2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 8 Yale (Men)

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Matt Brandau is definitely the Bulldogs’ most proven offensive option and perhaps the most established attackman in the Ivy League.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 8 YALE

2021 Record: 0-0
Final Ranking (2021): Unranked
Coach: Andy Shay (19th year)

With only one player enrolled last spring and his program more than a year removed from its last game, Yale coach Andy Shay found himself with the opportunity to try some new things.

He took his family to Disney World on spring break, an impossibility in the past. He worked with his son’s eighth-grade lacrosse team.

And the coaching lifer of more than a quarter-century actually watched a good chunk of the 2021 season the Bulldogs could not participate in because of Ivy League rules.

“I thought I’d sit down and watch the first game and throw my remote through the TV, but I found myself able to watch,” Shay said. “I watched every game. I was surprised that I could. I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to, but I did. There were ebbs and flows, moments of frustration of, ‘We could be out there.’”

Some guys with ties to the Bulldogs were, just not in white-and-blue hues. Lucas Cotler, Jackson Morrill and TD Ierlan all wound up at Denver, and there were regular passing references to the program that methodically got so good it won the national title in 2018 and came a victory away from doing so again in 2019.

Yet the rhythms of the spring and the theme of the spring also left an unmistakable message. Lacrosse was moving on amid the pandemic, with or without Ivy League powers like the Bulldogs.

Brown, Dartmouth and Penn all got in some outside competition. Yale’s roster withdrew from classes en masse, determined to avoid losing another year of Ivy League eligibility when it appeared it was still in peril.

“The hard part was anytime I heard ‘We’re back’ or about the time off and how everyone has been through everything,” Shay said. “That was what made my blood boil. We’re not back. You guys are back. I get it. I get what they’re saying and what they mean, but that was pretty aggravating.”

In deference to Shay, it’s hard to say Yale is back even now. Not yet. Not until Feb. 19, when Villanova visits Reese Stadium for the Bulldogs’ first game in nearly two years.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Virginia

2. Maryland

3. Duke

4. Georgetown

5. Notre Dame

6. North Carolina

7. Loyola

8. Yale

9. Penn

10. Rutgers

11. Lehigh

12. Denver

13. Army

14. Syracuse

15. Johns Hopkins

16. Delaware

17. Drexel

18. Cornell

19. Vermont

20. Bryant

So much has changed in that span, even when confining the discussion to lacrosse. About half the roster has never played in a college game. The gleaming, 34,800-square foot Tsai Lacrosse Field House has opened on campus, infrastructure as proof of how Yale stands with the sport’s heavyweights.

And while some of the names, like attackman Matt Brandau and defenseman Chris Fake, are familiar, it’s tough for anyone to have a completely accurate gauge on the Bulldogs.

“You have no measuring stick,” Shay said. “The big thing for us is, when you win or lose a game, that’s your measuring stick. Without having games, we can only assume that we’re doing everything on the lacrosse field to get better, but we don’t really know. Especially when guys aren’t there and guys aren’t around.”

Fortunately, Yale did get in something close to a full fall. It had a scrimmage against its alumni team and, after a minor COVID-19 outbreak cost it a shot at outside competition against Stony Brook, it participated in a scrimmage with Ohio State and Syracuse.

Everything, from practice to the chance to face another opponent, was a powerful, emotional experience for the Bulldogs. And it was also a reminder of all that needed to be done.

“I sincerely think missing a year, I forgot how I do a lot of things — in-game stuff and how we react to things,” Shay said. “You have to rekindle that. I’m not a fan here. I need to correct what we did wrong and move on from there. It felt good to be in that mode again. It sounds stupid saying that, but you took it for granted.”

The same could be said for Yale’s excellence. The Bulldogs played in seven of eight NCAA tournaments from 2012-19. They’ve won 10 games in nine of their last 10 full seasons.

Even with an absence from the scene last year, Yale is a variable college lacrosse is accustomed to taking into account. Shay’s methodical recruiting didn’t halt just because of a pandemic, and some time away from campus was unlikely to erode the program’s lauded culture. But there are more unknowns than usual exactly a month from the Bulldogs’ season debut. 

“The roster is completely different, pretty much. It took us a little while to get into the groove of coaching again with the year off,” Shay said. “It felt like our rhythm was disrupted in terms of the things I do at practice. For the most part, it’s still the same. But we haven’t played anyone yet, so we’re still trying to figure everything out.”






z

TOP RETURNERS

Matt Brandau, A, Jr.

It feels like forever ago, but Brandau scored seven goals in a national semifinal against Penn State and 50 for the entire 2019 season. He’s definitely the Bulldogs’ most proven offensive option and perhaps the most established attackman in the Ivy League.

Chris Fake, D, Sr.

A starter on both of Yale’s final four teams, Fake is effectively a fifth-year senior after withdrawing from school last season. The Allentown, N.J., product has long reflected the Bulldogs’ identity of effectively blending smarts and skill with plenty of toughness.

Brian Tevlin, M, Sr.

Another de facto fifth-year guy, Tevlin had 14 goals and 21 assists back in 2019 and should be a midfield mainstay. He’s also a critical part of Yale’s leadership structure as a captain for the second year in a row.

KEY ADDITION

Leo Johnson, A, Fr.

With two classes of freshmen stacked up, Shay doesn’t have much choice but to count on some of them to contribute. Johnson, who had 146 points in two seasons at Connecticut’s Avon Old Farms, is poised to have as significant an impact as any of them as part of an attack unit that has modest college experience beyond Matt Brandau.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Christian Cropp, M, Sr.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior has 16 goals in his career, and had scored in three consecutive games before the 2020 season was shut down. So he isn’t an unknown commodity, but Yale is certain to lean on him. “He was planning on graduating and I had to beg him to come back,” Shay said. “Thank God [he did]. He’s taken the [fall] semester off. Incredible athlete, great kid. Very excited to have him come back again.”

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Bulldogs:

 “We’ll see what two years off means. A lot of people say ‘They’ve had two years off,’ but they’ve been working out. They’ve been training. We’ll see. I think a lot of eyes and questions are on that.”

 “Yale’s been one of the better teams over the last 10 years, so you have to think they’ll be right there nationally and also in the Ivies.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

1600

What to say about a team that hasn’t played in almost two years? Well, we can look forward at their schedule and see what the win probability model thinks about their slate. The average LaxElo rating of the Bulldogs’ opponents is 1600 (equivalent to the 26th-best team in the country). Their schedule ranks as the 14th-most difficult of any team. — Zack Capozzi

Lacrosse Reference Glossary

Most Recent

Benched in Third Quarter, Taylor Moreno Returns to Save North Carolina's Season

Moreno was benched for just shy of 8 minutes and returned to make two saves in the fourth.

Weeks Nets Winner in Boston College's Comeback Win Over Maryland

Down 16-13, BC tied it at 16 with 3:06 left. Weeks scored the winner with 18 seconds left.

North Carolina Scores Final 8 Goals, Comes Back to Stun Northwestern

Sam Geiersbach scored five of the final six goals in the Tar Heels' 15-14 win.

Hidden Gems: Brian Brecht's Recruiting Philosophy Casts Wide Net

The best talent isn't just on the East Coast. Cole Daninger and others are prime examples.







Twitter Posts