Brendan Gibson ’10 and his younger brother, Matt Gibson ’12, got their first lacrosse sticks on nothing more than a whim.
“It was his second-grade, my fourth-grade year,” Brendan said. “I remember my mom coming out onto the porch, saying, ‘Do you guys want to try this sport lacrosse? I read about it in the newspaper.’ ”
Twelve years later, the Gibson brothers have become a nearly unstoppable force on the No. 17 men’s lacrosse team. Brendan is the team captain. Matt leads the team with 44 points. The two — both attackers — have combined for 75 points this season on 42 goals and 33 assists.
They are part of what is driving the team’s most successful season in recent memory.
With just one game left in the regular season — a 1 p.m. homestand against archrival Harvard on Saturday — the Bulldogs (9–3, 3–2 Ivy) are vying for both a spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament and a share of the Ancient Eight crown for the first time since 1990.
Getting a piece of the crown would require No. 10 Cornell beating No. 7 Princeton on Saturday, in addition to the Blue winning their own contest. But regardless of the upcoming weekend’s outcomes, both Gibson brothers agreed this year has been a good one.
“This year has been great,” Matt said as he and Brendan sat together in Bass Cafe. “It’s a lot more of a team effort this year as opposed to last year where it was individuals making plays.”
Matt and his brother certainly have contributed to that team success. Besides leading the team in points, Matt also has the most assists on the team with 18 (Brendan follows with 15) and trails only teammate Brian Douglass ’11 in goals scored, with 26.
The siblings have also racked up 11 goal-assist pairs between them this season, something head coach Andy Shay said reflects their knack for locating each other on the field.
“They have a very good feel for where the other one is and they work very well together,” Shay said. “It’s certainly stuff that we can’t teach, so we definitely let them play their game.”
Still, the family duo is only in its second year of playing competitive lacrosse on the same team. The Long Island natives were not allowed to compete together at Chaminade High School because of their two-year separation — only juniors and seniors could make the varsity squad.
But those rules did not bar the brothers from playing lacrosse together in other venues. Brendan said they practiced together throughout high school, in addition to playing for various indoor and outdoor leagues. And from the time Matt was in third grade until his freshman year at Chaminade, the two traveled to Baltimore to play on summer teams.
The pair also spent parts of last May and June in British Columbia playing box lacrosse, a game where only five players, plus a goalie, are on the field at a time for each side. The team wasn’t great, Matt said, but he and Brendan each saw plenty of action — taking extra face-offs, playing all positions, and gaining valuable experience.
It’s just that kind of outside experience that Brendan said helps him and his sibling excel among their teammates.
“We tend to get back in the swing of things quicker than most kids on the team,” Brendan said.
What’s more, Brendan and Matt each said they have very different playing styles — but ones that work well when paired together. And that’s good for the team, since the Gibson brothers and Douglass are the three players that essentially stay on the field all game, every game.
Matt said Brendan is stronger, a better shooter, and generally looked to for leadership. Brendan, for his part, said Matt is quick, agile, and adept at making scoring opportunities.
“He’s crafty, very fast and can change directions very quickly and is very good at creating his own shots,” Brendan said.
In Shay’s opinion, those varied playing styles are exactly what make the two a good tandem.
“They both feed and finish very well — they’re very unselfish,” Shay said. “They have very balanced games, very balanced ability.”
Still, the Gibson brothers’ abilities and successes have never led to sibling rivalry, they said. Brendan said they do not compete with each other, and like to approach lacrosse differently.
And at the end of the day, both said they love lacrosse and that the sport has defined their experiences at Yale.
“It’s not a game that’s been around forever,” Brendan said.
“It’s fast-paced. It’s unpredictable,” Matt added.
“It’s give and take,” Brendan finished. “Obviously both our GPAs have suffered, but we’ve had a lot of great memories and met a lot of great people.”