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Bulldogs Take On Top Ranked Maryland

Jack Tigh (George Duran photo)
Jack Tigh (George Duran photo)




NEW HAVEN, Conn. - After an impressive victory last week against Villanova to begin the new season, the Yale men's lacrosse team now faces its toughest challenge of the year. The No. 8 Bulldogs and No. 1 Maryland play at College Park in a game that airs live on ESPNews at noon on Saturday.



This weekend's contest is one of three regular season games for Yale that airs live on national television. It can be seen on ESPNEWS, with Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra in the booth and Sheehan Stanwick-Burch on the sideline. Check your local listings for how to access the network. 



The Bulldogs travelled to Villanova last weekend to take on the Wildcats for the first time in the team's history. The class of 2020, together in its first collegiate game, racked up eight goals in a 16-11 victory, including five by Jackson Morrill. Joseph Sessa had a career-high six points, including five assists, while Phil Huffard made a career-high 15 saves in the crease. 



Maryland leads the series with Yale, 11-3. The Elis, however, have won two of the past three contests, both in the regular season. Last year, the Terrapins visited New Haven on a cold February morning in front of a sold out crowd at Reese Stadium. The defense was the star of the game, only allowing five goals to one of the top-ranked offenses in the country. Balanced offense, including output from Eric Scott and Ben Reeves, gave the Bulldogs a 8-5 victory which propelled them into the top five in the national rankings. 



The Elis currently sit at the No. 8 spot in the Maverick Media Poll. This is approximately the same ranking they began with in 2016 season. Yale slowly climbed the ranks before reaching the No. 1 position as the last undefeated team in Division I. They also No. 8 in the USILA/Nike Division I Coaches' Poll, the highest ranking of any team in the Ivy League. 



The Terrapins were the runner up in the 2016 NCAA Tournament after an impressive string of wins to end the season, before falling to North Carolina in the final game. This season, they are looking dangerous once again, as they are off to a 3-0 start after three convincing wins. Their offense has not changed much since last year, as both Matt Rambo and Colin Heacock return to the starting lineup. Rambo has posted 19 points (9 G, 10 A) in three games, while Heacock has 11 (6 G, 5 A). Sophomore Austin Henningsen has a .603 face-off win percentage so far this year. 



The Bulldogs were one of the top scoring defenses in the nation last year, and are looking strong again so far, as they have had to replace two key starters. Junior Jerry O'Connor had an excellent game against the Wildcats, as he caused three turnovers. He is currently fifth in the nation in caused turnovers per game. Phil Huffard has been the back line of the Yale defense so far, and his 15 saves per game rank second in the nation, and first in the Ivy League. 



The Bulldogs poured in 16 goals last weekend, which is more than they scored in all but two games last year. Of the goals scored, nine were assisted, and the combined 25 points in the game puts them seventh in the nation in points per game. Yale put up only 30 shots to get their 16 goals, and their staggering  53.3% shooting percentage is the highest in the nation.



The Bulldogs were also given the top spot in the 2017 Ivy League Men's Lacrosse Preseason poll, as they edged out Brown. Yale received 6 of 12 first-place votes. The Elis and Bears are followed by Penn, and Harvard to round out the top four. 



Four members of the Yale men's lacrosse team have been named preseason All-Americans in a release from Face-Off Yearbook, which appears on the Inside Lacrosse website. Junior Ben Reeves begins the 2017 campaign the same way he ended last season, as a first-team All-American. Eric Scott and Camyar Matini were named to the third team, and Tyler Warner earned an honorable mention.



