The Ivy has had a bit of slow start to the spring season, but Yale and Cornell have risen above the rest of the conference and remain ranked in the Top 10. They faced off in New Haven on Saturday, with storylines abound. The winner would be considered to have the inside track to the top of the Ivy League and a postseason berth.
Cornell’s Gavin Adler is a Schmeisser Award candidate at defense and one of the best cover defenders in lacrosse. He’d be charged with slowing down Matt Brandau, one of the top attackmen in the nation and who recently appeared on Inside Lacrosse’s Tewaaraton contenders list. Their matchup could impact the very outcome of the game. On the other end, Cornell’s CJ Kirst was also on that Tewaaraton list, and Yale’s defense would have to figure out how to slow him down.
As if that wasn’t enough, Michael Long, one of Cornell’s top weapons as a dodger and initiator, returned from injury to make his season debut. He started at attack alongside Kirst, forming a unit that would give Yale it’s biggest defensive test of the season.
Yale had a good look right off the opening whistle, and on a fast break, and then an other as Brad Sharp got his strong hand. While the Cornell defense held at first, with Adler stopping a Brandau dodge and Chayse Ierlan making a nice early save, both of Cornell’s first two clear attempts failed. The second ended with a turnover caused by Max Krevsky, who took the ground ball and scored in transition to make it 1-0 Yale.
Chris Lyons would add Yale’s seconds shortly after on a spectacular diving effort, dodging past his man and laying out moving upfield.
With just over 10 minutes left in the first, Cornell would finally win a ground ball off the faceoff and get their first offensive possession. A feed in front was knocked down, but Hugh Kelleher was able to win the loose ball and put it past Paquette in front.
Cornell would tie it on a long range blast from Aiden Blake, fed by Billy Coyle. The Yale defense cheated towards the Cornell attack so much early that over the top feeds for step downs were open, and Cornell was happy to let them rip. Jared Paquette was up to the challenge early, as he entered the game making over 16 saves per game for Yale.
Cornell added their third, taking the lead after trailing 2-0 early, on a pole goal in front of the net by Walker Wallace. A quick up and out from Cornell’s defense was able to create as Yale hadn’t quite set their ride, and Wallace found himself uncovered in front of the goal.
On the following faceoff, Nick Ramsey drew a hold and Yale went to the man up. During the play, Ierlan would get run into and pick up an injury. Wyatt Knust entered the game, immediately facing a man down situation. A quick shot from Johnny Keib hit the post, and Cornell backed it up. The Big Red killed the penalty, and then Blake scored his second on an unassisted sweep to his right hand from up top.
Angelo Petrakis would win a faceoff clean after struggling early with Ramsey, and Cornell used the entire shot clock before Coyle scored on an question mark against DeMuth, pushing the lead to 5-2. Spencer Wirtheim got his first a few minutes later, rolling back upfield after a hard alley dodge and shooting of his man’s hip, sneaking it by Paquette to the far pipe.
Cornell’s ball movement was excellent early. It was on display on their next offensive possession. Coyle pushed from behind, moved it up top, where Kelleher stepped past a help defender and passed it back to Coyle while falling down. Coyle skipped it to long, who skipped a pass quickly through the Long, and Long scored his first of the year, which was met with one of the biggest cheers of the day.
"Just a senior presence for us, a guy that's played so many minutes and a guy that helps us dictate tempo out there. We're really glad to have him back in the mix. We've still got some things to work on down there to get him back fully, but overall he gave us a nice spark to have him back on the field," said Cornell head coach Connor Buczek. Long would finish with a hat trick and an assist on the day.
Petrakis won the following faceoff, and Kirst scored with just 1.7 seconds left to make it 8-2 at the end of the 1st.
Lyons would stop the bleeding with a goal at the start of Q2, as he drew a mismatch off a nice two man game with Keib. He got to the middle with ease and buried it low. Leo Johnson scored his first shortly after, and Yale began to take back the momentum.
Cornell, however, would answer the early run. Hugh Kelleher swept to his right off a pick, immediately drawing help. He dumped it inside to Kirst who stepped away from the help to free his hands and score. Long would add another unassisted as he beat Cohen individually. Kirst would score his next, as the second quarter started to look like the first. Two quick goals from Yale, following by a flurry from the Big Red. After Long’s second, Michae Garhitorena replaced Jake Cohen at close defense for Yale, as the Bulldogs tried to find better matchups with the Cornell attack.
Cornell began to show zone a bit on defense too, with Adler parked in the middle, forcing Yale into some tough decisions and poor feeds. With just under four minutes left in Q2, after a Yale turnover, Long would complete a hat trick in the first half. Teams traded possessions from there, with Ierlan making several saves to stifle Yale. The Big Red took a 12-4 lead into the half. They also took a 21-11 ground ball edge into the half, which remained a theme on the day.
"They were phenomenal off the ground, we were soft off the ground," said Yale Head Coach Andy Shay.
The first Yale possession of the half ended in a familiar way, with an Ierlan save and an Adler ground ball. After clearing, Cornell picked right back up where they left off, as Wirtheim added his second which looked like a carbon copy of his first. The stifling of Yale would continue, as Yale struggled to put quality shots on the net. Ierlan made saves, Cornell increased their GB advantage, and the Big Red continued to roll. At the end of the third, it was 16-5 Yale.
"We weren't happy with the way we played last week. And we challenged out team to be better in a lot of areas. We worked hard, they came out flying around, and they made tough plays throughout the course of the game. As they did the system stuff started to work well, and our guys played well together," said Buczek.
Machado Rodriguez won the faceoff and found Brandau on the fast break, but Brandau missed. It was his first shot of the game, which is never going to be part of the Yale game plan. Thomas Bragg would score on a nice alley dodge to get one back for Yale, but Ryan Sheehan got his first on an assist from Coyle about a minute later to make it 17-6 Cornell.
Cornell looked dominant in all phases. They’ll no doubt move up in the polls, and announced themselves as the Ivy league favorite in dominant fashion.
Ierlan finished the day with 20 saves, despite a heavily taped foot and clear injury.
"Two weeks in a row, 20 saves. He's a great senior leader for us right now. He's started for a long time and he's seen good, bad, and indifferent. He's really coming into his own as a leader down the stretch of his career. We're proud of him as a guy that we can lean on, and when we get that type of effort and performance from hi, it gives everyone else confidence across the field," Buczek said.
Coyle led all scorers with eight points on two goals and six assists. Kirst had five goals, Blake had two goals and an assists. Sheehan, Wallace, Wirtheim, and Kelleher each had two points, while Box, Psyllos, and Lombardi had a point apiece.
For Yale, Lyons and Johnson each had a hat trick, while Brandau finished with a goal and Yale's only assists. Rodriguez, Bragg, and Krevsky each had a goal.
"That's a great defense and they're a great team. I'm not sure we really gave them the requisite respect going in," Shay said.
For Yale, it’ll be a game they’ll look to put this game in the rear view right away.. With Princeton next week, the Bulldogs will need to forget about this one and get ready for the Tigers.