FOXBOROUGH, MASS – Albany lacrosse has lost just twice all season. On Saturday, Yale is going to try to beat the Great Danes twice on their own.
The last time the teams met on April 22 was filled with abnormalties. Albany’s leading scorer Connor Fields went off with injury in the first quarter and star faceoff specialist TD Ierlan lost handidly in the faceoff battle.
Second time through, it’s going to be more challenging for the Bulldogs.
“It’s tough, I’ve only done it a handful of times in my career,” said Yale attackman Ben Reeves of beating the same team twice. “It will be a challenge for sure.”
Reeves, the Yale leading scorer with 102 points, was the only productive player in the Bulldogs’ Ivy League loss to Cornell. Since then, the rest of the offense has turned it on, with Matt Gaudet and Jackson Tigh contributing to one of the deepest offenses in the league.
They exploited the Albany defense last time, but the Great Danes are sure to have made adjustments.
“I think, and I’ve said it before, I think we got away with one,” said Yale head coach Andy Shay. “They had a bad day, we fully expect it to be a battle. It was a great day for us and it’s good to have that under our belt, but we can fully expect it to be different.”
The Bulldogs haven’t won a national title since 1893, in the infancy stages of college lacrosse. They are the first Division I men’s team to make it to the final four out of New England in the five-year history of the event being held at Gillette Stadium.
The moment isn’t lost on them, but the focus has to be perfect against a team like Albany.
“One of the benefits of this is Albany is a rival of ours,” said Shay. “It’s a game that we know and a team that we know. If we didn’t know much, if we were playing Duke, we haven’t played them for a number of years, and it might be difficult to focus on just the game. But Albany is a team we know really well and expect, so focusing on the opponent has helped a great deal.”
The biggest key for the Bulldogs might be at the faceoff dot. When Conor Mackie has played well, Yale has had success. He went 13 for 21 against Albany last time out, the first matchup all season where Ierlan was under 50 percent for Yale.
It’s going to be hard to find that kind of success again.
“I don’t think we can expect to do that,” said Shay. “He’s [Ierlan] doing different things right now, he’s rotating a fair amount. It’s going to be a really difficult matchup and we have a ton of respect for their wings as well. I think that’s one of the best set of wings in the country.”
It’s going to be different this time out for Yale and Albany. But, the Bulldogs have something most other teams in the nation don’t; the confidence they have the ability to defeat the Great Danes.
“The message is still the same,” said Shay. “We have to move the ball well, we have to defend our matchups. When Connor Fields went down, the matchups became a lot different. That’s something we can’t expect, he looks really healthy right now.”