Sporting Life

Spring sports highlights: two national titles

Men's lacrosse and heavyweight crew are tops in the country.

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

Men’s Lacrosse

For the better part of the decade, Yale men’s lacrosse has been a dominant force in the Ivy League, winning five of the last six Ivy tournaments before this season. Despite the national renown and number one rankings, however, one trophy has always been missing: a national championship.

Each season, the Bulldogs have flamed out in the 16-team NCAA Tournament. There was a heartbreaking final-minute loss in the second round to the country’s top team, Syracuse, in 2013; in 2015, Yale succumbed to a fourth-quarter Maryland comeback in the first round.

This spring, the Bulldogs climbed to the top of the national rankings and cruised to a perfect Ivy campaign, finishing the regular season 12–2 overall. In the Ivy League tournament final, however, Yale fell to Cornell and had to settle for the third seed in the NCAA bracket. But if you’d been looking for a portent of things to come—another year of coming up short in the postseason—you were wrong. In May, the third-seeded Bulldogs ran off four wins in two weeks to win Yale’s first-ever NCAA title in lacrosse. (Yale was technically awarded a national championship in 1883, just six years after the first intercollegiate game—a shared title with Harvard and Princeton when only four teams played.)

The championship win came against Duke, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Memorial Day. Yale took the lead 46 seconds in and never gave it up, withstanding a late Duke surge and earning a 13–11 victory. As the final seconds ticked away, Yale head coach Andy Shay reflected on his 15 seasons helming the program. “I was thinking of all the guys who I’ve coached,” says Shay. “I wished they could be on the field with this team.” Years of program-building had finally paid off.

The game was marked by unchallenged three-goal flurries from Yale at the beginning of each half. Throughout the tournament, Yale got off to hot starts that set them up for success. During all 240 minutes of tournament action, Yale trailed for just three minutes, all during the first quarter in the first round. Leading the charge was attackman Matt Gaudet ’20, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the championship weekend, with six goals against semifinal opponent Albany and four versus Duke.

The Yale standout for the season, though, was captain Ben Reeves ’18, who now stands atop the Yale record books in almost every scoring category. At the close of the season, he became Yale’s first-ever winner of the Tewaaraton Award—lacrosse’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for the country’s best player. 

Reeves’s achievements aren’t limited to the field. As a molecular, cellular, and developmental biology major carrying a 3.89 GPA, he graduated with the William Neely Mallory Award, given to the top male athlete at Yale. Medical school is in the New York native’s future, but first he’ll try his hand at the pros; he was selected fourth in April’s Major League Lacrosse draft. After leading your team to the top of the lacrosse world while moonlighting as a cancer researcher, that’s not a bad way to spend a gap year.

 

Yale Athletics

Yale Athletics

The men’s heavyweight crew celebrates a second IRA national title at Mercer Lake, New Jersey. View full image

Crew

For Yale rowers, 2017–18 was a banner year. Women’s crew won first place at the Ivy Championships and placed eighth at the nationals—earning, in the process, the highest score among the Ivies. And men’s heavyweight crew had its own odyssey.

The heavyweights finished their season with a win at the annual Yale-Harvard regatta at New London. But with all due respect to the regatta, which is the nation’s oldest intercollegiate sporting event, the greatest rivalry in rowing right now is Yale vs. Washington. For the second straight year, it was east against west in the final meters of the IRA National Championship. And for another year, the title will stay with the Bulldogs.

On Mercer Lake in New Jersey, Yale took an early lead in the grand final and staved off challenges from Washington and Harvard to beat the Huskies by almost three seconds—a definitive victory, considering last year’s photo-finish margin of 0.069 seconds. “It was a little less stressful, for sure,” says head coach Stephen Gladstone, laughing. He now owns 13 IRA titles as a coach, which makes him tied for the  all-time record for varsity eight championships.

The Bulldogs also won their fourth consecutive Eastern Sprints title, a feat not achieved by any team in 41 years. “The repeat as national champions means it was definitely not a fluke,” says captain Paul Jacquot ’18, who rowed in the varsity boat for both national championships and all four Eastern Sprints wins during his Yale career. “Yale is now a major powerhouse in the collegiate rowing system.”

Men’s Golf

Headed into the final round of the Ivy League Championship, Yale found itself tied atop the leaderboard with Harvard. But this team’s upperclassmen leaders were used to the pressure. With the advent of live scoring, they’d been experiencing it all year. “It wasn’t something that was there when we were freshmen,” says Henry Cassriel ’18. He explains that players now post scores on Golfstat, a top college golf website, for constantly updated hole-by-hole mobile scoring. Instead of hitting the links for a blissfully ignorant round of technology-free golf, collegiate golfers are now acutely aware of the leaderboard—all the time.

Some still try to avoid the temptation of the screen. “I use my phone a little more than the other guys on the team,” admits Cassriel. “But if guys aren’t checking their phone, Colin [Sheehan ’97, the team’s coach] knows all the scores.”

There wasn’t too much drama on the final day of the Ivy Championship, however, as Yale pulled away to win its first Ivy League title since 2011 by 22 strokes. The real drama came in the individual competition, where Eoin Leonard ’19 and James Nicholas ’19 tied and forced a one-hole playoff. Leonard won the individual trophy; Nicholas was named Ivy Player of the Year.

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