Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The No. 7 Yale men’s lacrosse team (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) opened its 2022 campaign with a 17–14 win over No. 20 Villanova (1–1, 0–0 Big East) in a snowy midday showdown at Reese Stadium. 

The contest was hard fought, as the teams traded runs of goals throughout the afternoon. The Bulldogs also showcased their depth throughout the game, getting big contributions from all parts of the roster. 

After falling down 1–0 to start the game, starting first-year attack Leo Johnson ’25 scored the first Bulldogs goal of the season, kicking off a big first quarter that would see Yale looking in control with a 6–2 lead entering the second quarter.

As snow began to fall at Reese Stadium, it was the Wildcats’ turn to go on a run. Villanova, powered by two man-up goals and strong outside shooting, outscored the Bulldogs by five goals in the second and entered halftime beating Yale, 8–7.

Having not played a game since March 2020, the Bulldogs seemed to take a half to warm up, but after that, the second half meant trouble for Villanova.

“It’s been over 1,000 days since we’ve played at Reese and two years since Yale lacrosse has played an official contest,” Cam Coyle ’25 said. “So everyone in this program has been looking forward to finally getting out there and playing a meaningful game for the first time in a while.”

At halftime, it was time for adjustments as head coach Andy Shay and his coaching staff got to work in the locker room as the snow intensified outside on the field.

One of the main adjustments was in the faceoff circle, as Shay switched from Nicholas Ramsey ’24 to first year Machado Rodriguez ’25.

“We tried a different matchup at the faceoff, I think Machado Rodriguez made the most of his opportunity there,” Shay said about the halftime adjustments. “We as a team wanted to be a little tougher on the ground, in the middle of the field.”

The adjustment certainly worked and set the tone for the first of the afternoon for the Bulldogs. 

Following the lead of Rodriguez, who went 10–17 on faceoffs, the Bulldogs tightened up and went back to playing the heavy style of lacrosse that many fans are used to seeing them play.

After Thomas Bragg ’23 scored on a rip from far out to tie it at 8–8 for the Bulldogs, one of the typically unsung players for Yale gave it the lead just 16 seconds later.

Following a faceoff win, Rodriguez raced down the field before dumping the ball to Johnson, who then found the streaking senior short stick defensive midfielder Luke Eschbach ’22 in the middle of the field.

Eschbach, who does most of his work on the defensive end as a bruising midfielder, dispensed a would-be Villanova hit, and buried a low to high shot to give the Bulldogs a lead that they wouldn’t give up for the rest of the game.

The Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 9–1 in the third quarter, including two Matt Brandau ’23 goals in the final minute, which gave the team a comfortable seven goal lead going into the fourth quarter.

“It’s lacrosse, it’s amazing. Games of runs, they talk about that. They came out early and jumped on us and then we responded,” Villanova head coach Mike Corrado said. “I don’t know what the exact numbers were, but we had a really good second quarter and then they kinda did the same thing to us in the third quarter. We just didn’t quite catch up at the end there.”

The Bulldogs then took care of business in the final frame, punctuated by a stunning score from long stick midfielder Jack Stuzin ’25 on the fast break. 

When the final horn blew through the falling snow, the Bulldogs had won their first game of the season, 17–14, while getting contributions from several highly touted members of their team.

Brandau, a preseason All-American, led the Elis with five goals, while Johnson, the No. 3 recruit in the 2021 recruiting class, opened his collegiate career with a hat trick.

On the defensive end, Jared Paquette ’24 got the start in goal and made nine saves while battling the snow in his eyes all afternoon. Stuzin, in addition to his goal, also had a massive collegiate debut as he emerged as Shay’s top option at long stick midfielder. The sophomore was a vacuum on the defensive end, picking off multiple passes as part of his five caused turnovers and five ground balls. 

The Bulldogs will return to action next Saturday to play Penn State at noon in Happy Valley.

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.