Sporting Life

Winter sports highlights: 2018

Banner years for women’s basketball and gymnastics.

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

Yale Athletics

Yale Athletics

Tamara Simpson ’18 drives for the basket in the WBI Tournament title game against Central Arkansas. View full image

Women’s Basketball

When the women’s basketball team fell to Princeton in the Ivy League tournament semifinals on March 10, no one could have imagined where they’d be 19 days later: cutting down the nets as champions of a national postseason tournament.

By winning four games in two weeks, the Yale women became the ninth champion of the Women’s Basketball Invitational, a 16-team tournament that features competitive teams who were not selected for the NCAA or WNIT tourneys. Yale won each game by ten points or less, including the 54–50 win against Central Arkansas that secured the title. 

The most thrilling tournament action came during Yale’s only home game, the semifinal with South Alabama. Yale missed 24 of its first 25 shots from the field and found themselves behind by 19 points. With less than two minutes to play in the game, they were still down by 11. A furious 90-second rally by the Bulldogs, capped by a game-tying three-pointer from Tamara Simpson ’18, forced overtime, and Yale emerged with a stunning 76–74 win.

The WBI run gave Yale its most wins—19—in the program’s history. That March magic was also a fitting sendoff for a talented senior class that included Simpson, first-team all-Ivy selection Jen Berkowitz ’18, and Mary Ann Santucci ’18. Both Simpson and Berkowitz tallied more than 1,000 points in their Yale careers.

Most seniors who make it to the postseason end their careers with a loss. These ones got to go out on a high point. Says Simpson, “being able to finish my Yale career with a championship win is such a wonderful feeling.”

Gymnastics

A year ago, the women’s gymnastics team won its first-ever ECAC title. In March, they did it again—this time in emphatic fashion, posting the highest team score (195.325) in Yale history. Jade Buford ’20 was named ECAC Gymnast of the Year after winning rookie honors in 2017; Jacey Baldovino ’21 took over Buford’s spot as the top first-year ECAC gymnast.

Before March, the season was already an unambiguous success, as the women won their first Ivy Classic since 2005 and their first Don Tonry Invitational, a home meet honoring Yale’s late men’s gymnastics coach. “Winning the ECAC last year for the first time in history was a highlight,” says Barbara Tonry, the coach of the team since its inception in 1973. “But coming back and getting the Ivy League championship was another favorite.” Was this the favorite season? “It’s hard to have a favorite, but I’m leaning toward this year,” she says, chuckling.

At the ECAC championship, team consistency and depth were key. Yale took the top score on three of four events and did not record a fall during the entire meet. For Tonry, working with a deep roster—14 to 15 gymnasts competing in the meets—has been “amazing.” “This is the largest team I’ve ever had,” she says. “It’s been absolutely wonderful.”

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