Yale Athletics

Most people will never have the opportunity to play one Division I sport, let alone two. But just a few weeks after her soccer season ended, forward Aerial Chavarin ’20 is now preparing to suit up for the Yale women’s basketball team.

A key contributor for women’s soccer this past season and the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2016, Chavarin finished with three goals and three assists in her sophomore campaign. All of her goals were game-winners, and her overtime finish against Dartmouth kept the Bulldogs in the title race. A clutch player down the stretch for the soccer team, Chavarin now trades the pitch for the court and the net for the hoop as she begins her long-awaited return to basketball.

“I have played basketball my entire life and grew up in a basketball household,” Chavarin said. “So when I came to college, I found myself missing basketball. I tried to play last year, but was discouraged because of different barriers … [This year] I promised myself that I would play next year no matter what.”

This kind of energy and resolve was readily apparent on the soccer field. One year after setting the league alight with nine goals and five assists, enough to earn her Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Ivy honors, Chavarin struggled with injury at the beginning of this season. Missing the first three games and dropping in and out of the starting 11 for much of September, she burst into life like the rest of her team against Harvard.

Her assist in that game sparked an excellent run of form to finish the year. Two of her assists and all three of her goals came in the final seven games of the season. Even when the goals weren’t flowing, however, Chavarin’s work rate stood out. Always chasing the ball and harrying the defense, she sometimes found herself out of position because of her high defensive work rate.

That tenacity and competitiveness have a place in any sport.

“One of the reasons we recruited her was because she was such a good athlete,” women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Last year, I wouldn’t let her play basketball because I wanted her to focus on being healthy and doing well in her academics. This year, I made a deal with her that if she could beat me in a challenge one-on-one, I would let her play, and she did.”

Chavarin has a long and successful history playing basketball. At Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California, she won a number of accolades with the team, including the West Alameda County Conference Foothill League title in 2014. During the playoffs, she averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds a game. Although she has taken a break since high school, Chavarin is no stranger to basketball.

Unlike soccer, which is much more free-form, basketball involves many scripted plays. Once Chavarin gets up to speed with the Eli offense, her natural athleticism and will to win could become a boon for the Bulldogs.

“Aerial is a sponge right now in terms of on-court learning,” basketball head coach Allison Guth said. “Culturally, she strikes me as a chemistry builder in my short time knowing her. She is incredibly kind and has a wonderfully positive spirit about her. Our team really loves having her as part of our family. This weekend will be our first road trip together, and we look forward to Aerial traveling with us.”

So far this season, the Yale women’s basketball has gotten off to a hot start and enters its game against Kansas 2–0 after beating LIU-Brooklyn and Colgate by a cumulative 37 points.

Very few athletes reach a level of proficiency that allows them to compete in college — even fewer at the Division I tier. Chavarin belongs to an even more exclusive group of athletes who can do all of the above in multiple sports. She is one of just six multi-sport varsity athletes at Yale.

Another member of this elite group on campus is field hockey captain and women’s lacrosse player Kiwi Comizio ’18, who has profited not only from the increased opportunities to compete, but also from the time management and prioritization skills she has gained through her experience as a multi-sport athlete.

She offered these words of advice to Aerial:

“For her, she is coming from a fall to a winter sport, which is not an easy transition,” Comizio said. “It has helped me that I get time off in between field hockey and lacrosse. She should take it day by day because it’s going to be pretty hard without a break. It’s important not to be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you have to relax, breath and remind yourself sports are supposed to be fun. You always need to remember why you do it.”

Chavarin and the basketball team travel to Lawrence, Kansas this weekend.

Cris Zillo contributed reporting.

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu