John Daniggelis had a vivid but unpleasant memory of the last time he played a lacrosse game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. “It was sunny and very hot. It was the Long Island Championship. And we lost to Massapequa, 13-12. They went on to win the state championship,” the midfielder from St. James who starred for Smithtown East recalled.
Four years later, the weather was much different and so was the outcome. Daniggelis scored two key goals and played an important role on defense as Yale defeated Loyola, 8-5, Saturday in a steady downpour and unseasonable chill at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“One of my teammates [Sean Gleason] is from Massapequa and he was busting my chops before the game saying, ‘Are you going to finally get a win on this field?’ “ Daniggelis said with a grin.
Daniggelis and the Bulldogs did just that, improving to 15-3 and advancing to the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse Final Four for the first time since 1990. They will face Albany on Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.
Ben Reeves, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, paced Yale with three goals and three assists. He assisted on Daniggelis’ first goal that gave Yale a 4-3 lead with 1:50 left in the second quarter. “I just found space off ball and Ben, with his great vision, was able to find me. I tried to shoot it off-stick, but I think it went 5-hole. As long as it’s in the back of the net, it’s fine.”
Daniggelis provided Yale with a 7-4 lead by scoring the only goal of the third quarter, unassisted on an angled dodge to the left crease, where he tucked it inside the pipe. “We had a little bit of a two-man game behind the cage and I saw my shorty went around the net on the top side,” Daniggelis said. “Since I have the ability to play defense, it helps me offensively to see when somebody’s out of position. I knew he had to go all the way around the cage. I caught him, brought it back and finished it.”
Finishing off Loyola (13-4) wasn’t easy. Pat Spencer scored two goals with an assist and, more importantly, Greyhounds goalie Jacob Stover was spectacular with 19 saves. “That kid had an incredible game,” Yale coach Andy Shay said.
But so did Yale’s defense, which limited Loyola to 27 shots (Yale had 47) and forced seven failed clears with a strong ride. “It’s a little surreal right now,” Shay said.