Sporting Life

Fall sports highlights: another title in volleyball

A middling year for football ends at Fenway Park.

Evan Frondorf ’14, a risk analyst in San Francisco, writes frequently about sports for the magazine.

Yale Athletics

Yale Athletics

Yale’s Kelley Wirth ’19 faces Syracuse players at the volleyball team’s NCAA Tournament appearance. View full image


Recruiting isn’t an exact science, says Yale volleyball head coach Erin Appleman. “You learn as much as you can about student-athletes, and then you have to figure out, ‘Who do I want to spend the next four years of my life with?’” Appleman appears to possess serious skills in divination: this fall, her Bulldogs won their ninth Ivy League title in 15 years.

The team also swept the end-of-year Ivy League awards, with Frances Arnautou ’20 named Player of the Year, captain Kate Swanson ’19 the league’s best defensive player, and Ellis DeJardin ’22 with top rookie honors. Appleman was also named Ivy League Coach of the Year. “Those awards point toward all the hard work that every player and coach has put in,” says Swanson. “We have 19 girls, and every award we received is a reflection of all 19.”

Stiff conference competition meant that the Bulldogs didn’t clinch a share of the Ivy title until the final weekend of play. Their first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2014 wasn’t secured until the season’s final game, despite a 13–1 Ivy record. “The resiliency of the players” stood out during the tough Ivy slate, Appleman says. “We battled from behind numerous times, and I’m really confident in this group.”

In the NCAA Tournament, Appleman was hoping for one thing: a selection as third seed in their pool of four, which would keep them from playing one of the nation’s top teams in the first round. (Yale’s two NCAA wins have come when it was a three-seed.) Appleman got her wish, and the Bulldogs took on Syracuse in the tournament’s first round. The two teams were almost equally ranked coming into the match. Yet, despite close sets throughout, Yale fell 3–0. But their pattern of Ivy League dominance continues.



With Harvard Stadium under renovation, the 135th edition of The Game was held at Fenway Park—the first time the end-of-season contest has taken place at a neutral site since 1894. But Boston spirit was very much on display at the home of the World Series–champion Red Sox, as “tailgates” spilled into local bars and a sing-along of the Fenway favorite “Sweet Caroline” broke out after the third quarter. While Fenway’s relatively small size led to limited student ticket availability and high prices on resale markets, a sellout crowd of 35,000 fans enjoyed a brisk November afternoon watching football in the shadow of the storied Green Monster outfield wall.

A year after Yale had won its first Ivy title since 2006, the teams were playing mainly for glory; they’d had mediocre seasons, both entering with 5–4 records and at the middle of the conference standings. The Game turned into the highest-scoring affair in the history of the rivalry, with nine combined touchdowns and 300-yard passing days for both quarterbacks, including Yale’s own Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Griffin O’Connor ’22.

Yale was down just one point, 28–27, in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but the final three scores belonged to the Crimson, including two late rushing touchdowns from Harvard’s Devin Darrington. (In a moment that made national news, Darrington almost had a third fourth-quarter touchdown: a scoring drive was called back on an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after he appeared to gesture to Yale with his middle finger. But later photo evidence showed him only wagging an index finger.)

Harvard “took the game over in the fourth quarter,” said Yale head coach Tony Reno afterwards. “It was a great ball game until that point. We’re a very young team, and we showed it in the fourth quarter.” Harvard stopped Yale’s two-game winning streak in The Game with a 45–27 final score. Next year, the Bulldogs will be back in the friendly confines of the Yale Bowl.

The comment period has expired.