Sporting Life

Fall sports highlights: 2023

Yale wins The Game; volleyball and men's soccer win their Ivy tournaments.

Evan Frondorf ’14 writes frequently about sports for the magazine.

David Schamis ’95

David Schamis ’95

Linebacker Joseph Vaughn ’24 carries the ball after intercepting a Harvard pass. Vaughn also forced a pivotal Crimson fumble. View full image

Next to the room in the Yale Bowl’s Kenney Center where players meet at halftime, there’s a photo of Handsome Dan I alongside a quote, or, more likely, a reminder: “The hungrier dog gets the bone.”

Entering The Game, the stakes for Team 150—the 150th season of Yale football—were clear. Harvard had already clinched a share of the Ivy title, but a Yale victory would earn the Bulldogs their own claim to the crown. On a day of big stops and game-changing special teams plays, Handsome Dan’s adage proved true, as the hungry Bulldogs held on for a 23–18 win.

More than 51,000 were on hand for a windy fall day in New Haven. From the start, the blue and white seemed to have the edge on energy, with a blocked punt setting up Yale for a quick touchdown early in the second quarter that established a 10–0 lead. The Bulldogs had two more good chances to score, thanks to an interception and a second blocked punt, but neither Harvard turnover resulted in Yale points.

Harvard notched a touchdown near the end of the half, and what could have been a 24–0 Yale halftime lead was instead a closer 10–6 battle.

In the second half, Yale added to its lead with a methodical touchdown drive, only for Harvard to respond with two quick touchdowns that put the Crimson ahead for the first time all afternoon, 18–17. With less than eight minutes to play and the momentum shifting in Harvard’s direction, Joseph Vaughn ’24, who also had an interception and ten tackles to lead the defense, forced a Harvard fumble at their 14-yard line. That set up quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 for the winning pass to David Pantelis ’25 in the end zone. Harvard had multiple nail-biting chances in the final minutes to take the lead, but the defense held on to seal the victory. “Our defense played so well, I never wavered in my confidence in our ability to win the game,” said Grooms afterward.

Yale shared the Ivy championship with both Harvard and Dartmouth; all three teams finished 5–2 in Ivy play. More special for Team 150 are back-to-back championships—a feat not accomplished since 1981. “I ask the seniors every year to plant seeds you’ll never see grow and leave here better than you found it,” said head coach Tony Reno. “These guys have done it at a level I’ve never seen before.”
And the actual Ivy League trophy stays with Yale. Said Reno: “We still have it from last year, and we beat Dartmouth head-to-head, we beat Harvard head-to-head—so we keep it.”

Men’s soccer
It was the shot heard round the college soccer world. In the 89th minute of an NCAA first-round matchup, Yale and Bryant—both Bulldogs—were scoreless. But then, midfielder Max Rogers ’24 saw an opening. “I’d actually been watching the goalkeeper the whole game, and I’d noticed that he was very aggressive with his positioning,” says Rogers, a first-team All-Ivy selection. “I always had it in the back of my mind.” When Yale won back possession, he launched a booming kick from midfield that floated over the helpless goalkeeper and directly into the back of the net.

With one quick-thinking decision, Rogers had sent Yale to the NCAA second round for the first time since 1999. “It was a combination of knowing the goalkeeper might be off his line and also being extremely tired 88 minutes into the game,” Rogers says, laughing. “I had a look up and saw the keeper was at the edge of his box and thought, ‘Why not?’”

To get there, Yale found its stride late in the season, going undefeated in its final five Ivy games, including two victories to win the inaugural Ivy tournament.

After the win over Bryant, the Bulldogs ultimately fell 2–0 to Hofstra in the second round, but they still had their best finish in nearly a quarter-century.

Tim Goodenow

Tim Goodenow

Audrey Leak ’24, seen here in a match against Penn, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Ivy tournament, which the Bulldogs won. View full image

In 2022, the volleyball team put together a 17-game win streak and lost just one Ivy match all season. How do you top that? The answer was another 17-game win streak and an undefeated Ivy League season, the program’s first since 2012.
During the streak, Yale didn’t just win—they dominated. They dropped just nine sets while winning 51, and they trailed in sets only four times.

Winning the Ivy tournament gave the Bulldogs their second straight invitation to the NCAA tournament. In the first round, they faced No. 5 Penn State—a tough opponent that has appeared in all 43 editions of the postseason. Yale lost to the Nittany Lions but put up a fight: they won the second set and almost won the third before falling three sets to one.

Until then, the biggest challenge the Yale players had faced may have been their own teammates. “Our team is super deep this year,” says Audrey Leak ’24, a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Most Outstanding Player of the Ivy League tournament. “Our starters are challenged every day in practice, which makes our team ready to compete in every game.”  


Note: In our print edition and in an earlier online version of this article, we misidentified the football player in the photo above as David Pantelis ’24. They both wore number 10 last season.

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