“We only need everybody.” This mantra of inclusiveness and dependability has earned the Yale men’s lacrosse team the No. 1 ranking in the country heading into the final weekend of regular-season play. However, in addition to the Elis’ raw talent and relentless hard work, there is another crucial factor behind the team’s new status as top dogs: offensive coordinator Andrew Stimmel.
“More than anything, [Coach Stimmel] stresses doing the things that don’t take talent in our offense — hustle plays, simple reads and passes,” midfielder Joe Sessa ’19 said. “He constantly reminds us that within our offense it’s ‘we over me’ — in other words, the success of the group is more important than the success of the individual. We all trust him — he has everyone truly bought in on the process and constantly fighting to get better as a unit.”
Stimmel’s involvement in collegiate lacrosse dates back to 2007, when he began playing for Penn State. After his rookie season, he transferred to Ohio State University, where he went on to record 58 ground balls, captain the team and earn multiple Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and Academic All Big-Ten accolades. After his own playing career ended, the Pennsylvania native joined Yale’s coaching staff under head coach Andy Shay. During his two seasons working closely with the Bulldog defense, Stimmel helped the team attain a top-20 goals against average nationally and win an Ivy League title.
Unfortunately for the Elis, he received a promotion opportunity and departed to Marquette University in 2014. For the next two years, Stimmel led the Golden Eagles to success as the defensive coordinator and assistant coach. Spearheaded by its top-10 defense, Marquette won its first Big East title with Stimmel’s help in 2016 and the former Ohio State midfielder was counting on another season in Wisconsin before Shay came calling to invite him back to New Haven.
“Marquette was an incredible opportunity, career-wise,” Stimmel said. “We had a great year in 2016 and, in all honesty, my wife and I didn’t anticipate leaving anytime soon. Sure enough, one year later, Coach Shay called me about the opportunity and we knew it felt right. On top of that, I’ve had a great relationship with [defensive coordinator] Andrew Baxter since he coached me at Ohio State in 2009 and Coach Shay has become a mentor after giving me my first DI coaching opportunity in 2013. I looked at the chance to be a coordinator at Yale as the best job in our sport.”
Now under Stimmel’s tutelage for the second season, the Elis own the fourth-best scoring offense in the country, averaging almost 14 tallies per contest. Captain and attacker Ben Reeves ’18 continues to be Yale’s primary scorer down the stretch or at the rare moments when the rest of the offense becomes stagnant.
The Macedon, New York native sits seventh in the country in goals scored per game and sixth in points per game with 2.92 and 5.46, respectively. However, no other player on the roster ranks in the top 50 in goals, assists or points per game — a testament to the team’s offensive depth.
“All the credit goes to the guys and the culture they’ve built,” Stimmel said. “We have guys who aren’t playing that won’t hesitate to call out a starter for not making the right play and those guys own it. The same players get more excited about a great ball movement goal versus them individually scoring. No one cares who scores or who gets the credit; they want to win and they understand that we need every single guy on a daily basis to accomplish that.”
That depth starts with attackers Jackson Morrill ’20 and Jack Tigh ’19, who have both notched 26 goals this season while adding a combined 24 assists to their point totals. Sessa has racked up a total of 16 goals and seven assists thus far, while four other Elis have tallied double-digit scoring totals and 11 more have added their name to the scoring sheet.
This aspect of Yale’s offensive scheme is what makes it so dangerous, especially compared to other lacrosse powerhouses such as No. 3 Maryland and No. 5 Albany, which rely on two to three players to carry the load.
“He does a phenomenal job reaffirming our mission about being patient and detail-oriented and the guys love him,” Shay said. “We think he’s one of the top coaches — we thought he was one of the top coaches available and that’s why we hired him.”
The next challenge for the Eli offense will be finding success against Harvard’s defense in its search for a perfect conference record and a win in the final game before the Ivy League Tournament. Yale will host the Crimson at noon on Saturday.
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