NO. 5 YALE (14-3) VS. NO. 1 PENN STATE (16-1)
What: NCAA Tournament national semifinal
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
At stake: Winner advances to national championship game on Monday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Saturday’s DukeVirginia semifinal.
Yale leads 3-1. Penn State’s lone win came in 1997. Yale has won the last three, including a win in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Yale defeated the Nittany Lions 14-13 on Feb.
20 in New Haven. Jackson Morrill had two goals and five assists while T.D. Ierlan took 25-of-31 faceoffs. It remains Penn State’s lone loss this year.
Yale defeated Georgetown 19-16 in the first round and Penn 19-18 in overtime in the quarterfinals. Penn State beat UMBC 25-10 in the first round and Loyola
21-14 in the quarterfinals.
They are the nation’s two highestscoring teams. Penn State is averaging 18 goals per game, 23 in the NCAA tournament. Yale averages 15.65 goals, 19 in the NCAAs. Penn State also leads the country in shooting percentage and extra-man offense. Yale is first in faceoff percentage, fourth in ground balls.
Yale — T.D. Ierlan, Jr., FOGO (.761 win percentage); Jackson Morrill, Jr., A (43 goals, 45 assists, 88 points); Matt Brandau, Fr., A (40-21-61); Matt Gaudet, Jr., A
(47-2-49); Chris Fake, So. D; Jack Tigh, Sr., M (27-16-43); John Daniggelis, Sr., M (19-7-26).
Penn State — Grant Ament, Jr., F (27-91-118); Mac O’Keefe, Jr., A (75-18-93); Dylan Foulds, Jr., A (38-13-51); Jack Kelly, So., M
(40-9-49); Nick Spillane, Sr., M (26-22-48). the past two games.
“There’s better ball movement, and that creates open opportunities for other people,” Cotler said. “Our ball movement has been great this year. Coach Stim (Offensive coordinator Andrew Stimmel) puts us in the right spots and we’ve been able to execute. T.D. is really good on the X and gives us more possessions and opportunities at the offensive end. When I look back at our high scoring, I say it’s awesome to have him on our team.”
Yale’s defensive strategy will be vital. Penn State runs multiple packages and is effective in every one of them. And when the Nittany Lions shoot, they are accurate. Their .433 shooting percentage leads the country and dwarfs the nearest competitor, Cornell, at .368. The NCAA has only tracked team shot percentage since 2010, but Penn State should shatter the record of .402 set by Stony Brook in 2015.
Jack Kelly, a senior midfielder, scored 40 goals on just 76 shots, a .526 percentage that’s third in the country. O’Keefe scored nine goals against Loyola on Sunday, tying an NCAA record. He did it on 16 shots.
“I don’t know how this game will play out, we just have to be buttoned up on both ends of the field and react to the ebbs and flows of the game,” Shay said. “Their ebbs are significant. They went on an 11-1 run against Loyola.”
Shay pauses for a moment before characterizing Penn State with a familiar adjective.
“That’s terrifying.” Make no mistake: Yale, loaded with experienced weapons and postseason success, is equally terrifying. The record for most combined goals in an NCAA tournament game is 38, and has stood for 25 years.
It could be in jeopardy.