Sporting Life

Spring sports highlights

Women's lacrosse reaches the NCAA quarterfinals.

Evan Frondorf ’14 writes frequently about sports for the magazine.

Sam Rubin ’95

Sam Rubin ’95

Jenna Collignon ’25 was the top scorer on a women’s lacrosse team that had a historically successful season. View full image

For the women’s lacrosse team, the last two seasons ended with disappointment at the precipice of historic achievement. In 2022, seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007, the Bulldogs lost in the Ivy League Tournament final and were left just outside the NCAA field. Last year, they had an overtime, sudden-death loss to Penn in the Ivy final, and the pain was exacerbated by yet another NCAA snub.

But 2024 was the year that put all the doubts and close calls away. Yale exploded out of the gate with nine straight wins, becoming the last undefeated team in the country, and ended the regular season with just two losses and a perfect 7–0 Ivy record. That earned the Bulldogs their first Ivy regular season title since 2003, and, stunningly, their first outright crown in the 45 years of formal Ivy play in the sport.

“The first two years proved to our team that we deserve to be here and that we’re not satisfied,” says Jenna Collignon ’25, the team’s top scorer and an All-American selection. “Each and every one of us used those feelings as motivation this year.”

By then, Yale was ranked No. 8 in the country and nearly assured of an NCAA spot—but the Ivy Tournament remained. In the Ivy final against Penn, held at home at Reese Stadium, the threat of heartbreak loomed once again. Tied 9–9 at the end of regulation, the title would once again be decided in sudden death. This time, Yale finally broke the curse: Fallon Vaughn ’25 sent the ball right to Taylor Lane ’25 for the game and tournament-winning goal. “The Ivy Tournament championship game is arguably my favorite game I have ever coached,” says head coach Erica Bamford. “It was the culmination of effort and belief in each other to meet the moment.”

The run not only guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament but also earned Yale the right to host their first two games at Reese as the sixth-overall seed. In the first round, the Bulldogs handily defeated Binghamton, 17–4, to earn their first NCAA win since 2003. Two days later, they took on Johns Hopkins in a defensive battle—not unusual for a Yale team ranked third in the country in defense. The Bulldogs took a 7–6 lead in the third quarter and held on for a 9–7 win and a trip to the quarterfinals.

The next round brought Yale to upstate New York to face No. 3 Syracuse. The Bulldogs dropped behind early and saw their run come to an end, falling 19–9, but not before notching the most wins in program history: 17.

On the men’s side, despite an 11–4 record, the team missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. However, longtime standout Matt Brandau ’24 closed out his career with a plethora of honors—the William Neely Mallory Award for the top graduating male athlete at Yale, the seventh pick in the Premier Lacrosse League draft, and a spot as one of five male finalists for the national Tewaaraton Award, celebrating the best player in the sport.

In 2022, the softball team tallied eight stolen bases all season. Remarkably, just two years later, that number leapt all the way to 58. It reflects the ethos of second-year head coach Laura Ricciardone: speed and power. “We talk ad nauseam at practice about playing fast and aggressive,” says Ricciardone, a former Harvard standout. “We try to play the game fast from a base-running perspective, yes—but also on defense and keeping a really fast pace on the field.”

What has also been fast is the team’s on-field improvement, as the Bulldogs notched consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 2008–09, and captured their first share of an Ivy League regular season title since 1993. “Yale is fighting for a place where we are regarded as a top school for softball in the Ivy League, not as a surprise or underdog,” says Emma Taylor ’26, a second-team All-Ivy selection and the team’s leading pitcher.

In a particularly competitive year in the Ivies, Princeton, Harvard, and Yale tied with 14–7 records in conference play, a seven-week gauntlet in which teams play a three-game series each weekend. “Every one of these games just carries such significant weight,” says Ricciardone. At the double-elimination Ivy League Tournament, Yale lost to Harvard and Dartmouth to end the year, but in many ways, this was the best season in decades.

After legendary coach Steve Gladstone retired from leading the heavyweights last year (he’s still an assistant with the Bulldogs), former assistant Mike Gennaro was promoted to head coach. It was a strong transition year, as the top boat took third at Eastern Sprints and fifth at the IRA national championship.

In the first-varsity race of the Yale-Harvard Regatta, Harvard held a sizable lead by the final mile but began to fade late, allowing Yale to nearly come all the way back from a multi-boat-length deficit. But room ran out, and Harvard won by 4.6 seconds for their first varsity eight win since 2014. All other Yale eights claimed victory, however, avoiding a fully Crimson-colored day in New London.

The women varsity rowers took eighth at the NCAA national championship, their sixth straight season in the top ten. And on April 27, they maintained their grip on the Case Cup, sweeping Radcliffe and winning the varsity eight race for the 11th straight season. The day was fittingly capped by a celebration of 50 years of Yale women’s crew at Gilder Boathouse on the Housatonic.   

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