Grow the Game®

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp

Harvard Men’s Lacrosse Player Spotlight

I had the opportunity to sit down with two Harvard Men’s Lacrosse players, Chase Yager and Greg Campisi. The purpose of the interview was to find out about their trip to Washington D.C. to play in the Bob Kemp Classic. I enjoyed our conversation so much that I wanted to learn more about their stories as players. What led them to come to play lacrosse at Harvard and what it is like to play for Coach Gerry Byrne?

Chase Yager is currently a senior midfielder who transferred to the Harvard Men’s Lacrosse program last season from Amherst College. Chase was named to the All-Ivy Honorable Mention Team and was an Ivy League Academic All-American. He is currently studying government and minoring in computer science.

How did your time at Amherst prepare you for Harvard?

I can’t speak highly enough about Division 3 lacrosse. It gets kind of a funny rap sometimes. It’s a much wider array of schools that play. There are like 200 schools that play D3 lacrosse and only 70 that play D1.

But getting to play at a program for two years, playing at a competitive level, honing my skills, how I play, and what I could bring to a team set me up for success. Even though I was moving from D3 to D1, I had a lot of confidence in what I was doing and my team skills.

I had some good leaders and role models at Amherst. I definitely learned a lot at the school about operating at a high academic and high athletic caliber school that I could bring with me when I went to Harvard. It prepared me well, the places were similar.

You are one of the many college athletes that have used the transfer portal. You were at Amherst for your first couple of years before coming to the Harvard Men’s Lacrosse program. Can you talk about the transfer process and what brought you to Harvard?

I was fortunate in some ways that during the COVID-19 year, I didn’t want to take online classes and be asynchronous for my junior year of college. I took that year off from Amherst.

Over that time, I decided I loved Emerson and it offered me a lot, but I was ready to see if there was an opportunity to play Division 1 lacrosse. I entered the portal at the end of the season and started sending out some emails to see what kind of schools were interested.

My list was pretty short because the NESCAC is a very competitive academic conference. I didn’t want to sacrifice what I had going on there in terms of the education I was getting, so I limited it to a handful of Ivy League schools and some other Division 1 schools.

Coach Byrne was one of the coaches that got back to me and encouraged me to send in an application. From there, it was all self-driven. It was like applying to college all over again. I had to go back into the Common App and send out applications. I’m was not particularly eager to do that process again.

It worked out well in the end. Harvard is the best opportunity that I could have asked for. It’s in Boston, I love being here, and it’s a Division 1 opportunity at a building program with a great coach, with a good culture.

Last year the media said that Harvard is a younger men’s lacrosse program and may not be ready to compete at the highest level. But you guys had a nice season, qualifying for both the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments. What do you think it was that helped bring you guys together?

It started with our senior class. We had about four or five guys who took some time off from school so that they could hang around and play that final year with us. They stepped up and took an amazing leadership role. So that was Kyle Mullin and Charlie Olmert in particular.

Those two guys set a high standard for the team athletically with what we wanted to do through the season, but also worked hard to incorporate the freshmen into everything as well as the younger guys coming in.

Coming off the COVID year, this was true for all the Ivy League teams. We’d gone, you know, two years without playing real lacrosse. It’s been a long time since we’ve been on the field, not together, but in general. A lot of people like our entire freshman and sophomore class were kind of coming in not knowing what to expect not having played a year of college lacrosse.

The team being young didn’t feel weird because the whole team was kind of in the same boat. We were all learning Coach Byrne’s methods, a new offense, a new defense, we were getting ready for the season together as a team, but it never felt like there was a hierarchy that separated us.

What is your experience like playing for Coach Byrne?

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, he has a mastery of defensive concepts. The defense that he implemented at Notre Dame and has implemented here is pretty complex and hard to get your hands around at first, but once you get a thorough understanding of it, it really starts to click. He has so much knowledge and wisdom about the finer details of that and drilling the little tiny pieces that might seem inconsequential, but add up to big defensive stands. It’s hard as a player sometimes to recognize all the good that’s going into it and all the thought that’s going into it, but when you see it come together on the field, it’s a pretty magical experience.

Outside of the X’s and O’s pieces and the onfield stuff, Coach Byrne is very competitive and he sets a very high bar for us. It’s a fun program to be around because we know we’re going places and he’s a fun person to interact with. He can crack a joke. It’s not all serious, but he definitely brings an intensity with him to everything that we do and it rubs off on the players.

When we have captain’s practices or get out in the field on our own in our free time, it’s almost like he’s still there. Everybody is so bought in and intense because of the energy and enthusiasm that he brings.  We are driving ourselves in a lot of ways toward the goals that we want to reach and that starts with him.

He’ll stress more than anybody that his teaching style and his leadership style are that he wants the players on the team to be leading each other. When we do teachings as a group, he’ll introduce a concept and then split us into small groups and let us drill it together. The idea there is that players are coaching each other, giving each other advice, and helping each other to master the concepts.

Greg Campisi is a junior long stick midfielder for the Harvard Men’s Lacrosse program. Last year he was named to the All-Ivy First Team. Studying applied mathematics with an application in economics.

You grew up on Long Island and played at St. Anthony’s where you won a state championship. Can you talk a little bit about your recruiting process? What was it that made Harvard the right choice for you?

I actually was recruited during the pre-junior September 1st rule and ended up committing the summer after my freshman year. During my recruitment, I went to multiple top-tier schools. What stuck out to me was kind of the players here and the culture at the time. In this sense, Harvard as an institution, and what the team was developing, even at that time, really was a place designed to excel.

You hold yourself to a standard, and everything you do in terms of classwork, school work, and how you hold yourself off the field is embodied every single day and that’s what drew me here.

Last year the media said that Harvard is a younger men’s lacrosse program and may not be ready to compete at the highest level. But you guys had a nice season, qualifying for both the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments. What do you think it was that helped bring you guys together?

In terms of leadership our captains last year, Charlie Olmert and Kyle Mullin, were phenomenal leaders. Each was a fifth-year senior and had seen the program before and after, with Coach Byrne coming in as the head coach. They took it upon themselves to prioritize and stress the success of the team. They set a really strong foundation for our team.

Part of it also has been our culture. There’s a huge drive between each one of us to get better every time we’re out on the field. That’s a constant that Coach Byrne has been trying to relay to us. It’s not him forcing us to get better. We all want to play, we all want to compete. It’s a mixture of good strong leadership last year with the young team and a team-wide desire to play as best as we possibly could and know what we can do.

What is your experience like playing for Coach Byrne?

We have a great coach-player relationship. I was one of six players who were on campus during the COVID year post-2021 when there was no Ivy League competition. I was able to get one-on-one coaching with him during that semester.

The way we play defense relies heavily on knowing what every other person is doing and understanding what we’re doing every time we’re on the field. I can always talk to him all the time. I mean, myself, and all the players will bounce ideas off of him. He’ll reference what we should have been doing, but it won’t be the sense of absolute certainty that we have to be doing it. It’s more of a discussion of, like, what is the most efficient way of doing things. It leaves this kind of open ended sense that we have rules that we want to play by, but there’s a lot of interpretation between the players, between the coach, and amongst the entire defensive unit that coalesces into a strong foundation.

Coach Byrnes exemplifies somebody that always highlights the right things you want to do. We have all highly respected him. And well, I mean, we’re all proud that he is our coach, and he’s done a good job motivating us.