Last summer, the Yale men’s lacrosse team earned its first-ever national championship and then graduated the nation’s best player. But this year’s attack nonetheless remains potent, thanks to returning starters and the arrival of a top rookie recruit in Matt Brandau ’22.
Although the graduation of attacker Ben Reeves ’18, who won last year’s Tewaaraton Award, and the rest of the class of 2018 left a dent in the Elis’ starting lineup, rookie attacker Brandau has quickly established himself as a critical member of the attack. Brandau earned a start in the Bulldogs’ season opener against Villanova and immediately made his presence known with his first collegiate goal. The rookie has been hot since, scoring at least once in all games thus far and sharing goal-carrying responsibilities with returning attacker Jackson Morrill ’20.
“[Brandau] has shown an incredible amount of poise and maturity for his age that I believe has been a key factor to his success thus far,” captain and attacker John Daniggelis ’19 said. “His personality can be best described as even-keeled, both on and off the field, as it doesn’t seem like any moment is too big for him.”
Brandau had an illustrious high school athletic career at Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, a powerhouse lacrosse school that plays in one of the most competitive divisions in the country. With 82 goals and 71 assists, he earned a spot in Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 Recruits as the No. 17 player in the country and was Yale’s highest-ranked recruit last year.
Brandau’s decision to join the defending national champion Bulldogs and a roster saturated with offensive talent did not guarantee playing time in the first year of his college career. However, the graduation of elite offensive players such as Reeves and midfielder Jason Alessi ’18 left voids in the offensive dynamic that needed to be filled.
With the Elis beginning their title defense against unranked Villanova, Brandau’s appearance — and his two-point performance — was unexpected. But with Yale falling to the Wildcats in overtime, it became clear that the 2019 Yale squad had yet to find its offensive identity. Yet over the course of the season, Brandau along with Morrill and Matt Gaudet ’20 have started to find their collective rhythm.
“He fills the roles that we need,” Shay said. “If we need him to finish, he finishes. If we need him to feed, he feeds. He plays the left-hand side when he’s in there with two righties, and he plays the right-handed spot when he’s in there with lefties. He’s really stepped up and done exactly what we need him to do.”
After Brandau’s debut, he continued to fortify his presence in the lineup with a solid streak of two and three-point performances against No. 1 Penn State, No. 17 UMass and Michigan.
Then, in just his fifth game in the Blue and White, Brandau exploded for six goals and two assists in a win against then-No. 3 Cornell. The rookie’s double hat trick not only tied a program record for most goals by a rookie in a game but also earned him Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors, as well as Inside Lacrosse Reverent Player of the Week.
“I think the results against Cornell were due to a lot of little things put together by everyone on offense,” Brandau said. “When we do little things like communicate and move the ball anyone can score, and it seemed like I was the beneficiary of a lot of great work by our entire offense.”
Just a week later, the rookie rifled in another four goals in a notable comeback against Ivy opponent Princeton, demonstrating that not only can he consistently support the offensive system, he can also carry the offensive load.
To Brandau’s teammates, the rookie is a natural addition to the program. Daniggelis credited the coaching staff’s recruiting efforts in seeking individuals with similar attitudes and mentalities.
“The biggest thing that has helped me adjust to the college game has been the consistent help of the older kids on the team,” Brandau said. “While getting adjusted, they always had my back and I knew I could play without being nervous because of the trust between everyone on the team. When I made mistakes, I never felt like I was alone because someone was always there to pick me up.”
Brandau and the Bulldogs will take on Dartmouth at Reese Stadium this weekend.
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