Akshar Agarwal, Contributing Illustrator and Courtesy of Yale Athletics

During a semester when nearly the entire team is dispersed throughout the country, far from Reese Stadium and Yale’s campus, the Yale men’s lacrosse program’s motto — “ONE: Only Need Everybody” — holds extra meaning.

Players and alumni said it not only reflects the sense of unity that made the program a force in the world of collegiate lacrosse, but also the Bulldogs’ perpetual dedication to the team during a year of separation. 

The program has enjoyed massive success in recent years — including two consecutive trips to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament, which led to a maiden NCAA title in 2018 — but in the late 1990s, Yale sat towards the bottom of the Ivy League rankings. With head coach Andy Shay’s arrival in 2003 and his incorporation of the phrase “ONE,” he established the foundation for today’s strong program and a team culture centered around teamwork and dedication.

“We’ve always been big on needing everybody and making sure that everybody contributes their part, so I think [the acronym] came kind of naturally around probably 2011,” Shay said in an interview with the News. “We try and put a premium on every guy on the team. It’s not a slogan, [and] it’s not lip service. It’s very real in our program, and the guys that don’t play are really good embodiments of that.”

Shay told the News that he initially got the idea of ONE from fellow assistant coach at the University of Delaware Scott Marr, who was also the offensive coordinator, in the late ’90s. Marr is now the Albany men’s lacrosse head coach.

At the time, Delaware was using the phrase, “three, two, one,” so when he was named head coach in 2003, Shay decided to bring the concept of “one” to Yale. The motto has since been pilfered by other programs, Shay said, such as Oklahoma State baseball and Fairfield men’s lacrosse, whose head coach Andrew Baxter was formerly the associate head coach of the Bulldogs in New Haven.

“A couple of years later, it turned into an acronym, which has a ton of meaning in terms of concentrating on one play at a time and on one goal at a time, or one win at a time,” Shay said. “In 2011, we got down to one goalie on our team, and we had a couple different players step up and play backup goalie in practice. … We really try and praise that, [when players] put themselves in positions for the betterment of the team and they’re not guaranteed any accolades or any success.”

Named head coach in 2003, Shay, pictured above during the Bulldogs’ national championship win over Duke in 2018, has led Yale to seven NCAA Tournament appearances. (Photo: Courtesy of Rich Barnes/Yale Athletics)

From finishing 1–5 in Ancient Eight play in 2004 to topping the league outright in 2012, Shay and his players slowly laid the groundwork for a culture that prized intensity and cohesion, dominant elements of the mentality that took the program to the top of NCAA men’s lacrosse.

Alumni who suited up throughout Shay’s tenure echoed that sentiment, telling the News that a culture of grit and hard work is largely responsible for Yale’s success.

“There was an idea that everyone had a contribution to make and no man was more important over the others,” former defenseman Ryan McQuaide ’18 told the News last year. “So we had this slogan: ONE, Only Need Everybody. I remember I dove in front of a shot to stop it one day. It was pretty painful, but I just remember getting up, feeling sorry for myself, then seeing coach Shay going nuts yelling, ‘Great job, McQuaide,’ and it just helps you buy into that mindset.”

McQuaide helped the team capture the 2018 national championship in his senior year and attributed much of that team’s success to Shay’s work in previous years.

Yale players celebrate after beating Duke to win the national championship in 2018. (Photo: Courtesy of Rich Barnes/Yale Athletics)

Current captain and midfielder Brian Tevlin ’22, who received the Dan Casman Award for team spirit and morale in 2019, told the News that because of the ONE motto, every year the standards and “threshold for what is an appropriate level [of] commitment to the Yale lacrosse team” rises. 

“The ONE slogan … is one of the best representations of Yale men’s lacrosse because it speaks to the standard that everyone on the team is held to,” Tevlin said. “No one is above or beneath the level of commitment that we require from the individuals on our team, [and] by holding everyone to the same level of dedication and responsibility, it not only makes every individual better, but the entire standard of the team rises.”

Tevlin continued to explain that the strength of ONE as a message is derived from the commitment of individual team members to it and the respect they have for their current team, as well as the core values established by the team’s alumni. The motto also occasionally stretches beyond the program itself. After the passing of Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum ’24, Tevlin circulated a team letter on Twitter that extended the meaning of ONE beyond the confines of the field. “Our mission today is to reach out to our peers and remind them that they are both loved and important,” members of the team wrote. “Without everyone, we are nothing.”

Faceoff specialist TD Ierlan — who recently transferred to Denver after starring at Yale since his first season in New Haven in 2019 — also commented on the significance of the “ONE” motto and how it has lasted through generations of Bulldogs. 

“I think ONE defines Yale lacrosse, and that is why it stuck,” Ierlan said. “We may not be the most talented team, but everyone on the team pulls their weight and contributes to the team. We believe [if] we have [a] full team of guys who are brought in, we can reach our potential.”

Now, in a year where many team members are not on campus, only one player, attackman Skyler Wilson ’24, is currently practicing, Shay said. With four seniors graduating and several of their classmates taking leaves, “ONE” has taken on a new meaning. 

Shay described that even at the very beginning of the pandemic, during the team’s last practice in 2020 before quarantine prevented them from coming together in person, the sense of togetherness and “ONE” was omnipresent on the field. 

“Last year, when the season was canceled, we had one scrimmage left in practice … and it was probably the most intense we’ve played in a number of years but without any chance to play a game again,” Shay said. “It was just one last scrimmage … and you don’t take any bit for granted.”

Yale players embrace during a win over Dartmouth in 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

Despite the distance between players since that last practice, Shay looks forward to next season, regardless of the challenges of leading two classes of players who have never donned the Blue and White, a rising junior class that has only played four games and an entire team with different enrollment timelines.

Shay told the News that this year and the pandemic have given him a new perspective on the unifying motto and a new sense of gratitude for its meaning to the team. 

“That’s the beauty of it. … In a given year, it’s one ground ball. It’s one play. It’s one moment, one win, one game at a time … and now it’s something different,” Shay said. “It’s another day where you’re away from this campus, you’re away from your teammates and you’re away from your coaches [but now it’s also] sticking with that ‘one day of time, and one moment at a time’ because we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Yale won three consecutive Ivy League men’s lacrosse tournament championships under Shay from 2015 to 2017.

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu

Amelia Lower | amelia.lower@yale.edu

Amelia Lower covers football, men's ice hockey and men's lacrosse. She is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College from Rye, New York, double-majoring in Spanish and the History of Science, Medicine and Public Health.