Notebook: Young Yale Team on the Rebound


During Yale's five-game winning streak, junior faceoff specialist Conor Mackie has won 97-of-136 of his draws for a 71.3 winning percentage. The Bulldogs host Dartmouth on Saturday.

Yale found itself as a preseason top-10 team this year because, well, Yale pretty much always finds itself in that neighborhood.

The Bulldogs have become one of college lacrosse’s most reliable programs this decade. They’ve made the NCAA tournament four of the last five years. They usually hit the 10-win plateau. And they’ve done so by being good at pretty much everything, though their identity is a rugged, blue-collar bunch.

So when Yale sputtered through a three-game losing streak early in the season, it came to a surprise to all except those who know the program the best.

“We felt like we were going to suffer through a lot of growing pains, especially at the defensive end of the field,” coach Andy Shay said. “We basically started six freshmen at one point. We felt like it was going to be a work in progress. Even if we stumbled in a couple games and didn’t really play the lacrosse that people have come to expect from Yale, I thought we were going to be OK as long as we got better.”

Oh, the Bulldogs have gotten better, all right.

Yale (6-3) pushed its winning streak to five games with a 23-7 rout of St. John’s on Tuesday. It is undefeated in the Ivy League and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Princeton. Its next two conference games, against Dartmouth and Brown on consecutive Saturdays, are at home.

There’s a lot to like about the Bulldogs’ offense, and it goes well beyond attackman Ben Reeves (22 goals, 20 assists). Yale already has seven players with at least 10 goals, and the team’s 8.56 assists per game ranks sixth nationally.

Sharing the ball only helps the Bulldogs’ efficiency; their .363 shooting percentage checks in at No. 5 in Division I.

The improvement didn’t happen overnight. With Yale, it rarely does.

“I think that for us it’s always going to be an incremental thing,” Shay said. “That’s the beauty of it. We want it to have a compound effect.”

It’s possible that, externally, the Bulldogs’ early struggles were overblown. They lost by a goal at Maryland while Reeves was injured, and there’s no shame in that. They didn’t play well the next weekend against Bryant in a game delayed by a day because of poor weather. That left Yale with a rough 48-hour turnaround to face Massachusetts, and it sputtered to an 11-9 loss.

Since then, Yale is averaging 16.2 goals. More importantly, it is getting exceptional work out of arguably its biggest breakout player --- junior faceoff man Conor Mackie, who has won 60 percent of his attempts.

“He’s been a revelation. He’s a kid we’ve always known has the ability to do those things,” Shay said. “I think he just had to be a little more diligent at practice and understand the value of that. He struggled the first couple games, and he’s really changed how he’s approaching practices. He’s been a weapon for us.”

Mackie might be a reflection of the Bulldogs in a single player. Shay praised his team’s work ethic, recalling maybe one practice all year when his players didn’t bring the requisite energy to improve.

And as a result, they have --- and have set themselves up to be the sort of team no one will want to draw in May if things continue to unfold as they have of late.

“I think we’ve definitely gotten better faster than I expected, but we definitely have a long way to go,” Shay said.

Hopkins Turns to Turnbaugh

Junior goalie Brock Turnbaugh made his first start of the season last week for Johns Hopkins. He certainly didn’t seem in a hurry to hand back the job.

Turnbaugh made 12 saves in a 12-6 defeat of Rutgers in the Blue Jays’ conference opener. That came six days after he was inserted in favor of Gerald Logan early in the second quarter amid a flurry of Virginia goals. Hopkins (6-3) rallied to win that game 18-17.

“I have great confidence in both of our goalies,” coach Dave Pietramala said. “We really didn’t talk about it at all until [Thursday] when I brought them both in. I brought Gerald in first and said ‘Brock’s going to get the start.’ He said ‘OK coach, I understand,’ and he’s been tremendously supportive. It’s not an easy thing to do, to sit down, but it wasn’t easy for Brock to do that at the beginning of the year.”

Nor could it have been all that easy for either of them, as Pietramala pointed out, since they share an apartment.

“I’d like to believe Brock’s day was, in part, because of the support Gerald gave him,” Pietramala said. “Gerald challenged him and didn’t just hand over the start. Brock seized the moment. I’m not interested in playing musical goalies, but if we feel like we need to get a spark or make a change, we’re going to do the things we need to do to win games.”

Maryland Maintains Balance

Arguably the most notable reason Maryland reached the national title game last season was its across-the-board depth, a trait that permitted the Terrapins to wear down opponents as the season unfolded.

But balance was a substantial factor as well, and the Terps were far more than the Matt Rambo Show as they made their postseason run.

Maryland (6-2), which plays host to Penn State (10-0) on Saturday, has re-established that multidimensional offense this season. For the last two weeks, it has come into particular focus.

In a 15-7 pummeling of North Carolina, all six of the Terps’ offensive starters had at least two goals and three points, but none of them had more than three goals or five points. Then last week, Jared Bernhardt, Connor Kelly and Dylan Maltz all had hat tricks, and those three joined Rambo as four-point contributors in a 15-8 defeat of Michigan.

Balance won’t guarantee Maryland a place in Foxborough, but it’s a reminder the Terps --- whose two losses have both come by a goal --- won’t be an easy out at any point this season.

Most Recent

Anne Arundel Overtakes Onondaga for No. 1 in NJCAA Women's Top 5

Anne Arundel throttled Harford 19-4 to earn five of the six first-place votes.

Onondaga Climbs NJCAA Men's Top 5 for Second Straight Week

Onondaga entered the spring unranked but is now No. 3 in the poll.

Denton, Tiemann, Kranich are USA Lacrosse Women's Players of the Week

The USA Lacrosse Players of the Week honors the top performers in each division.

Zappitello, Billig, Cook are USA Lacrosse Men's Players of the Week

The USA Lacrosse Players of the Week honors the top performers in each division.

Twitter Posts