Sporting Life

Winter sports highlights

An Olympian in hockey; a breakout basketball star.

Alex Goldberger ’08 is a writer at NBC Sports.

Sam Rubin ’95/Yale Sports Publicity

Sam Rubin ’95/Yale Sports Publicity

Phoebe Staenz ’17 went ot the Olympics, then came back to help the Yale team make the playoffs. View full image


A year after the men’s hockey team’s improbable run to a national title, the biggest standout for Yale hockey this winter was arguably a Swiss freshman on the women’s team. While the men missed out on the NCAA tournament, Phoebe Staenz ’17 led the Yale women to their first appearance in the conference playoffs in six years and helped Switzerland’s national team win a bronze medal at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Despite missing 12 Yale games because of her Swiss commitments—Staenz’s team made separate trips to Japan, Austria, and Germany in the three months prior to the Games—the Zurich native led Yale with 11 goals and 26 points and was named national Rookie of the Year by “It was a lot of jet lag,” she says.

Balancing obligations for country and for Yale required some leniency from professors, but the modest Staenz was reluctant to tell her instructors that she was an Olympian. “I just said, ‘I have this really big tournament going on in Russia,’” she says. “They said I would probably get a bad participation grade if I went.”

In the bronze medal game in Sochi, Staenz scored the tying goal in the third period of Switzerland’s comeback victory over Sweden. Four days later, she was back in class in New Haven, and four days after that she suited up for Yale’s playoff series at Harvard. (Harvard won, two games to one.)

The lone blemish this season may be that participation grade. “I’ll see at the end of the semester,” she says. “Hopefully it’s not too bad.”


Last summer, Yale basketball forward Justin Sears ’16 was training for his sophomore season by playing in a pickup basketball league at the New York Athletic Club. It was going well until some unexpected visitors showed up. “One day, [Denver Nuggets forward] Kenneth Faried just walks through the door three minutes before the game starts,” Sears says. “I was rattled.”

Before the summer was over, Sears would share the court with a handful of pros, including Cleveland Cavaliers standout Kyrie Irving and former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse. Eventually, Sears adjusted to the elite competition. “I realized, ‘Hey, I can hang around with these guys,’” he says. “Playing with them gave me huge confidence.”

When he returned to New Haven, Sears had a breakout season, ranking in the top six in the league in scoring, rebounding, steals, and blocks and becoming the first Yale sophomore since Chris Dudley ’87 to be named First-Team All-Ivy. Along the way, he led Yale to second place in the Ivy League, including a road victory against eventual champ Harvard. The Bulldogs were in contention for the league title entering the final weekend of the regular season. Though they were eliminated by a 70–58 loss to Harvard, Sears nevertheless made ESPN’s SportsCenter that evening for an acrobatic dunk against the Crimson. The team played in the postseason Tournament, making it to the finals before falling to Murray State 65–57. (Sears was out that night with a wrist injury.)

Now Sears dreams of more national television exposure—though not for the usual reason. “Next year I want to be on SportsCenter because the team made the NCAA tournament,” he says, “not just for one highlight.”

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