Yale has ‘ter­ri­fy­ing’ task

Bull­dogs to face ex­plo­sive Penn State in na­tional semi­fi­nals

The News-Times - - SPORTS - By Chip Malafronte

PHILADEL­PHIA — In mid-Fe­bru­ary, a few days be­fore Yale played host to Penn State in an early-sea­son game, coach Andy Shay de­scribed the Nit­tany Lions’ of­fen­sive per­son­nel as “ter­ri­fy­ing.”

Yale won that con­test, the lone loss all sea­son for Penn State. Since then, the Nit­tany Lions have con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate the op­po­si­tion. Shay spent most of the past week binge-watch­ing three months of game film. It’s done noth­ing to ease his con­cerns.

“My eyes are ready to fall out of my head,” Shay said. “They’re even bet­ter. It’s re­ally scary.”

The Nit­tany Lions en­ter to­day’s NCAA semi­fi­nal game with Yale at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field (2:30, ESPNU) as the na­tion’s No. 1 team. Since that 14-13 loss in New Haven, Penn State has rolled off 13 straight vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing a pair of ex­plo­sive NCAA tour­na­ment wins in which they’ve av­er­aged an as­tound­ing 23 goals.

Few would ar­gue that the en­gine be­hind Penn State’s re­mark­able of­fen­sive suc­cess, ju­nior at­tack­ers Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe, are the most lethal scor­ing com­bi­na­tion in NCAA his­tory. The num­bers speak for them­selves.

Ament, with 91 as­sists and 118 points, shat­tered the NCAA’s sin­gle-sea­son record of 77 and is within strik­ing dis­tance of the sin­gle-sea­son point mark of 128, set by Al­bany’s Lyle Thomp­son in 2014. O’Keefe has 75 goals, just seven off the NCAA record of 82 held by Yale’s Jon Reese (1990) and Thomp­son (2014).

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any­thing like those two,” Shay said. “Ament’s as­sist-to-turnover ra­tio is ridicu­lous. O’Keefe has the ul­ti­mate shoot­ing range. It’s re­ally in­cred­i­ble what they can do. Re­ally in­cred­i­ble. At the time we were a lit­tle dis­cour­aged, but we should The se­ries: Last meet­ing: How they got here: Com­par­ing num­bers: Play­ers to watch: prob­a­bly be proud of the out­put they had against us.”

Yale’s suc­cess in Fe­bru­ary wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily due to con­tain­ing Ament and O’Keefe. Ament un­loaded two goals and seven as­sists; O’Keefe scored five times. But the Bull­dogs lim­ited Penn State’s time of pos­ses­sion thanks to a bril­liant per­for­mance by face­off spe­cial­ist T.D. Ier­lan while mak­ing the most of their own of­fen­sive pos­ses­sions.

Rel­a­tively low shoot­ing per­cent­ages are at the root of Yale’s three losses. It shot 22.7 per­cent in a sea­sonopen­ing over­time loss to Vil­lanova. At Penn in March it con­verted a sea­son-low 18.2 per­cent in a triple-over­time loss. In their loss to Penn at the Ivy League cham­pi­onship game ear­lier this month, the Bull­dogs’ 23.9 per­cent suc­cess rate was their low­est in over a month.

But as the weather has warmed, so has Yale’s of­fense. Since April 1, its av­er­aged 17.4 goals, in­clud­ing 19 in NCAA tour­na­ment wins over Ge­orge­town and Penn. Penn State will have its hands full in its de­fen­sive end.

Jack­son Mor­rill (45 goals, 43 as­sists) leads a bal­anced of­fense ca­pa­ble of scor­ing from in­side and out­side. Fresh­man Matt Bran­dau (61 points) set the pro­gram record for points by a fresh­man; Matt Gaudet (47 goals) was the most out­stand­ing player at last year’s NCAA Cham­pi­onship Week­end.

Yale’s mid­field is also dan­ger­ous. Jack Tigh, Joey Sessa, John Danigge­lis, Brian Tevlin and Lu­cas Cotler can all pro­duce when needed. Cotler, who hadn’t scored more than two points in a game all sea­son, has risen in the post­sea­son, com­bin­ing for 10 points in

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.