It wasn’t the number of wins or conference championships that attracted Tyler Warner to Yale’s lacrosse team four years ago. It was the fact that the Bulldogs took possession of more ground balls than any other team in the Ivy League.
“For me, that stuck with me a lot because I’m a Baldwin kid, so we’re hard-working, blue-collared guys,” Warner, a Freeport native who graduated from Baldwin High School in 2014, said last Friday. “So for [Coach Andy Shay] to bring up the grittiest stat in lacrosse, it just really made me gravitate toward it.”
That grittiness only got Yale so far, however. The lacrosse team has several Ivy League championships to its name, but an NCAA championship has eluded its trophy case for more than 100 years. It last won a national title in 1883, more than three decades before the creation of the NCAA.
But for Warner, it was clear from the beginning of this season that Yale’s team was different from the ones in years past. “We felt like we could do something different this year,” he said.
He was right. On May 28, the Bulldogs defeated Duke 13-11 to win the school’s first NCAA title in program history.
Four days after hoisting the trophy, the feeling of being a national champion was still a surreal one for Warner. “It’s starting to settle in right now,” he said before an appearance at his alma mater. “We’re just kind of getting used to it.”
Baldwin athletic officials said they weren’t surprised to see him become a national champion. “We haven’t seen anybody like him since,” said Mike Hoover, the high school’s assistant lacrosse coach. “What an athlete.”
Although Warner played a number of sports growing up, including football in high school, lacrosse was always his passion. He played on Baldwin High’s varsity team as a freshman.
Eduardo Ramirez, the district’s athletic director, said it was Warner’s maturity that separated him from other athletes, both on and off the field. “He was very mature,” Ramirez said. “He handled himself not like the average freshman.”
Warner’s lacrosse journey started more than 15 years ago, with his father reading a copy of Newsday. “He saw all the people from Long Island who were committing to Division I sports, and saw the whole column was basically filled with lacrosse players,” Tyler recalled. “And my third-grade teacher said me and my brother should start playing.”
Asked what he likes about the sport, Warner, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 201 pounds, said it combines physicality with speed. “The game never stops really,” he said. “I kind of got drawn to that aspect of it.”
As soon as he got to high school, it was clear he’d be an asset to the Bruins. While his strength and speed were impressive, his ability to play both offense and defense was what made him stick out from the rest of the pack. “He could play probably any position on the field and play it well,” Ramirez said. “Whatever they asked him to do, he did it.”
But there were some positions he liked better than others. “He never wanted to play defense,” Hoover said. “I had to beg him to play defense, and when he did he was the best.”
He added, “I think the only position he didn’t play was in goal.”
During his time in high school, Warner was a two-time captain of the Bruins squad, was named an All-American and played on the U15 national championship team. At Yale he won the Winthrop A. Smith Award and was a co-winner of the Corrigan Pershing Award from the Yale Lacrosse Association, was named an Inside Lacrosse All-American and made the Ivy League Honor Roll.
Warner was drafted by Major League Lacrosse’s Team Florida Launch, and expected to play in the team’s match against the New York Lizards at Hofstra University on Saturday. “That will be nice,” he said, “because it will kind of be like playing at home.”
He plans to attend medical school in the near future. Right now, he’s assisting with research at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
Asked what advice he’d give Bruins athletes seeking to reach the pinnacle of their sport, he suggested listening to their Baldwin coaches. “This school has prepared you to accomplish great things in the future,” Warner said. “The blueprint is set here in Baldwin.”