Sporting Life

Fall sports highlights

A third straight NCAA appearance for volleyball.

Alex Goldberger ’08 is an Olympics researcher at NBC.

Yale Sports Publicity

Yale Sports Publicity

The volleyball team battled Bowling Green in the NCAA tournament in November. View full image


A year ago, after being eliminated in the NCAA tournament by No. 7 USC, coach Erin Appleman and her Yale volleyball team were all smiles, content to have given their all against a superior opponent. This season, after they again lost in the tournament’s first round, in a five-set thriller against unseeded Bowling Green, the post-match press conference was full of long faces. “Our expectations are higher, and we didn’t play to our potential,” Appleman says. “We played really high-level volleyball for two sets and the worst we’ve played all year for two sets.”

It is a testament to how far the program has come under Appleman that simply reaching the NCAA tournament is no longer good enough. This fall, Yale won its third consecutive Ivy League title while going undefeated in conference play. 

There was no shortage of individual standouts. Chief among them was setter Kendall Polan ’14, who captured her second straight Ivy League Player of the Year award. “As good as she is as a physical player, her calmness and stability on the court really help the team’s personality,” Appleman says. “I’m really sad that I’m now recruiting for when she’s not going to be here.”

Given Appleman’s recruiting record—the last three Ivy League Rookie of the Year recipients have come from Yale, most recently Kelly Johnson ’16—it seems likely she’ll be able to find a replacement even for Polan. But that’s still a ways off. First, Polan and fellow juniors McHaney Carter ’14 and Erica Reetz ’14 will attempt, next season, to become just the second class in Ivy League history to graduate with four championships in volleyball.



Zack Leonard ’89 has built Yale sailing into a national power during his 11-year tenure, guiding the program to six national championships. After a summer in which two of his former sailors—Stuart McNay ’05 and Sarah Lihan ’10—competed at the London Olympics, and an early fall that featured a series of Yale victories, it seemed Leonard was on his way to another great year.

But the season was disrupted for two weeks by Hurricane Sandy, which caused flood damage at the McNay Family Sailing Center and left the facility without power for a week. For sailors, there is no substitute for time on the water. “It’s not like you can do a gym session that’s going to help your sailing much,” Leonard says. “You can take a week off and you might almost get a benefit from it, from resting. But beyond that you start to get rusty.”

Nevertheless, Yale rallied to close out the fall season. At the singlehanded national championships, coed-team captain Cameron Cullman ’13 placed fourth in the men’s event, and his classmate Claire Dennis ’13 was third among the women. Leonard was encouraged most of all by a second-place finish at the match racing national championships, which should bode well for the team as the sailing season reaches its climax in the spring. “This team has the talent to do really good things at the more important spring nationals,” he says.

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