Yale has ‘terrifying’ task
Bulldogs to face explosive Penn State in national semifinals
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