Courtesy of Rich Barnes

The No. 7 Yale men’s lacrosse team (0–0, 0–0 Ivy) will open its 2022 campaign against No. 20 Villanova (1–0, 0–0 Big East) at noon on Saturday. The team returns to action having not played a game since March 7, 2020.

The game will also mark the Bulldogs first home game at Reese Stadium since May 11, 2019, a playoff win against Georgetown.

“It’ll be 1,015 days since we played on Reese. I don’t remember a home game since Georgetown. It’s going to be awesome,” head coach Andy Shay said to Inside Lacrosse. “I managed [the 2020 season cancellation], and even last year was OK. This week is driving me crazy. I cannot wait.”

The team has worked hard to stay sharp, and will look to transition all that hard work onto the field starting this Saturday. 

Many upperclassmen took a year off in order to preserve eligibility in order to compete again this year instead of losing a year to the pandemic. Those upperclassmen have led the way, showing the younger players what it means to be a Bulldog lacrosse player.

“Our upperclassmen have worked so diligently throughout that uncertainty, and their commitment to this program has definitely inspired us younger guys to emulate and maintain the standard they set,” first-year goalie Cam Coyle ’25 said. “Every single one of them embodies leadership, and every one has persevered through agonizing times to get here. The brotherhood and accountability on this team is rare in sports. Practices and lifts are full of energy. I can’t wait to experience when the Dogs get let out of their cage this Saturday.”

The season opener will serve as a good test for the team, as it will see two ranked squads square off in early season competition. The Bulldogs currently sit at No. 7 in the latest Inside Lacrosse poll while Villanova is No. 20. 

The Bulldogs were also selected as the favorite to win the Ivy League in preseason polling. The Elis earned 13 out of 14 first place votes and will hope to live up to the high expectations.

“I’m very excited for the season to start. We have been working hard towards this moment,” midfielder Jake Cohen ’25 said. “I hope we can overachieve this year.”

For Villanova, the trip to New Haven will mark its second game of the season. Last weekend, the Wildcats squared off against Penn State and won a 13–12 thriller with a last-minute winning goal.

The Bulldogs’ coaches will certainly take note of the box score from that game. Patrick Daly, an attackman for Villanova, scored six of the team’s 13 goals in that win over Penn State.

For his part, Daly will now likely draw the toughest matchup Yale can offer, three-time All-American defender Chris Fake ’22. Fake has spent much of his time at Yale locking down the opposition’s top attackman, and his degree of success against Daly will go a long way in deciding how the game will play out on Saturday.

On the other end of the field, the Bulldogs’ offense will be paced by Matt Brandau ’23. In his only full season in 2019, Brandau posted eye-popping numbers with 50 goals and 24 assists in 19 games. Brandau’s 50 goal performance in the 2019 season was a Yale record for goals by a first year. 

“Obviously, I’ve missed the game a ton and I miss lacrosse, but really it just gave us a chance to develop ourselves personally,” Brandau said to Lax Sports Network. “Be put in a spot that not a lot of people have been put before in the lacrosse world.”

Brandau and Fake were both named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List for the 2022 along with 49 other players in Division I lacrosse. The award will be presented at the end of the season to the most outstanding play in college lacrosse and projects big seasons for the two Elis.

Matt Campbell, a senior midfielder, was Villanova’s lone member of the Tewaaraton Award Watch List and will also factor into the Bulldogs’ plans to slow down the Wildcat offense. Campbell led Villanova in goals scored last season with 32 and was also named to the All-Big East Preseason Team.

“[Campbell’s] a four-year player for us, so I expect him to be a leader on and off the field,” Villanova head coach Mike Corrado said to The Villanovan. “I expect him to have a really good season. He’s incredibly talented. He’s one of the best players at his position in the country, so I fully expect him to continue having a successful career.”

The biggest question for the Bulldogs will be who starts in net for the team. Jack Starr ’22 has started in two national championship games for the Bulldogs but played more as a backup for the limited 2020 season. The team has three other options beyond Starr, including Jared Paquette ’24, who plays on the U.S. national U-21 team. 

The Bulldogs have opened their season against Villanova the past four seasons — not including the canceled 2021 season — and have gone 2–2 in those season openers.

Spencer King is an Editor for the Sports desk. He has covered the Yale football and women's ice hockey teams. He has also previously covered the Yale men's lacrosse team and most things Bulldogs sports. Spencer is a junior in Davenport College and is majoring in Political Science.