January 23, 2014

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#LMRanks: No. 12 Yale Bulldogs (MD1)

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Brandon Mangan scored in every game last year as a junior. (Rich Barnes)

Previous: No. 13 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays

Vitals

2013 Record: 12-5 (Ivy League)
Coach: Andy Shay (11th season)
Record at Yale: 78-63

Power Ratings

Offense: 4
Defense: 3
Goalkeeping: 3
Faceoff:
4

Top Returner

A Brandon Mangan (Sr.)

He's not the most dynamic player, but Mangan spoils the Bulldogs with his decision-making and his nose for the goal. During last year's 64-point performance, he scored in every game and was held under two goals just four times. "[Mangan] is not the biggest, fastest guy and he's not going to win stick competitions. But he's clutch, and he has so much heart," coach Andy Shay said.

X-Factor

FO Dylan Levings (Sr.)

One of the better faceoff men in the country struggled at times last year adapting the new NCAA rules that placed stiffer penalites on faceoff violators. His win percentage dropped from 63.2 in his sophomore season, but Levings still ranked seventh nationally with a 59.7 percentage as a junior. Possession is always key for Yale and will again with a new leading cast on defense.

Tournament Trend

2009 Did Not Qualify
2010 Did Not Qualify
2011 Did Not Qualify
2012 First Round
2013 Quarterfinals

What's New?

Yale is not used to having preseason hype attached to its name. But after winning 43 games in the past four years and going to two straight NCAA tournaments, and a year after coming within an eyelash of knocking off Syracuse and landing in the school's second final four, the Bulldogs are expected to do big things. "The notoriety feels good, but no one is handing us a trip to the quarterfinals because we had a good year," Shay said.

Telling Number

159
That is the combined amount of ground balls (100) and caused turnovers (59) generated by graduated defensemen Peter Johnson and Michael McCormack in 2013.

Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say

"I should put them at No. 4, making the statement that they are final four-bound."

— One rival coach

"Mangan is ultra-productive at attack and Dylan Levings is automatic at times at the faceoff X... Can they replace the two defensemen?... This is a team that just grinds out wins even when you may look at some of their personnel and believe there is no way this team should win as many games as they do... Past couple years they have gotten hot at the right time and last year they were about two minutes away from reaching the final four... Lot of big game experience returning on attack with Mangan and Oberbeck.

"At the faceoff X, one of their key weapons, Levings, is back for another season and at times he has shown flashes of giving them the ability to play make it take it... Huge question mark is in midfield scoring... Defensively this was a very senior led group last year and losing Johnson and McCormack will be very tough as those kids just played hard, can people step up to fill that void?... If they can replace those defensemen, they could make it to the final four... Returning a lot of talent from last year's squad. The combo on attack of Mangan and Oberbeck is very potent. Their combination of defensive poles ground-ball better than anyone in the country.

"This team is poised to have a monster year. I should put them at No. 4, making the statement that they are final four-bound. All the pieces are here, with the only exception being a few holes on defense created by the graduation of Peter Johnson and Mike McCormack. One of the best faceoff men in the game, Dylan Levings, is wearing Bulldog Blue again this year. While not one of the best in the nation in the goal, Eric Natale is steady and proved himself last year to be a good stopper in big games, like the Ivy tournament and both playoff games. Not much graduated on the offensive end, and Brandon Mangan (39 goals, 25 assists in 2013) leads the return of the wealth of firepower. Conrad Oberbeck was also a significant scoring threat in 2013, with 36 goals.

"They're a very well-coached team. They know themselves, they play with great emotion. They're going to be exceptional facing off. They're experienced on the offensive end, but they have some holes defensively. They don't have the top depth with their personnel, but they find ways to be successful and I think they're going to be very good this year."

2013 Recap

"With the new rules, he had to cut down on his violations, but he responded," Yale coach Andy Shay said of Dylan Levings. (John Strohsacker)

In a Nutshell: The Bulldogs got off to a 3-3 start after a fiercely-played, one-goal loss at Princeton on March 23. Then, their defense kicked into another gear, as did Mangan and Oberbeck on offense. Yale made a habit of spotting opponents early leads, but the Bulldogs also made a habit of chipping away at and overcoming those deficits. It added up to a red-hot, two-month period, during which Yale won nine of 10, including its second Ivy League tournament and a first-round, come-from-behind, 10-7 win over Penn State in the NCAAs.

High Point: One year after stunning Princeton in the Ivy tournament final by a 15-7 count that featured a one-sided second half, Yale met the Tigers in the tournament title game again, with similar results. This time, the Bulldogs' 12-8 victory was not unexpected. Despite getting just one goal and one assist from Mangan, Yale ended the third quarter with a 5-0 run that broke a 6-6 tie, and Yale was on its way to the dance again.

Low Point: The last three minutes of the quarterfinals turned out to be the final three minutes of the 2013 season, and what a nightmare it was. After erasing a 4-0 lead, Yale scored six unanswered goals while holding the Orange scoreless for over 43 minutes, only to crumble and swallow a 7-6 loss that kept the Bulldogs from their second-ever final four and first since 1990.

2014 Preview

Best Case: With the loss of Johnson and McCormack as the cornerstones of one of the game's better defenses, the Bulldogs counter by riding the faceoff play of Levings and a potent attack featuring Mangan and Oberbeck (attackman Deron Dempster will not rejoin the team this season as was expected). Yale averages nearly 12 goals per game as a result, while its young defense matures enough late in the season to help Yale win its third straight Ivy League crown.

Worst Case: The midfield and defense put too much pressure on the Yale attack, and those comebacks that became commonplace in 2013 fail to materialize with the same frequency. The Bulldogs win 10 games, but it's not enough to offset a loss in the Ivy tournament final, as Yale falls off of the bubble on Selection Sunday.

Self-Examination: Andy Shay on...

SSDM Harry Kucharczyk (Jr.)
"Harry makes big plays in big moments. He'll be counted on pretty heavily this year. He has to be a shutdown short-stick. He is a tremendous leader. If the bus isn't going to show up on time, Harry will probably be the one to drive us where we need to go."

G Eric Natale (Jr.)
"He doesn't get the hype that a lot of good goalies get. He's steady, and he's getting older and more mature. He really developed some consistency down the stretch last year, and even in games when he wasn't that great, he came up big when we needed it — like the game against Harvard, when he made two huge saves in the last 13 seconds. He's mentally tough. We were down to two goalies in the fall, and Eric just took it in stride."

FO Dylan Levings (Sr.)
"He showed up on campus as a polished faceoff product, but he is such a competitor and so into it. He really cares about his teammates and this program. Look at the way he's always pacing on the sidelines. With the new rules, he had to cut down on his violations, but he responded. Guys almost freak out when he loses two or three faceoffs in a row, but he never does."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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