Goals: 19 vs. Sacred Heart

Assists: 10 at UMass-Lowell

Ground Balls: 51 at UMass-Lowell

Shots: 59 vs. St. John's

CTs: 16 vs. Penn

Face-offs: 18 at UMass-Lowell



Goals: 4, Ben Reeves* and Michael Keasey*, multiple games

Assists: 5, Ben Reeves vs. Harvard*

Points: 9, Ben Reeves vs. Harvard*

Saves: 14, Phil Huffard at Fairfield

CTs: 6, Christopher Keating vs. Penn

Face-off wins: 15 Jonathan Reese at Bryant; 14 Conor Mackie at Dartmouth

*Ivy Tournament



A Ben Reeves '18: Tewaaraton Award Finalist, First-team All-Ivy; First-Team All-American (Inside Lacrosse), StringKing POW (Week 5), Two-time Ivy League POW, Ivy Tournament Most Outstanding Player

A Jeff Cimbalista '17: Ivy All-Tournament Team

G Hoyt Crance '19: Two-time Ivy Rookie of the Week, Ivy All-Tournament Team

M Eric Scott '17: Second-team All-Ivy, Midseason Second-Team All-American (Inside Lacrosse)

D Christopher Keating '17: Second-team All-Ivy, Ivy All-Tournament Team



Last week, nine different Bulldogs scored on 30 shots. The freshmen class led all years with eight goals, while four players had multi-goal performances. 



The nine members of the class of 2017 have an overall record of 34-13, including two Ivy League Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. The most wins by a Yale lacrosse class is 46 by the 1991 and 1992 groups. The seniors include Eric Scott (1 goal last week), Jeff Cimbalista (1 goal last week), captain Brian Pratt (1 GB), Camyar Matini (1 GB), Henry Guild, John Lazarsfeld, Jack Berney, Charlie Better, and Conor Resch



The freshman class came to their first collegiate game ready to play. The class of 2020 scored eight times in the contest, including five goals from Jackson Morrill. The Maryland native also notched an assist, and his six-point performance earned him an Ivy League Rookie of the Week award.  He is currently fifth in the nation in goals per game, and he ranks top in the nation in shot percentage (5 goals off 6 shots). Lucas Cotler was also a presence for the Yale offense, scoring twice off of four shots. Matt Gaudet also added a goal with a rocket from the left side of the perimeter. The new Bulldogs from the class of 2020 come from seven different states and a Canadian province. They include six midfielders, three defensemen, two attackmen and a goalie. Inside Lacrosse ranked this recruiting class as the eleventh best in the nation. 



Ben Reeves was only able to produce one assist before being sidelined in the second quarter as the result of a big hit on offense. He stood with the team in uniform for the remainder of the game, but was unable to come back on offense. Reeves made team history last year as the first Yale player named one of the five finalists for the Tewarraton, the highest individual honor in college lacrosse. The preseason First Team All-American is set to build on his record-breaking season, in which he posted the third highest point total ever by a Yale player in a single season. His 79 points and 45 goals are both Yale sophomore records, and he is tied for second in the nation with 4.94 points per game. The Macedon, N.Y., native was named to the 2016 All-Ivy League First Team and the All-American First Team, and was also named the Ivy Tournament Most Outstanding Player. As a freshman, Reeves was the 2015 Ivy Rookie of the Year, and an All-New England and an Ivy All-Tournament selection.



Senior midfielder Eric Scott had another impressive performance at midfield against Villanova. He scored once, and kept the pressure on the Wildcat's goalie with five shots. Last year, Scott had the best statistical year of his collegiate career. Scott had 19 goals and 17 assists, good for third on the team with 36 points. Scott was named a to the 2016 All-Ivy League Second Team, and was named a 2017 preseason third-team All-American by Inside Lacrosse. He is also listed as a preseason First Team All-New England selection by the NEILA. One of his best performances last year occurred in the last regular season game against Harvard, in which he posted five points (2 G, 3 A) in the five-goal comeback effort. Scott was named to the first-team All-New England in 2015, and was fourth on the team in scoring with 28 points (22 G, 6 A). 



