Sporting Life

Winter sports highlights: 2014–15

Men’s basketball had a banner season—but a rough ending.

Evan Frondorf ’14 is a research fellow at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Steve Musco

Steve Musco

Justin Sears ’16 was Ivy League Player of the Year. View full image

Men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team recorded 22 wins this year, its most since the 1948–49 season. Yet the number that will linger is 53: the team’s 53rd straight year without a trip to the NCAA tournament. And maybe 0.5: the fraction of a second that stood between Yale and the win over Dartmouth that would have put them in the tournament.

Tied with Harvard at the top of the Ivy standings, the Bulldogs had beaten the Crimson 62–52 on March 6. That left just one game in the regular season, against Dartmouth, and a win for Yale meant the NCAA. But Dartmouth’s final basket—in literally the last second of the game—put the Big Green over the Bulldogs 59–58. After Harvard beat Brown that same night, tournament rules required a one-game playoff between cochampions Yale and Harvard to decide who would earn the Ivies’ automatic spot in the tournament.

But the Bulldogs lost to Harvard—again in the last seconds—and the hoped-for March Madness underdog tale became, instead, one of epic disappointment. Adding insult to injury, the Bulldogs were snubbed by the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), a consolation prize they had every right to expect. It was enough to make even the normally stoic head coach James Jones tell reporters: “This season hasn’t ended fairly.”

Still, Jones was named Ivy Coach of the Year—just one reminder of what this program was able to achieve this season. Yale laid claim to its first Ivy League title since 2002, led by Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears ’16. Along the way, the Bulldogs managed to take down intrastate rival UConn, the defending national champion.

Knowing all that, perhaps we should take the perspective of first-team All-Ivy selection Javier Duren ’15, who, just moments after the playoff loss, was already able to appreciate the greater context. “Man, I’m just blessed,” the senior told reporters. “Not many people get to be a part of this experience.”

Duren’s pride hasn’t diminished since then. “We’ve made so much history for Yale basketball,” he says. “I didn’t want to let one game define just how hard we’ve worked all season.”


Women’s hockey

The women of Yale hockey also hit historic highs this year, finishing with a .500 record for the first time in eight seasons. They did so in style, with multiple wins over top-10 teams, including Quinnipiac and Clarkson, the defending NCAA champion.

Unlike the men’s ice hockey team—which won a national championship two years ago and made it to the NCAA tournament again this year—success has been a long time coming for the women’s program. They went 1–27–1 in 2012–13—the worst record in Division I women’s hockey that season. “I think we’ve definitely come a long way,” says senior Jackie Raines. “It really speaks to the level of character we have in the locker room.”

The Bulldogs had high expectations for the 2015 postseason, but Harvard—this year’s national runner-up—quickly ended the team’s playoff run. The outgoing seniors, however, have built the foundation for a team that no longer hopes, but expects, to be competitive on the national stage. Says Raines, “Being part of the few seasons that will hopefully turn this program around… it’s something I think this class will cherish for a long time.”

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