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Led by seniors, ‘talented’ Yale players helped Bulldogs win first men’s lacrosse national championship

Yale became the first Ivy League team since Princeton in 2001 to reach the pinnacle of the college lacrosse world.

Matt Dewkett

FOXBOROUGH, M.A. — Fresh off of four goals in the national championship game and being named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, Yale Bulldogs attackman Matt Gaudet didn’t want to admit the obvious for many.

“We are talented,” the sophomore said.

After three years of First Round exits, those talented group of players were rewarded with a national championship after downing the Duke Blue Devils, 13-11, on Memorial Day at Gillette Stadium. For the seniors on the team, it capped off an incredible run in New Haven.

“To finally get that monkey off our back, we felt like this year we had a special group and that we’d be able to do it,” said short stick defensive midfielder Tyler Warner. “Getting bounced in the First Round, it was tough. But it’s all worth it now.”

“All the guys that came before us that helped build the culture and build the brand that this program is,” said attackman Ben Reeves, who finished the tournament with 25 points, tied for most all-time along with Eamon McEneaney and Tim Goldstein of Cornell. “All the credit to Coach [Andy] Shay and the rest of the coaching staff. They do a tremendous job every single day getting us ready and building the culture, and just who Yale lacrosse is as a team.”

Talent doesn’t come without some hard work involved. It’s been part of the Yale framework, from hitting the weight room, to practicing, to watching film every single day during the Spring season. That hard work, along with camaraderie on and off the field, have proved to be the keys for this championship team.

Chris Jastrzembski

Another element is leadership, thanks in part to a very talented senior class spearheaded by a pair of best friends, Warner and Reeves.

“Being able to play with [Reeves] the last four years, he’s been an amazing leader,” Warner said. “Doesn’t talk much, but its just how he leads by example as opposed to the game, staying after practice. He’s been amazing, just being able to follow his lead is huge for us.”

Having Reeves as a role model for many of the underclassmen helped them understand the game a lot better. Especially with Gaudet and fellow sophomore Jackson Morrill.

“I think from day one, Ben really showed me what it’s like to be a Yale lacrosse player,” Gaudet said. “I used to really believe that lacrosse was just a talent based game, and then Ben showed me the way, and he showed me it’s all about fundamentals. It’s about working hard. I can’t even express how much I’m going to miss him next year.”

Shay mentioned how Reeves helped the development of players on the opposite side of the ball, specifically with freshman defenseman Chris Fake and his confidence.

“When you can come in and a guy like Ben Reeves gives you respect for being a cover guy,” Shay said, “I think that goes a long way. And he really has no ego about him. He just wants to be the best player that he can be for our program. These guys do a great job of pushing him and pulling him along, and being the guy they need him to be.”

Reeves has been a talented lacrosse player for the past few seasons. But coming into Yale, he was under recruited and originally supposed to go to Hobart. Since then, he’s developed into one of the best attackmen in the history of college lacrosse.

His hard work earned him a spot at Team USA tryouts in the summer and fall, where he made an impression on head coach John Danowski, who was on the opposite end of Yale’s win yesterday afternoon for Duke. But Reeves knew there were more opportunities to play for his home country in the future. He had business to take care of first.

“Dino’s like, ‘if he can make it, great. I don’t want you to have to play him.’ So I talked him out of it, and I said ‘you need to go to tryouts. You have to go. This is Team USA.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I’m the captain of this team, I’m staying.’

“Nobody knew that. People thought he was blowing off the tryout, he was hurt, whatever. Ben Reeves said he was captain of the team and turned down a shot at Team USA. And he had a great shot at playing on Team USA.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’ll go next time, it’s fine. I’m the captain of this team.’ For our fall ball. Are you kidding me? This kid is unbelievable. Never seen anything like it. Like I said, as a student, as a person.”

Reeves’ play on the field will probably overshadow his character and leadership as a team captain. As a junior, he was named a team captain, even though he didn’t want to be one.

In the end, everything turned out to be all right. He was a two-time captain, Yale’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points, and more than likely a Tewaaraton Award winner.

“He’s the man,” Shay said. “I’m going to miss him. I love him dearly. I’m going to miss him.”