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Yale Beats Harvard, Claims No. 2 Spot in Tourney

Eric Natale. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Eric Natale. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Natale Saves Game With 2 Late Stops


BOSTON, Mass. – The Bulldogs have had great success in overtime games this spring, but today they were desperately trying to avoid an extra session in the regular season finale at Harvard. The No. 15 Yale men's lacrosse team held off a late Crimson offensive rush to take an 11-10 game and finish the season with a 9-4 record heading into next week's Ivy League Tournament.


With 30 seconds left, Harvard trailed by one, won the last face-off and had the ball for the rest of the game.  


Yale sophomore goalie Eric Natale stopped Harvard's overtime hopes. "They have a great offense.  They're very slick, so they were able to get off two pretty good shots, but luckily I saved them and we got the win," said Natale.


The Elis started slow but ultimately found their footing, ending Harvard's chances of moving on to next weekend's Ivy League Tournament.  Senior attackman Kirby Zdrill led the day with four goals, while Conrad Oberbeck and Brandon Mangan had two goals and one assist each.  Shane Thornton, Mark Glicini, and Sean Shakespeare added tallies as well.  


Harvard came out strong, leading 3-1 after the first quarter.  The lone Bulldog goal came from Oberbeck, who ran the ball out from behind the net.  While crossing in front of the crease, he threw a couple of fakes before shooting low to score.  


Sophomore Shane Thornton scored 18 seconds into the second quarter to cut Harvard's lead to one at 3-2.  Minutes later, the Bulldogs went ahead for the first time when Zdrill faked his defenseman into thinking he had passed off the ball.  After his defender turned around, he ran to the front of the net and beat the goalie, bringing the game to 5-4.


"I got the ground ball after the shot.  The defense wasn't settled so I was trying to make something happen.  I threw a fake and the guy happened to look away, so I jumped on the chance to take it to the net," Zdrill said.   


Harvard was quick to respond, scoring to make it 5-5 going into the half.  The Bulldogs came out firing in the third quarter, scoring five goals while only allowing Harvard two.  The last goal of the quarter came off an interception by senior Peter Johnson in the defensive zone.


"I never scored a goal in my Yale career and I think that one proves I wasn't to be a goal scorer.  I picked the pass, went all the way down and tried to shoot low, but the ball ripped out of my stick and essentially bounced over the net," Johnson said.


Luckily, Mangan was there to pick up the wide shot and give the attack time to set up.  After the attack was settled, junior Ryan McCarthy got his second assist of the game by passing to Oberbeck in front of the net to bring the score to 10-7 heading into the final quarter.  


It was win-or-go-home for Harvard, and they played like it.  They outshot Yale 28 to 26, won 27 to Yale's 26 ground balls, and won 18 of 24 face-offs.  They even scored two goals in the last two minutes, but ultimately, it was not enough to beat the Bulldogs, who capitalized on four of the Crimson's six penalties. 


"I think once we scored a couple goals, momentum allowed us to slowly chip away at their lead.  We played pretty solid in the second quarter and were able to go into halftime tied.  We erupted a little bit in the third quarter.  We were up by four at one point, but our credit to Harvard.  They came back and didn't up at all throughout the whole game, even at the end.  It was great to pull out the win," senior captain Michael McCormack said.  


Johnson added, "I don't think we were quite as tuned up as we were against Maryland.  They were a good team and definitely didn't give up, but we bared down when we needed to and we got a win - that's all that really matters.  It was the first win at Boston since 2007, so it's a great feeling to have accomplished that for Coach Shay."


Ryan & Forst Family Head Coach Andy Shay was proud of the grit his team showed: "We told the guys all week that was the challenge - that we hadn't been able to win at Harvard Stadium since 2007.  They responded."


While the Bulldogs had previously clinched their spot in the Ivy League Tournament, beating Harvard ensured them the No. 2 seed and a game against No. 3 Penn (Cornell and Princeton square off in the other semifinal next Friday).  


"Looking forward, we need to have a good week in practice.  I don't think we did everything great today, but I also don't think we did a lot of things too poorly, so we have a big work week heading into the tournament," McCormack said.


Filed by Lilli Janney '13, Yale Sports Publicity