Yale club sports teams are enjoying a year of unprecedented success with eight teams attending national championship tournaments in March and April.
The following club teams have competed or are set to compete in tournaments across the country: men’s basketball, cricket, skeet and trap, tennis, triathlon, men’s and women’s volleyball and wrestling. According to players on multiple teams, a combination of improved roster depth and increased dedication to training and competition has driven these teams to standout performances at both Ivy League and regional tournaments.
“We have a large group of dedicated team captains and players who were able to push themselves into many postseason, regional and out-of-region competitions,” said Tom Migdalski, director of club sports, intramurals and the Yale Outdoor Education Center. “We are about 33 percent above average this year in out-of-region travel and national championship participation, which is extremely rewarding for the program.”
The cricket team, which has existed on and off for more than 60 years and was most recently revived in 2013, has made the most marked progress of any Yale club program this year, qualifying for its first national tournament in club history. After reaching the finals of the American College Cricket Ivy League Championship last September, Yale earned a spot in the 28-team national tournament. The team then traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to compete in nationals over spring break, but was knocked off in the group stage.
The team has between 30 and 40 members on its active roster, many of whom are drawn from the graduate schools.
“When I joined the team as a freshman, we didn’t have a home field, a pitch, a regular schedule or any wins of significance under our belt,” said captain Mrinal Kumar ’18, a staff columnist for the News. “Thanks to the work of past captains and presidents and the efforts of players, we were able to qualify for nationals.”
The co-ed club tennis team, too, is in the midst of its most successful competitive season ever. On Sept. 24, Yale won the Battle of the Sections tournament in Bethany Beach, Delaware, which features the top-four teams from each of the United States Tennis Association sections in the Northeast. Club tennis followed up that performance with a second-place finish at the Tennis On Campus New England Sectional Championship, which earned Yale its fifth consecutive nationals berth, held in Orlando from April 12 to 16 this year. Co-captain Zach Lovett ’18 said the team has never finished higher than the mid-40s out of 64 teams at nationals, but is aiming for a top-16 finish after its performance at sectionals.
According to Lovett, the team has grown from 24 to 30 members in the last three years to accommodate an increasingly competitive tryout field.
“One of the main contributors to our success this season was the enthusiasm of the younger classes on the team,” co-captain Stephanie Levine ’19 said. “We have grown in numbers as a team, piqued a lot of interest at tryouts and the skill level continues to improve.”
The club wrestling team has also been bolstered by recent rapid roster growth, expanding from nine wrestlers to 18 in the last three years. Doubling in size has allowed the team to engage in full nine-on-nine scrimmages.
This year, the wrestling team sent three athletes to the national championships in Allen, Texas, from March 8 to 12 and took home four medals.
“Most of our wrestlers are sophomores or juniors that got off to a really strong start this year, so our next year’s lineup is looking pretty stacked,” captain Tyler Petrochko ’18 said. “A few potential prefrosh have already reached out to me about wrestling on the team next year as well.”
In contrast to the recent rise of the club cricket, tennis and wrestling teams, the skeet and trap team continued its storied tradition this year. Yale attended its 48th consecutive national tournament in San Antonio last weekend, improving upon its scores from last year’s championship in the American skeet and international trap events.
According to captain Christopher Chute ’17, the skeet and trap team has grown from 13 to 17 members in the last four years and features talented freshman and sophomore classes. He added that while other schools have begun recruiting for their shooting teams, Yale does not recruit but still aims to be nationally competitive.
“Nationals is the highlight of our season, without question,” Chute said. “The tradition of having gone to nationals for almost 50 years running inspires us to excel at our craft.”
The men’s club basketball team is also seeking to continue a tradition of strong performances at a national level; the team won the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association national championships in 2014. Yale qualified for the 2017 event, which takes place at The Ohio State University from April 21 to 23, by winning the Region I tournament at Boston University on February 15.
Every year, the men’s club basketball team draws students who played competitive varsity basketball in high school or play other varsity sports at Yale. According to captain Chadd Cosse ’17, the only returning member of the 2014 team, though any college team can pay for an entry into the national tournament, Yale only attends if it wins the Region I tournament.
“I feel we have enough experience, skill and maturity to finesse a deep run,” Cosse said. “Even though we’re a smaller Ivy League school, we can still hang with and beat large Division I juggernauts.”
Since 1984, the year Migdalski succeeded his father as director of club sports, Yale’s club sports program has increased from 18 teams to 50 and is “one of the biggest club sports programs in the Ivy League and in the country,” he said.
The Athletic Department provides oversight and guidance for club teams, as well as budgetary support to partially defray travel expenses for tournaments, but members of club teams are responsible for tasks ranging from scheduling events to planning travel to managing equipment.
When Yale’s club sports program was formed 70 years ago, it included only seven teams.