JANES: A significant weekend for Yale athletics

For everyone who spent the weekend in a panicked coma after the hockey team’s loss to Cornell (everybody breathe, it’s going to be fine), you missed a historic weekend in the world of Yale sports. Two Yale teams, women’s volleyball and field hockey, clinched Ivy League titles within just hours of each other — the first time Yale has ever held two women’s fall sports titles in the same year. In fact, Yale has only won multiple fall sports titles in the same year five times since 1956, let alone won them on the same day. While together they made Yale history, the field hockey and volleyball teams’ championship runs were historic for very different reasons: one, the long-awaited product of 31 years of patience and perseverance, and the other, the declaration of a dynasty.

One of those fantastic five falls came in 1980, the last time field hockey won an Ivy League title. That year, a Carm Cozza-guided Yale football team featuring future Miami Dolphin Rich Diana ’82 also reigned in the Ancient Eight. That year, the “Miracle on Ice” was the game of the year, the Cold War was yet to be decided and Blondie’s “Call Me” was No. 1 on the Billboard charts. That year, there were just seven teams competing in Ivy League field hockey, which was only in its second year of official competition.

In the next 28 years of competition, Yale finished higher than fourth just three times. But with the fall of 2008 came the class of 2012, the six players who capped record-breaking careers with a championship-clinching Senior Day Saturday. In their four seasons in New Haven, the Bulldogs have finished second or higher three times.

It certainly wasn’t clear then that the title drought would be ending any time soon. A 2–5 conference record in 2008 left Yale in fifth, far behind champion Princeton, 7–0 in conference that year and in the midst of a run of 11 straight Ivy League titles.

But largely due to the emergence of the class of 2012 as sophomore complementing a highly talented senior class in 2009, the Bulldogs closed the gap quickly. Yale rocketed to a second-place finish, the lone blemish on its Ancient Eight slate a loss to the vaunted Tigers. School records for wins fell, and just like that, the Bulldogs were a force to be reckoned with in the Ivy League.

Yet when a similarly successful 2010 season also produced a second-place finish, it seemed the class of 2012 — part of a historic turnaround but hungry to complete the season with a title — might never reach that goal. A 7–0 loss to Princeton meant the Bulldogs were second yet again, with the perennial national powerhouse Tigers standing between them and their last chance at the school’s first title in over three decades.

Then came this season, and with it, title hopes that seemed to dim with some early season losses and one of the nation’s top-10 hardest schedules. But Princeton’s first Ivy League loss since 2007 breathed life into the Bulldogs, who finally saw the chance they’d been waiting for — and seized it. Yale turned in a phenomenal season, breaking team records for goals, points and assists. Much of that was due to the play of the class of 2012, which holds the second-most wins of any class in Yale history (41). Midfielder Dinah Landshut ’12 finished as the school’s all-time assist leader (44), while captain Erin Carter’s ’12 35 career goals put her fourth in that category all-time. Mia Rosati ’12 (23 goals) is also in Yale’s top 10, while Carter (fifth) and Landshut (sixth) made the Bulldogs’ all-time points list.

As the field hockey seniors persevered to help their team emerge as an Ivy League powerhouse, the volleyball class of 2012 solidified its program’s place as an Ancient Eight dynasty. Its championship-clinching win — also on Senior Day — marked the third title in four years for the program.

The first of those three was also a drought-buster, the Bulldogs’ first since a four-way shared championship in 2004, and Yale’s first outright win since 1978. But an 11–3 conference record and second-place finish in 2009 was followed by a 12–2 season and another title in 2010.

This season, with two games to play, the Bulldogs have lost just one Ivy League game and are assured of at least a share of the title — all despite a flurry of injuries to the team, the smallest in its conference with just 12 players and so seemingly the least-equipped to survive them. Last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Kendall Polan ’14 played every point as the team’s only listed setter and a spectacular freshman class was forced to hit the ground running.

But the Bulldogs, led by seniors captains Taylor Cramm ’12, Katie Cordell ’12 and Bridget Hearst ’12, battled through a season culminating — for now — in a Senior Night title-clinching win Saturday at John J. Lee Amphitheater. A fitting end to the home careers of the class of 2012, which finished its four years with an astounding 44–4 home record.

Two teams, two titles, two very different stories and one day that, unlike the hockey team’s panic-inducing loss, will not soon be forgotten.

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