Ivy League Tournament A Must-Win For Host Yale To Reach NCAAs

The goal was in their grasp, but the Yale men's lacrosse team couldn't score enough of them against Harvard last week for it to come to fruition.

Not since 1956 has a lacrosse team gone undefeated in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs had the opportunity but lost 9-8 in a game in which they outshot Harvard, 53-36.

"Forty [shots] were ones we thought were in the paint, a 10-by-10 area, and honestly we should hit 50 percent of those shots," Yale coach Andy Shay said. "Their goalie had a great day. We probably didn't shoot that well."

The 16th-ranked Bulldogs (8-5, 5-1) still won the regular season title for the first time since 2010 and are the top seed and first-time host of the four-team Ivy League Tournament that begins Friday with second seed and 19th-ranked Princeton taking on No. 3 seed Brown at 3:30 p.m. Yale faces Penn at 6 p.m. at Reese Stadium. The championship game is Sunday at noon. All games are on ESPNU.

At stake is an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Though the Bulldogs are 4-0 in championship games and are the two-time defending conference tournament champion, the No. 1 seed has only won the conference tournament once.

Penn (7-5, 3-3), Princeton (9-5, 4-2) and Brown (9-5, 4-2) all have their own thoughts.

"They hate us," Shay said. "Want to kill us."

Yale's loss to Harvard, only the second conference win of the season for the Crimson, came on the heels of a 13-12 loss at Albany that stopped a seven-game winning streak and crossed off any hope of an at-large bid.

"My wife says Monday is kind of my cathartic day after a loss," Shay said. "We watch the film. Sometimes I'm yelling and they come out and have an unbelievably hard practice and we kind of flush it. The goals we left on the table, the undefeated Ivy season, first time since 1956 ... if that would have happened ... when you let go of a goal at 60 years old, it's lingering. I'm still pretty frustrated, but it doesn't affect my confidence in them by any means."

Yale is arguably the most talented team in the conference. Shay is Ivy coach of the year and Yale placed five players on the all-conference team, including junior attackman Ben Reeves as player of the year. He also is a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award that goes to the nation's most outstanding lacrosse player.

All that won't matter much if Yale can't win the Ivy Tournament.

The Bulldogs won by two at Princeton, two at Penn and stung Brown 18-12 at Reese Stadium when Reeves had a career-best 10-point game with five goals and five assists. Junior goalie Phil Huffard had a career-high 17 saves in that win over Brown and his 9.87 goals against average is second-best in the league. He had 12 saves vs. Harvard.

"He was great again," Shay said of his play against the Crimson. "He kept us in it with some really good saves in the fourth, where it could have really opened up for Harvard."

Huffard appears ready for the weekend.

"We like to have the confidence that when the stage is brightest, we can step up, but apart from me it's our defense in general," Huffard said. "We all feel like we can play better."

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