– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
PHILADELPHIA — Though Yale’s opponent in today’s national semifinal happened to be the juggernaut of college lacrosse in 2019 and brought immense and unyielding firepower to the field the likes almost no one has seen in years, the Bulldogs had the championship pedigree to perfectly counteract the Nittany Lions’ ascension in the lacrosse hierarchy.
Oh, and it sure did not hurt that Yale scored 10 of the first 11 goals of the game.
Freshman Matt Brandau scored seven goals and had an assist while face-off specialist and Tewaaraton Award finalist TD Ierlan once again put on a dominant performance at the face-off X as fifth-seeded Yale, on its quest to defend its national championship that they won last season, took out Penn State 21-17 in what turned out to be the highest-scoring game in NCAA Tournament history.
Despite the fact that the Bulldogs are the reigning champs, it was Penn State, who came into the contest leading the country in averaging almost 18 goals per contest (17.94) and scored at least 20 goals in each of their first two NCAA Tournament games, that appeared to garner more of the attention and headlines going into the contest given their dominance all season long.
Whether that bias existed or not is up for debate, but that did not stop the Bulldogs from coming into today’s contest with a chip on their shoulder.
“We shoved that in our guys’ faces, no one was picking us, and we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and play as hard as we possibly can to overcome this incredible team,” Yale head coach Andy Shay said. “I think in the back of our minds, our guys think that they’re pretty good, too, and, you know, take nothing way from Penn State, they are phenomenal, an incredible team, but we did feel like there was a little bit more, I guess — a lot of people picking them and not a lot of people picking us.”
Led by Ierlan, who won 10 of 13 face-offs in the first quarter, the Bulldogs dominated possession in those first 15 minutes and took complete advantage by setting a school record for goals in a quarter with 10. On the day, Ierlan, who led the NCAA in face-off winning percentage, won 28 face-offs and scooped up 20 ground balls.
“I think when you go into game like this, their offense is so high powered, and we know our offense can score with anyone,” said Ierlan, whose face-off percentage for the season now stands at You know there are going to be a lot of face-offs, and I got off to a hot start.”