Fall Snapshot: Yale Bulldogs

(Photo Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Andy Shay (19th Season, 2004-Present)

Yale 2022 Record: 12-5 (4-2 Ivy League)

Key Departures: Brian Tevlin (M), Chris Fake (D)

Key Returners: Matt Brandau (A), Leo Johnson (A), Chris Lyons (A), Brad Sharp (M), Thomas Bragg (M), Bryce De Muth (D), Jared Paquette (G),

Transfer Additions: N/A

Yale came into the 2022 season with a fairly strong core surrounded by newness with young and inexperienced being expected to be impact players all over the field. In the end, Yale proved to be the Yale we’ve come to know since 2018. The Bulldogs went 12-5, made yet another Ivy League title game appearance, and saw their season end with a loss to Princeton in the NCAA Quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs’s season unfolded in such a way that you saw the young talent grow up from week to week. Consecutive wins over Princeton and Penn, which were followed by victories against Boston U. and Dartmouth, proved to be Yale’s best stretch of the season and where the most growth was seen. That was especially true on the offensive end with the emergence of freshman Chris Lyons. After that stretch, the Bulldogs went 6-2 in their final eight games that, in part, was defined by its defensive struggles.

In 2023, Yale should be expected to be an Ivy League contender and potential Championship Weekend hopeful. The Bulldogs return a heap of talent that is now a year older and has already experienced those high-intensity postseason games. Nothing but growth should be expected for this squad.

Burning Questions

What to Expect From The Bulldog Defense?

Yale ended the 2022 season with the 54th ranked scoring defense in college lacrosse (7th in Ivy League) as they allowed 13.24 goals per game. The Yale defense especially started to slide late in the season as they allowed 14.8 goals per game in its final eight games of the season. That included Saint Joseph’s and Princeton putting up 16 and 14 goals on the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament. That late season slide was a regression from the Bulldogs’ first eight games of the season where they allowed 12.5 goals per game.

Simply put, defense is the one area where Yale will want to grow and become more consistent the most ahead of the 2023 season. It is also the area with some of the biggest personnel questions marks with defenseman Chris Fake (34GB/20CT) and two-way midfielder Brian Tevlin (13G/13A, 39GB/12CT) are both headed to Notre Dame as grad transfers. Fake and Tevlin were some of the veterans on a young team last season and will be the two biggest pieces needed to be replaced this spring.

Elsewhere on defense, not much changes. Senior Bryce De Muth (35GB/10CT) and junior Michael Alexander (14GB/7CT), who is coming off a strong performance with the USA U-21 Team in Ireland, started all 17 games at close and are back. Junior Jack Stuzin (45GB/15CT is the program’s top returning LSM while sophomore Jake Cohen (10GB/8CT) also returns at the position. In cage, Jared Paquette returns after a sophomore season in which he made 226 saves with a 52.3% save percentage as a first-year starter.

How Much Better Can The Offense Get?

When the 2022 season came to an end, the Yale Bulldogs had one of the best and most productive offenses in college lacrosse. Led by a 99-point season from Matt Brandau, the Bulldogs put up an average of 14.8 goals per game as the sixth-best scoring offense in DI. Yale also ranked 3rd in assists per game (9.24), 17th in team shooting percentage (31.6%), and was tied for 7th with Maryland in man-up success rate (48%). Moreover, they ranked 17th in offensive efficiency according to Lacrosse Lacrosse Reference.

While Brandau carried most of the weight for a good portion of the season, a key factor in Yale’s offense last spring was the emergence of many young players that made this unit a deeper one as the season went on. Freshman attackman Leo Johnson (35G/29A) and midfielder Brad Sharp (19G/17A) were starters from day one whole Chris Lyons (36G/12A) didn’t see his first action until March 19th at Cornell before starting the final 12 games following. Coupled with midfielders Thomas Bragg (25G/5A) and Patrick Hackler (10G/3A), among others, and this offense proved to be both dangerous and deep last season.

Yale will return 95% of its overall offensive production and 83% of its goal scoring. With as much production returns from a season ago and considering how young this unit was, what is the ceiling for this offense un 2023?

Does The Faceoff Situation Crystalize?

Last spring, Yale wasn’t a team that necessarily struggled at the faceoff dot. After all, they went 54.3% as a team and ranked 17th nationally in team faceoff win percentage at the end of the season. But the Bulldogs’ weren’t world beaters at the dot either and, compared to what they had previously with TD Ierlan, the situation was one that could very well improve.

After splitting time with Machado Rodriguez in the opener against Villanova, Nicholas Ramsey emerged as the sole top option for the Bulldogs and went 223-for-415 (53.7%) on the year. Ramsey and the Yale faceoff unit had its fare share of ups and downs that cam especially against better faceoff teams. He went 10-for-25 (40%) against Denver and Alec Stathakis before going 36% (8-22) against Princeton. He also went 46% against Penn (13-28) in the Ivy League title game and in the first round of the NCAA Tournament had his worst day against Saint Joseph’s Zach Cole, going 7-for-23 (30%). James Ball came in and went 8-for-13 (61%) to help settle things and help lead the Bulldogs to victory that game. Ramsey would have arguably his best game of the season a week later against Princeton in the quarterfinals, going 13-for-22 (59%).

On the whole, Ramsey and this Yale faceoff unit were above average. But just as is the case with much of this team, things will have to improve if the Bulldogs truly want to take that next step forward in 2023.

Potential Breakout Player

Johnny Keib, Midfield, Sophomore

Keib played in 14 games with 10 starts last season as a freshman, but his production was still on the lower end of starters. He had eight goals and five assists for 13 points on the year. With Brian Tevlin gone, Keib could easily be in contention to step in as a primary starter and be even more productive for this offense next spring.

Freshman Class

With its 2022 recruiting class, Yale brings in a 10-man group of freshman this fall. It is the 15th best recruiting class, according to Inside Lacrosse. Lawrenceville (N.J.) midfielder Lucas Osborne, an IL five-star, helps headline the impressive class. The Bulldogs could very well see some more freshmen make an impact this spring.

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