Short-Handed Yale Impresses in Matchup with U.S.


Jackson Morrill (left) and Matt Brandau (right) connected four times in the 12-7 loss to the U.S. men's national team on Saturday afternoon.

The Yale men’s lacrosse team returned to the field Saturday for its first competitive game since winning the national championship. The Bulldogs stepped onto Tierney Field at US Lacrosse headquarters to battle the U.S. men’s national team in an FIL-rules exhibition in front of a packed house — this time without a few names that helped make the 2018 NCAA championship run possible.

Absent was Tewaaraton winner Ben Reeves, who set school records in points, goals and assists. In addition, middies Tyler Warner and Jason Alessi, faceoff man Conor Mackie and defensemen Jerry O’Connor and Christopher Keating all graduated from last year’s squad.

Not to mention, coach Andy Shay was without the services of defensemen Jack Biestek and Spencer Alston (also an LSM), who are currently playing football for the Bulldogs. Long pole Robert Mooney is playing soccer at Yale, as well.

Still, Shay and his team ushered in a new era of Yale lacrosse in the 12-7 loss to the U.S. national team. It hung with the U.S. for much of the game, heading into halftime down 4-3 before Matt Kavanagh led a second-half run that closed out the game. 

Just six practices into the fall season, Shay said he was satisfied with his team’s performance, which will feature more than a few new names.

“I know it’s a collection of very talented players, but it’s hard to tell what we were going up against,” Shay said. “I watch us practice every day, so I think it was a solid performance for us. Not phenomenal.”

Shay’s team had to adjust to the international rules and play against some of the best players in the world, and there were flashes of what fans saw last year. Here are just a few reasons Yale fans could be excited about 2019.

1. Jack Starr lived up to his name.

More than a few times, the U.S. offense looked to have the rhythm necessary to take over the game. However, Yale’s sophomore goalie Jack Starr, whose name hit the lacrosse limelight toward the end of last season, was there to stop high-percentage shots.

Starr, who made 34 saves in the Bulldog’s historic NCAA tournament run, looked like a force in the cage on Saturday. He made 12 saves in the loss — some of which had the U.S. team wondering how.

“Their goalie did a really good job,” U.S. attackman Marcus Holman said of Starr. “He made some big saves. I hit him in the foot twice.”

Holman wasn’t the only person that noticed the strong performance from Starr. Shay praised his sophomore goalie, who might be getting a little more publicity come 2019.

“There’s going to be a fair amount of hype coming out of this, for him, I'm sure,” Shay said. “The way he finished the final four, and this — I don’t think he’s the type of kid that lets it get to his head, and it’s unjustified, because this is an exhibition game. He’s got to continue to work hard. Hopefully, he’s that consistent in the season.”

Shay will certainly welcome another full season with Starr, who could rise up the ranks of Division I goalies next season.

2. Brandau turned in a strong debut.

Without Ben Reeves to lead the offense, Yale was bound to find new contributors on offense. It happened quickly on Saturday, as freshman Matt Brandau scored two goals within the game’s first seven minutes and finished with four overall.

It was fitting that Brandau made his Yale debut at US Lacrosse headquarters, situated just 15 minutes from his home in Timonium, Md. Brandau grew up just a short drive down York Rd. and attended Boys’ Latin before committing to Yale.

In attendance was his twin brother, Chris, a freshman goalie at Georgetown, and his parents. They got to see Brandau drop four goals on eight shots against the U.S. national team. Although he downplayed the big day, Brandau was happy to get his career started on the right foot.

“It was exciting,” he said. “We had a great time in practice leading up to this, so I felt calm and I knew my guys had my back. It was just nice to play against someone with a different jersey.”

Brandau’s play at attack was so strong that Shay elected to keep him in the game in lieu of moving midfielder Joey Sessa up to the top line. 

“We’ve mixed it up,” Shay said. “We’ve put Matt in with those guys. … We started Matt and he had a couple goals, and we decided to stick with him. I thought he had a great game. He’s having fun.”

3. Jackson Morrill is the QB of the Yale offense.

Once a talented freshman playing under Reeves and company, it’s Jackson Morrill’s time to lead the Bulldogs offense. One of the major reasons Brandau was able to stand out on Saturday was because of Morrill’s ability to feed him into strong looks.

In fact, Morrill, a junior, assisted all four of Brandau’s goals, adding in another to Brendan Rooney. He played at X for much of the game — a position to which Yale hasn’t attached a specific player. Still, Morrill put in a strong effort and he had the trust of his teammates.

“Jackson is a great player to learn from, and he’s so easy to play off of,” Brandau said. “He communicates so well that it seems like he puts the ball in the right spot every time.”

As for Morrill, the exhibition against the U.S. national team was exciting for multiple reasons. He’s a member of lacrosse’s first three-generation Hall of Fame family — his great-grandfather (Kelso Morrill), grandfather (Bill Morrill Jr.) and father (Mike Morrill) all were inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Both Bill Morrill Jr. and Mike Morrill were in the crowd to watch Jackson lead the Yale offense against Team USA. The family visited the Hall of Fame as part of the trip.

“It’s just cool to be out here at the new facility and around the US Lacrosse guys,” Jackson Morrill said. “It’s a great experience for these guys. It was cool to be around here and see my dad’s name in the [museum].”

Although talk of a fourth generation of the Morrill family entering the Hall of Fame is premature, Jackson Morrill showed he has what it takes to be a leader for Yale in 2019.

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