Neither Yale nor Albany had played on men’s lacrosse championship weekend in at least 28 years, but that unfamiliarity did not seem to bother the Bulldogs at all.
No. 3 seed Yale scored the game’s first seven goals and never looked back in a 20-11 rout of the Great Danes in an NCAA Division I tournament semifinal Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium that sent the program to its first-ever title game.
The Bulldogs (16-3), who were playing in only their second final four and first since 1990, will meet the winner of the second semifinal between No. 1 seed Maryland (14-3) and No. 4 seed Duke (15-3) on Monday at 1 p.m.
Yale was powered by its starting attack that combined for 14 goals and nine assists. Senior Tewaaraton Award finalist Ben Reeves led all scorers with nine points on five goals and four assists, sophomore Jackson Morrill (McDonogh) added three goals and five assists, and sophomore Matt Gaudet scored six goals on eight shots.
“We have tons of talent on the offensive side of the ball,” said Reeves, whose career points total of 312 now ranks eighth in NCAA history. “You’ve got to respect everybody on that side of the ball.”
If the Bulldogs were supposed to be starstruck by the enormity of the stage of this tournament, they dismissed that notion quickly, sprinting to a 4-0 advantage in the first 3:34 and forcing Albany coach Scott Marr to spend one of his two first-half timeouts. But Yale was unrelenting, scoring three straight goals and chasing redshirt senior goalkeeper and first-team All-American JD Colarusso from the game with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
Despite winning only five of nine faceoffs in that frame, the Bulldogs corralled 13 of 16 ground balls and outshot the Great Danes, 11-6.
“I thought we had the ball, which is part of it, and I think that's a big part of this game specifically when we play those guys,” Yale coach Andy Shay said. “Their goalie, who we have a ton of respect for, we decided we needed to shoot as efficiently and as intelligently as possible, and it ended up being a rough day for him, unfortunately. He’s a first-team All-American, and he’s a great player and a great kid, I’m sure. But I think that we were able to can our shots, and we were extremely efficient as a result.”
The Great Danes attempted a comeback in the second quarter, scoring three straight and four of the period’s first six goals. But the Bulldogs regained the upper hand with three goals to close out the half, including a rocket from Morrill with 0.9 seconds left.
Although edged out 18-15 on faceoffs overall, Yale took 45 shots to Albany’s 30 and picked up 31 ground balls to the Great Danes’ 21. Albany also committed 14 turnovers compared to the Bulldogs’ seven
Senior attackman Connor Fields paced the Great Danes (16-3) with three goals and two assists, and sophomore faceoff specialist TD Ierlan went 18-for-33 with eight ground balls, one goal and one assist. But freshman attackman Tehoka Nanticoke was limited to one goal on six shots while being guarded by the duo of senior Jerry O’Connor and sophomore Aidan Hynes.
“Honestly, we didn’t play great,” Marr said. “That’s all. I mean, the bottom line is that they played better than us. They made plays. Just unfortunately, just didn’t have a great day. It’s a good offense. You have one of the best players in Ben Reeves running the show, and Jackson Morrill is outstanding. He went to the goal early. I thought that hurt us. He wasn’t that aggressive the last time we played him. And then Gaudet is a good finisher inside, and we just didn’t cover him up enough. We made some real mental mistakes in that first half on both ends of the field. And not covering up a guy inside is a mental mistake, and unfortunately we made those mistakes.”
Yale 7 5 5 3 — 20
Albany 1 4 2 4 — 11
Goals: Y—Gaudet 6, Reeves 5, Morrill 3, Rooney 2, Cropp, Daniggelis, Forst, Sessa; A—Fields 3, Eccles 2, A.Burgmaster, J.Burgmaster, John, Ierlan, Nanticoke, Patterson. Assists: Y—Morrill 5, Reeves 4, Alessi 2, Tevlin; A—Fields 2, Ierlan, McClancy, Patterson, Reh, Taylor. Saves: Y—Starr 7; A—Colarusso 6, Siekierski 7.