Sporting Life

Winter sports highlights

Bulldogs find success on the ice, on the court, and in the water.

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

Women’s ice hockey
After last season’s magical run to the Frozen Four, this year’s women’s ice hockey team was expected to pick up right where the last squad left off. And throughout a stellar regular season, that’s exactly what they did. The Bulldogs started the season with eight straight wins; then, after a single tie and loss, they ran off another 15 straight victories.

By February 4, the team was 23–1–1, and received its first-ever No. 1 ranking in the USA Today national poll. “We were able to take last year’s success and let it inspire confidence,” says captain Claire Dalton ’23. “We knew we could win and have success on the national level.” After clinching a first-ever Ivy League title on February 11, the Bulldogs capped their dominance with a 10–1 win over Harvard on senior night, earning their first ECAC conference championship. “Our senior night could not have been written better,” says Elle Hartje ’24, who led the nation in assists per game. “We really had to be pretty perfect throughout the year, which made this title my favorite one.”  

Headed into the ECAC Tournament with home ice, Yale appeared unstoppable, starting with an easy sweep of Harvard. But the end of the season was both sudden and shocking: in a double-overtime thriller, the Bulldogs fell 4–3 to Clarkson in the semifinals. The loss likely dropped the Bulldogs a couple of seeds down in the resulting NCAA Tournament bracket. Still, as the No. 4 seed, they got to host a quarterfinal game against Northeastern on March 11. They needed just one win to make the Frozen Four. But after a scoreless first period at Ingalls Rink, the Huskies ripped off three unanswered goals. It was too large a deficit for the Bulldogs to overcome, and they lost with a final score of 4–1.

Despite the unexpected end to the season, it’s clear the Bulldogs have established themselves as one of the country’s premier teams under head coach Mark Bolding, beating last year’s already-high watermarks for wins, goals, and points. Three players—Hartje, Emma Seitz ’23, and top goaltender Pia Dukaric ’25—were named second-team All-Americans: the most All-Americans of any school. Says Dalton, herself now Yale’s all-time leader in assists, “The program Coach Bolding has developed, and continues to develop, is something I will eternally be proud to have been a part of.”

Men’s basketball
For a brief moment in January, a two-decade streak for the Bulldogs appeared to be in jeopardy. After losing three of their first four Ivy conference games, Yale was on pace to finish in the bottom half of the Ivy League for the first time in 21 seasons. But the following weeks were a lesson for all followers of Ivy basketball: never count out head coach James Jones and his Bulldogs. “We realized we didn’t have any margin for error,” says Jones. “So we had to play better. And we did.”
Lifted by the top shooting percentage in the Ivy League and the conference’s best defense, the team proceeded to win nine of its last ten games. The turnaround earned the Bulldogs their third regular-season championship in the last four seasons, though this time it was shared with Princeton. Bez Mbeng ’25 was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, while top scorer Matt Knowling ’24 was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection.

By virtue of two earlier wins over the Tigers, Yale earned the top seed at the Ivy League Tournament. But the Ivies’ rotating set of hosts for the tournament coincidentally made Princeton the home court for the event. After easily besting Cornell in the semifinals, the Bulldogs found themselves down big against Princeton, going scoreless over the first six minutes as the Tigers went up 12–0.

The rest of the way was mostly even—but that 12–0 margin had made the difference, and Princeton won both the tournament and the Ivies’ slot in the NCAA Tournament. (Princeton went on to become one of this year’s Cinderella teams, becoming just the fourth No. 15 seed in tournament history to make the Sweet 16.)

The season did not end there, however. Just two days later, Yale tipped off against Vanderbilt in the National Invitation Tournament. Yale made what Jones called a “whirlwind” trip to Nashville and suffered a 71–62 loss to a tough Commodores squad. But expectations for next year are strong: four of the top five scorers will return, and they’ll add center Samson Aletan from Dallas, the highest-rated recruit in Yale history.

Swimming and diving
Swimmer Noah Millard ’25, who made the NCAA Championships in his first year at Yale, admits that he felt “somewhat out of place.”

“Every final consisted of a lineup of eight individuals—a mix of conference champions, American record holders, and even Olympians,” says the Australian from Melbourne. “The sheer level of competition was electrifying.”

With that experience under his belt, he returned with a careful plan to make it back to collegiate swimming’s biggest stage with a “newfound confidence” and the comforting realization that “at its core, every swim meet is the same.” In that process, Millard has taken Kiphuth Pool by storm. After setting the school record in the 200-meter freestyle last season, he beat his own record by more than a second in a winning performance at the Ivy League Championships.

That was just one of three Ivy titles for Millard, along with a victory in the 1,650 freestyle and a blazing 500 freestyle swim that broke the Ivy record by nearly three seconds, and Yale’s best by almost five. That performance earned him an automatic NCAA qualifying spot, with one of the top-five times in the nation; he shared honors as Swimmer of the Meet.

Despite his individual success, what Millard has grown to love most is the team aspect of collegiate competition. “In Australia, the emphasis is usually on individual success rather than scoring points to win a ‘team’ championship,” he says. “The enthusiasm, chanting, cheering, and energy on the pool deck in the United States is unparalleled.” As a team, the Bulldogs finished third at the Ivy championship.
At the NCAAs in Minneapolis, Millard competed in the 200, 500, and 1,650 freestyle, with a top finish of 23rd in the 500. He was accompanied by Connor Lee ’23, who swam in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, while Jean Paul Ditto ’24 and Paige Lai ’26 were Yale’s first divers in three years to qualify for NCAAs.  

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