SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Coming off back-to-back wins over nationally ranked Bucknell and a strong Hartford side, the Bryant University men's lacrosse team will go for its second home victory over a ranked opponent this season on Saturday afternoon, hosting No. 12/12 Yale at the Bryant Turf Complex.
Yale (1-0) leads the all-time season series, 2-1, having won the last meeting, 11-10, in double overtime back in April 2012. The Elis have been ranked for all three previous meetings, and the 2014 matchup is no different, with Yale entering Smithfield ranked 12th in both national polls. Yale took the 2011 meeting, 9-8, while the Bulldogs (2-1) stole the series opener, 9-7, in New Haven, Conn., back in 2010 when Yale boasted a No. 9 national seed.
"The Yale/Bryant game has become a great local rivalry," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "The previous three meetings have been one- or two-goal games. We've won down there, and they've won up here, and they are coming off of a very, very impressive win over one of the best teams in college lacrosse in St. John's."
Yale enters Saturday's contest off a 10-6 victory over the Red Storm in its season opener last week at home, seeing eight different goal scorers and a double-digit save performance from junior netminder Eric Natale (10 saves).
Michael Bonacci and Brandon Mangan each find the back of the net twice for the Elis, who – like the Bulldogs – also got scoring help from a longpole in the season's early goings. For Yale, it was longstick midfielder Jimmy Craft scoring on his only shot of the contest while also contributing a trio of caused turnovers.
Similarly, the Bulldogs have found offensive assistance from a number of defensive players, most notably redshirt-freshman LSM Cody O'Donnell (Smithfield, R.I.). O'Donnell has scored a goal in each of the last two contests, adding an assist against then-No. 14 Bucknell to finish with two points in the Bryant victory.
The teams also matchup well at the faceoff X, as New England's top two specialists will stand off and vie for control at the restart Saturday in Smithfield.
Junior All-American Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.), who is 32-of-55 (.582) so far on the season, leads the Black and Gold with 17 ground balls. Yale's Dylan Levings is coming off of a strong opening of his own against St. John's, having gone 13-of-19 last weekend.
"I think we are two teams that mirror each other and play very similar styles," said Pressler.
Between the pipes, the Bulldogs will need sophomore Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) to continue his stellar play following a 17-save outing against the Hawks last Saturday. Waldt has been Bryant's biggest asset in 2014, particularly in the team's pair of low-scoring affairs over the opening three weeks.
Offensively, Pressler will be looking for some new faces to make some headlines and add to the scoring depth of the top attack and midfield lines. Three games into the season, the top six account for 28 of the team's 38 points and 18 of 23 goals.
"Our defensive middies and our second midfield have to rise to the occasion offensively for us to be in this game Saturday," said Pressler.
Opposing Waldt and the Bulldog offense will be Natale, who put forth a strong showing in the opener after finishing last season ranked seventh in the nation in goals against average (7.88).
"It is going to be difficult for us to score in this game," said Pressler. "Yale's strength again in is its team defense, and they faceoff extremely well, as we all know. We are going to have to shoot well, we're going to have to get offense from other areas and different people, and we are going to have to defend them well."
Saturday's game is slated to faceoff at 1:00 p.m. Fans can watch the contest live and free-of-charge at NECFrontRow.com.