Senior attackman Jeff Cimbalista also made an impact to begin his final collegiate season, scoring once against Villanova from the middle of the zone. Cimbalista has been a critical asset to the Yale offense over the past three seasons. Last year, he had six multi-goal game, including two hat tricks against St. John's and Cornell. Cimbalista was also named to the 2016 All-Ivy Tournament team after scoring four goals in two games. He had 20 goals and 25 points last spring. As a sophomore, he finished second on the team with 30 goals. He also placed third on the Bulldogs with 35 points.



Yale athletics teams have just one captain. Senior Brian Pratt, the voted leader of the 2017 Bulldogs, is a versatile asset at the LSM position. Against Villanova, he was key to the face-off wins early in the game from the wing position, and played a solid defensive game throughout the day. Despite a season-ending injury before the start of the 2016 season, he was still visible on field, leading the players onto the field before pre-game warmups. Pratt had 26 groundballs and 2 caused turnovers during the 2015 season for a defense that ranked among the top 10 in the country. "It is a true honor to be voted captain by my teammates. It is a rich tradition at Yale and I am humbled to be a part of it," Pratt said. Looking forward to this season, he said, "I think we have an unbelievable amount of potential next year. Our goals will be high, and our work ethic needs to be even higher. It is important not to lose sight of the hardnosed, corner dog mentality as we continue to move the program to new places." This past summer, the political science major interned at Barclays. 



Senior Camyar Matini was named to the 2017 Preseason Third Team All-American list, and for good reason. So far he has recorded one groundball, and helped the defense overcome a slow start as they allowed only five goals in the second half against Villanova. Last season he recorded 11 ground balls and seven caused turnovers, despite missing five games due to injury. He was part of the starting lineup during the first games of the season, joining Michael Quinn and Chris Keating to form a tenacious defense that was in the top 10 in the nation for scoring defense. Matini is listed as a 2017 Preseason Second Team All-New England selection.



Junior Tyler Warner also played a key role as a short-stick defender for the Bulldogs, as he was oftentimes responsible for covering Villanova leading scorer Jake Froccaro by himself. Warner also managed to add an assist and record three groundballs. He was given an honorable mention for the 2017 Preseason All-American list as a defensive short stick midfielder. He was also recently named to the 2017 NEILA Preseason All-New England Team as a short-stick defender. He recorded 16 groundballs and six caused turnovers last year, and scored goals against both Penn and Sacred Heart. Warner has enough stamina to cover some of the top attackmen in the country, while leading a transition offense that can quickly score at the other end. His tenacity showed in the 2016 Ivy League Tournament, when he and Jason Alessi played a critical role in the defensive zone to secure another championship for the Bulldogs. 



Two-sport Division I athletes are unique, even more so are key players for both teams. Junior midfielder Jason Alessi is the best male example at Yale, starting on defense for the football team, while making plays for the lacrosse team. Last week against Villanova, Alessi was a key part of the Yale offense, as he scored two goals on three shots while collecting three groundballs. Alessi finished the 2016 season with 12 goals and 2 assists, including three multi-goal games. On the gridiron, the defensive back is the only player in Yale history to record a pair of punt returns for TDs over 80 yards.  Alessi is listed as a Preseason Second Team All-New England selection by the NEILA. 



Junior Phil Huffard had a career game to begin the season against Villanova. He recorded 15 saves on the day, the most of any game in his career. His save percentage (.577) ranks fourteenth in the nation, and he is second in the country in saves per game. Last year, Huffard also posted a .459 save percentage, while making 62 saves in 10 games. 



This year, more Yale lacrosse games are expected to be aired on national television than in any previous year. On February 25, the Bulldogs travel to College Park to take on 2016 national runner-up Maryland in a game that airs live on ESPNEWS. On March 24, Yale travels to Princeton to take on its conference rival, and the game can be seen on ESPNU. In one of the most highly-anticipated games of the year, the Elis host Brown on April 15, which can again be seen on ESPNU. The 2017 Ivy League Tournament will also be aired on the ESPN Networks.  


filed by Andrew Del Vecchio '19, Yale Sports Publicity