Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The Yale men’s lacrosse team (3–1, 0–0 Ivy), then ranked No. 14 in the nation, beat the then No. 20 ranked University of Denver (3–4, 0–0 Big East), 16–13, on Sunday. The Bulldogs were powered to victory by star attackman Matt Brandau ’23 who posted an eight-point night with five goals and three assists.

The Bulldogs’ top 20 matchup win saw them climb up the Inside Lacrosse rankings from the No. 14 ranking to No. 11. The game wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, and was full of challenges for the Bulldogs as the team had to contend with a different time zone, Denver’s high altitude and the Pioneers’ physical brand of play.

“I give Denver a ton a credit for a very physical game. I think we felt the road trip a little bit and Denver is not an easy place to play with the altitude but clearly it didn’t bother Brandau,” head coach Andy Shay said to Yale Athletics. “I was really impressed by Matt today while our team came together to make it a grind. That is what this program is based on and these guys are proving they can play well in those games.”

Yale started the game hot with two straight goals and never looked back. The Bulldogs’ wire-to-wire victory was thanks to their red-hot offense that scored 16 goals: three more than in last week’s game against the University of Massachusetts.

Brandau led the way yet again, with a massive eight point performance, and was followed by Leo Johnson ’25 who posted a hat trick. 

Johnson entered the game having been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week following his two goal and one assist performance against University of Massachusetts. Johnson continues to prove his skill as a young player every week, having started every game for the Bulldogs.

“It was a great trip for us to challenge ourselves against a very talented team,” Brandau said. “We were able to battle throughout the game and are very excited to come out with a win before starting Ivy play on Saturday.”

On the defensive end, Bulldogs goalie Jared Paquette ’24 faced an onslaught of shots by the Pioneers, as they managed 28 shots on goal in the game. However, Paquette was up to the task, making 15 saves and continuing a string of strong performances in his first season. 

Chris Fake ’22 led the way for the defense with two caused turnovers and two ground balls while also playing a big part in the clearing game as the Bulldogs went 20–22 in clears.

The matchup was the Bulldogs’ final game before they begin their Ivy League schedule, however, the two programs do know each other quite well as they have been two of the best in the nation over the past couple of years. 

“It’s a unique one, as you mentioned, in that we don’t get many Ivy League teams to play us,” Denver head coach Bill Tierney said on his podcast with Denver Athletics. “Andy Shay, their coach and I, go way back. He’s a great coach and a good friend.”

The Bulldogs can now turn fully to the upcoming Ivy League matchups, where things will get no easier for the team. 

Of the seven teams that play Ivy League lacrosse — Columbia does not field a team — six of them are ranked in the top 20 teams in the nation by Inside Lacrosse.

The Bulldogs’ next game will come against the No. 4 team in the nation, the undefeated Cornell Big Red, on Saturday at noon in Ithaca.

SPENCER KING