Sporting Life

Top of the Ivy

League titles for the football and volleyball teams.

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

Zoe Berg

Zoe Berg

A one-yard touchdown run by running back Tre Peterson ’24 put Yale on the scoreboard first at the Harvard game. View full image


Headed into the final stretch of the Ivy League football season, it appeared that Princeton, undefeated and nationally ranked, would run away with the conference title. But all that changed in the penultimate weekend, when Yale shocked Princeton at the Yale Bowl, scoring 17 unanswered third-quarter points on the way to a 24–20 win. That opened the door to a variety of outcomes, ranging from an outright title for Yale to a first-ever four-way tie atop the standings. What was clear: a win at The Game, and the Bulldogs would earn at least a share of their third Ivy championship in five seasons.

One Saturday later, Yale and Harvard faced off for the 138th time to begin sorting out the chaos. Yale entered The Game with the league’s most potent offense, especially in their running attack, but it was the defense that ended up making the strongest impression at Harvard Stadium. The Bulldogs forced the Crimson to punt on their first two drives, then picked off Harvard senior quarterback Charlie Dean in the end zone to prevent a score.

Toward the end of the first quarter, the Yale offense put together a methodical, run-heavy drive and notched the game’s first score via a one-yard rush by Tre Peterson ’24. “I felt like our offensive line executed really well,” said captain Nick Gargiulo ’23 after the game. “They took on a challenge against a really, really good [Harvard] front seven. And so I thought we were able to establish some success in the run game.”

The Crimson would respond almost immediately with the day’s longest play, a 64-yard touchdown catch and run that tied the score. Yale continued to have scoring opportunities as play continued, but often failed to take advantage of turnovers and strong field position, adding just two field goals in a decidedly sleepy middle two quarters, during which Yale held on to a 13–7 lead.

Then, a fourth quarter jolt. Another long play—this time, a deep touchdown throw—suddenly gave Harvard the lead, 14–13. The instant display of Harvard offense seemed to awaken the Yale sideline, as the Bulldogs immediately responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 to Jackson Hawes ’24. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 19–14.

The defensive slugfest soon returned, including a crucial fourth-down stop by Yale, but it would be Harvard holding the ball with just 42 seconds left to play. Memories of last year’s Crimson win in the waning moments certainly came to mind for the assembled Bulldog faithful. But the defense again rose to the occasion, with Yale intercepting Dean for the fourth time to seal the win, 19–14. The victory was Yale’s fourth win in the last six meetings. “This was one of those heavyweight battles,” said Yale head coach Tony Reno. “It came down to the last few punches, and we were very fortunate that we were able to throw the last one, and then be able to finish it off.”
Less than an hour later, Penn completed a fourth-quarter comeback over Princeton to give the Bulldogs sole possession of the Ivy title, their third since 2017—an outcome that had seemed improbable just one Saturday earlier.

Reno celebrated the completion of ten seasons at the helm with Ivy Coach of the Year honors. Nineteen Bulldogs earned All-Ivy honors. The accolades spoke to the top-to-bottom excellence of the team, not confined to particular classes or positions. Teammates voted senior defensive lineman Reid Nickerson ’23 as their MVP, while first-year running back Joshua Pitsenberger ’26 was named Ivy Rookie of the Year. “Credit goes to the players, the assistant coaches who have done an amazing job, our support staff, our trainers, our sports performance coaches, our [athletic director], our president, you name it,” said Reno. “Everyone, everyone takes a piece of this.”

Steve Musco

Steve Musco

Mila Yarich ’25 aims for the ball in an October match against Princeton, as Carly Diehl ’25 and Gigi Barr ’25 look on. View full image


In nearly two decades leading the Yale volleyball program, coach Erin Appleman has never had a losing season—and the 2022 campaign may have been the best one yet. During the fall semester, the Bulldogs lost just three games and went undefeated at home en route to a 23–3 record, setting a school record for win-loss percentage and tallying the team’s most wins since 1996.

Over 19 seasons, Appleman’s teams are now a combined 343–127, winning nearly three-quarters of the time. The Bulldogs have placed first in the Ivy League in 11 of those seasons, including four of the last five. “Coach has built such a strong community of girls who want to work hard for each other,” says setter Carly Diehl ’25, one of two first-team All-Ivy selections. “That unity generates success, as it would in any job or sport where you want to give your best for the people around you.”

Perhaps the pinnacle of the season was a 17-game winning streak that lasted for nearly two months, from September 9 through November 5—when they finally fell to perennial Ivy rival Princeton. During that streak, the longest in Yale history, the Bulldogs knocked off every Ivy opponent at least once. But if you ask the team, they claim not to have noticed. “Honestly, I didn’t even know we had a streak going,” says Diehl. “I think that was why we were successful.” Captain Renee Shultz ’23 agrees: “We typically tend to focus on what’s ahead of us—what match we have coming up next—rather than the matches behind us.”

Yale’s regular-season record earned them the right to host the inaugural Ivy League tournament, involving the top four teams. (It replaced a format that saw the conference’s NCAA bid go to the regular season winner, with ties broken by a single playoff game.) The Bulldogs took advantage of home court, beating Dartmouth and then Brown to win the first-ever tournament title.

Their eighth trip to the NCAAs was a brief one, however. The Bulldogs lost in straight sets to a ranked University of Central Florida team in the first round. But that took nothing away from a historic year. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team and everything we’ve been able to overcome this season,” says Shultz. “I know I have so much to be grateful for, and the many successes of this program are a reflection of our values and hard work.”  

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