(Photo Courtesy of Yale Athletics)
Very few programs have ascended to the top tier of college lacrosse quicker and found as much success in recent years than the Yale Bulldogs.
In 2010, just two years removed from a dreadful 4-10 (0-6 in the Ivy League) season during Andy Shay’s fifth year in New Haven, the Ivy League introduced a conference tournament for lacrosse. Yale went 10-4 overall in the first two seasons of the Ivy League tournament era and fell in the semifinals both years.
But in 2012, the Elis really turned the corner.
Yale went 11-5, won the Ivy League tournament, and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992, losing to Notre Dame in the first round. Every full season since then, except for 2014, Yale has been in the Ivy League title game and made the NCAA Tournament.
And of course, they reached their highest peak in 2018, when they climbed to the top of college lacrosse and took down Duke to win their first NCAA title in program history. They returned to defend their title in 2019 but ultimately fell to the Virginia Cavaliers. And if the 2020 season would have been completed, they very well could have made it back to the pinnacle of the sport.
When the Bulldogs take the field for the first time in 2022 it will be their first time doing so in nearly two years as the did not compete last season, along with many over Ivies. But unlike some others in their conference, this is a team that despite taking a year off still boast a roster that is capable of making a Championship Weekend run.
The biggest obvious question for this Yale team is at the faceoff dot. TD Ierlan is one of the best at the position of all-time, and losing him is massive. Ierlan was a primary catalyst for this Yale program during their 2019 national title game run and many would argue he was their most important player since his arrival in the fall of 2018. Simply put, replacing him is just not going to happen. However, that doesn’t mean Yale won’t be a top faceoff team anymore. Far from it.
Least we forget, Yale also has had Joe Neuman as their backup at the dot the past few seasons. Neuman hasn’t seen too much action during his college career yet but, when given the opportunity, he has certainly lived up to the hype. He is more than capable of taking over as the starter at the position and finding success.
Offensively, Yale is out 43 points from the last time they stepped foot on the field. However, the Bulldogs still return a formidable offense that looks to be led by attackmen Matt Brandau (10G/6A), who was their second-leading scorer in 2020, as well as Thomas Bragg (8G/2A), who should get a starting nod after serving as the Bulldogs’ primary reserve attackman. Bragg easily fits into that Jackson Morrill role as an all-around playmaker who can attack and quarterback an offense from multiple spots on the field. Brandau and Bragg on the same line should be a pretty deadly combination for defenses this season. Additionally, Brian Tevlin (5A) and Christian Cropp (4G/1A) lead the way as veterans at the midfield.
Those four highlight an offense that won’t be as experienced, as a whole, as we are used to seeing from Yale with the likely amount of freshmen and sophomores who could possibly step up and be big time playmakers for this team in 2022, such as freshman Leo Johnson.
Defensively, it’s a bit of a different story. The Yale defense has been very strong in recent years and with as much talent as they return on that end it should be the strength of this team, at least early on in 2022. The Bulldogs return Chris Fake (4GB/1ACT), who has been their top defenseman and one of the best poles in the Ivy League and nation since his freshman season, as well as Bryce De Muth (4G/1CT). A first-time starter in 2020, De Muth played very well and should only increase his play in 2022. The duo headlines that close defense and provides a very strong foundation for this defenese.
The Eli’s also have a solid group of LSMs with Jack Stuzin, Xander Martin, and Jake Cohen. Either of the three could step in and be impactful from day one this spring.
In cage, it’s still the Jack Starr show. A full-time starter sine his freshman season, Starr looks to return to form in 2022 as one of the best goalies in the Ivy League and the nation. He battled with injury a bit during 2020, missing the first two games before playing the entire second half against UMass and starting in their final game of the season against Michigan.