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Chip Malafronte | New Haven Register | April 29, 2019

College lacrosse: T.D. Ierlan sets NCAA faceoff record, going 26-for-26, as Yale downs rival Harvard

Men's lacrosse championships are heading to Philly, are you as ready as we are?

BOSTON — Yale's T.D. Ierlan knew he was close to setting the NCAA record for most faceoff wins in a single game without a loss. His coach, Andy Shay, had no idea.

So it was pure coincidence that Shay sent Ierlan out for one last draw late in the third quarter. Yale was leading Harvard by 12 goals and Shay was ready to send in the reserves. In fact, freshman Joe Neuman had taken (and lost) the faceoff immediately after Ierlan tied the record.

But for reasons Shay can't explain, he went back to Ierlan following Matt Gaudet's goal with 3 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the third.

Ierlan won the draw, his 26th without a loss on the day, then raced down field and scored his lone goal of the game. It capped a dominating performance in Yale's impressive 22-11 victory over the Crimson at Harvard Stadium.

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The previous record for best perfect performance by a faceoff man was 25-for-25, set by Sacred Heart's Zach Smith in 2007.

No one was more relieved than Shay, whose jaw dropped when informed of Ierlan's record-breaking game. He'd not only inadvertently greenlighted Ierlan's chance to set the record, but immediately removed him afterward. Had Ierlan taken one more faceoff and lost to finish 26-for-27, it wouldn't have gone into the record books.

"You know that feeling where you realize you dodged a bullet?" Shay said. "Like 'Did I leave the iron on?' One of those things? If I had taken him out and he didn't get the record I would never forgive myself. I'm not sure he'd forgive me."

Ierlan came up just short of the mark twice last season while playing for the University of Albany. He went 24-for-24 against Cornell and repeated the feat a few weeks later against Stony Brook.

"It's cool," Ierlan said. "I think what's really cool is to see the complete game."

Yale, after a brief lapse late in the first quarter, dominated every facet of the game.

It represented the most goals a Bulldog team ever scored against the Crimson. Jackson Morrill led the way with eight, adding two assists for a 10-point game. Jack Tigh added two goals and three assists and Joey Sessa a goal and three assists in the regular season finale for the Bulldogs (11-2, 5-1).

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Yale's focus turns to the postseason, which begins at the Ivy League tournament Friday at Columbia. Top-seeded Penn plays fourth-seed Brown at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs, as the No. 2 seed, play Cornell in the nightcap at 9.

An at-large berth to the NCAA tournament is secure. One win next weekend probably assures the Bulldogs of a first-round game in New Haven. A league championship could boost Yale into the top three overall seeds.

No matter what the final ratings percentage index says, there's no doubt Yale heads into the postseason with a full head of steam. Since a triple-overtime loss at Penn on March 30, the Bulldogs have won five straight games in convincing fashion, with an average margin of victory of 10.

On Thursday, Ierlan and Morrill were named to the list of 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award as college lacrosse's top player. Both turned in their finest efforts of the season.

Morrill doubled his previous season high of four goals, scoring two in the first period, three in the second and three in the third before resting the fourth. The 10 points were also a career-best, topping the eight scored last week against Quinnipiac and against Albany in the national semifinals last May.

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He said Harvard's defensive strategy to key on Yale attacker Matt Gaudet allowed him to take advantage with shots.

"Their respect for Gaudet, putting a short stick on him and locking him the whole game," Morrill said. "And he did a great job dealing with that. It's something that's been hard for us in the past. But we're at the point now where we're very good against that. He set a couple great picks for me and I got a couple easy ones off of him. But a lot of credit to him, there."

Ierlan already holds NCAA records for faceoff win percentage in a season (.791), total faceoff wins in a season (359) and groundballs in a season (254). His performance against Harvard raised his win percentage this season to .793. Since a season-low 15-of-29 in a loss at Penn, he's taken 104-of-118 draws, an .881 win percentage.

On Saturday, he credited teammates for the historic game. Most of his wins were easy and clean, forcing Harvard to essentially give up by sending out long-stick defenders. Yale midfielders helped scoop up a couple of loose draws along the way to keep Ierlan perfect.

"My wings did a great job giving me space," Ierlan said. "Sean Kuttin did a great job coming in cold, stepping up and getting a big ground ball for me. My wings were great. I'm nowhere without them." 

This article is written by Chip Malafronte from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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