of the third to give Yale its largest lead at 9-4.


Gaudet followed another Duke tally with more dirty work. He spun left, then right and then let go a low laser for his 40th goal of the season at 9:08 to give the Blue a 10-5 lead.


Yale was flagged for 5 penalties today. A string of them in the third helped the 3-time national champions score 3 straight to get within a pair at 10-8. That's when Cotler answered with one of Yale's biggest goals. The sophomore from Syosset, N.Y., ran in from the left side and threw it under a pole and over the goalie's shoulder at 1:36 to end the Duke string and make it 11-8 late in the third.


The Devils answered with 40 seconds left for an 11-9 score and put the pressure on Mackie to win another crucial faceoff. The senior from Glen Rock, N.J., came through by sending the ball to Robert Mooney, who passed quickly to senior Jason Alessi. The veteran midfielder sprinted down the middle of the field and then bounced a shot past Fowler with 27 seconds left.


There were only three goals in the final frame. Gaudet notched his fourth of the day at 8:11 of the fourth and then the Bulldogs withheld the Blue Devil rush to run out the clock and set off a wild celebration that will continue for days.


"We came out hot in the third quarter, and we knew Duke was going to come out and respond shortly after, and they did," said Reeves. "They pulled it within two, I think. We were able to make a couple plays late in that third quarter to kind of stretch that lead, and thankfully hold on to it. It's just an incredible, incredible experience."



The 2018 Yale season began at Frisco, Texas, in the Patriot Cup with a game against Villanova and ended today with a game in the home of the Patriots against a team that beat the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAAs.



Yale ended a 4-game win streak by Duke over the Bulldogs in a series that is now tied 8-8. The previous game was in 2009 at Durham.



Ben Reeves heads down to Washington, D.C., Thursday for the presentation of the 2018 Tewaaraton Award. His 62 goals and 115 points, while leading the Elis to their first national title, give him a good shot at the award.



Yale was awarded a lacrosse "national championship" in 1883 but had never won an NCAA title… The last Ivy League men's lacrosse team to play in a national championship game was Cornell, which lost 10-9 in OT to Syracuse in 2009. The last Ivy NCAA champion was the 2001 Princeton team that beat the Orangemen by the same score in OT… The 6 goals by Matt Gaudet in the semifinal were the third most by a player in an NCAA semifinal. He is the second Bulldog to record that total; Jon Reese '90 hit the net 6 times vs. Loyola in 1990 at Rutgers Stadium.



The Bulldogs, who wore home white jerseys and shorts, spent part of yesterday at Gillette with media (including chats with ESPN talent) and then an autograph session in the NCAA Fan Zone before having their final practice of the year inside the Patriots' workout facility. The team then went to lunch in Gillette's Club Room while watching the Wesleyan-Salisbury Division III Championship Game… Yale President Peter Salovey attended today's game along with incoming director of athletics Vicky Chun. Both were on the field taking part in the celebration along with retiring AD Tom Beckett.



Six Elis made the NCAA Championship Weekend All-Tournament Team: Matt Gaudet, A (MOP); Ben Reeves, A; Chris Fake, D; Jack Tigh, M; Jack Starr, G; Jackson Morrill, A.




By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director –