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A last-minute football victory over Harvard was just the icing on the cake for Yale’s fall sports teams, which compiled the best collective record in the Ivy League. Their perennial waiting for next year, it appears, is over.

Yale football coach Jack Siedlecki stood at the 20-yard line in Brown Stadium, beaming. As he prepared to address the players, coaches, and fans who crowded around him, his radiant smile and youthful giddiness told the story. Just moments before, quarterback Joe Walland '00 had led the offense on a 79-yard drive for the ages. Trailing the Bears 28-24 with just 53 seconds to go, the Bulldogs appeared headed for their 14th consecutive Ivy loss. But Walland had other ideas, and proceeded to complete five of eight passes to bring the Elis to the Brown 27 with six seconds to go. On the game’s final play, Walland lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone, where 6'-4” wide receiver Jake Borden '00 made a miraculous catch.

As the faithful gathered around a jubilant Siedlecki after the game, the coach delivered a simple message: “We’re back.”

And so, it would seem, is much of Yale’s athletic program.

In a long-awaited resurgence, the 1998 Yale football team emerged with vigor from some of its darkest days. Just one year after going 1-9 overall and winless in the Ivy League, the Bulldogs—a consensus pick to finish last in the conference for a third straight season—stormed back to respectability. A three-game, season-ending winning streak that included victories over both Princeton and Harvard lifted the Blue to its first winning record (6-4) since 1990 and a second-place Ivy finish (5-2). And, although the Bulldogs fell one game short of the conference crown, they served notice that Yale football is on course to its preferred place in the upper echelons of the Ivy League.

The turnaround is consistent with Siedlecki’s past successes at Worcester Polytechnic and Amherst, where he also inherited losing programs and turned them into winners. (Siedlecki’s one regret at Amherst was never beating the college’s archrival, Williams; that curse has already been lifted at Yale.)

One key to this rebirth has been the liberal philosophy on offense that Siedlecki and his staff brought with them to New Haven in 1997. Reverses, halfback passes, and fake punts were common occurrences at the Bowl this season. This flexibility served to complement a solid, more traditional offensive scheme. Behind the passing and scrambling strength of Walland and the rushing ability of tailback Rashad Bartholomew '01, a transfer from the Air Force Academy, the Bulldogs boasted one of the league’s most balanced attacks. On the year, Walland set new single-season school records for completions, attempts, and passing yards, breaking the marks set by Kelly Ryan '88 in all three categories. Walland was second in the conference in all-purpose yardage and tops in rushing among Ivy quarterbacks.

Bartholomew, whose 4.49 speed in the 40 allows him to hit holes and round corners faster than any Yale back in recent history, averaged more than 93 yards per game and earned first-team All-Ivy honors. Both Walland and Bartholomew benefited from a strong offensive line anchored by tackle Marek Rubin '99. Another All-Ivy performer, Rubin established himself as an NFL prospect and was invited to play in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.

While this new offensive firepower was a welcome departure from last season, the Eli defense was suspect, especially early in the year. But with experience came monumental improvement for the Elis. In fact, it was the defense that ultimately carried Yale to its happy ending. In the thrilling 31-28 win over Princeton at the Bowl, the Bulldogs forced one fumble and intercepted six Tiger passes, returning two for touchdowns.

The defense delivered an even more impressive performance against Harvard in the 115th edition of The Game. With Walland and Bartholomew both hampered by ankle injuries, the offense sputtered, gaining a meager 176 yards and eight first downs. But in its most inspired performance of the year (Harvard magazine called it “larceny”), the Bulldog defense compensated for the lack of offensive production by shutting down Harvard. “That was probably the best defensive game I’ve ever seen a team play,” Siedlecki said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team go on the field that many times and perform at the level that we performed in this game, series after series after series.”

Leading 7-0 late in the third quarter, the Crimson again made its way to the Yale doorstep. But on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Bulldog cornerback Todd Tomich '01 stuffed Harvard tailback Damon Jones just shy of the end zone. The ensuing field goal try sailed wide left. On Harvard’s next possession, Jeff Hockenbrock '00 blocked another field goal attempt, keeping the Bulldogs within striking distance. After a Yale touchdown that brought the Elis to within one at 7-6 (the extra point was blocked), Harvard gained possession with a chance to run out the clock and escape with the victory. But Ben Blake '00 delivered a crushing blow to Crimson quarterback Rich Linden, forcing a fumble that Hockenbrock recovered deep in Harvard territory. Four plays later, All-Ivy placekicker Mike Murawczyk '01 booted a 27-yard attempt through the uprights to give Yale a 9-7 lead it would not relinquish. “Now Yale’s back on track,” Murawczyk said after the victory. “It’s about time.”

Perhaps no one was more excited about—or responsible for—the Bulldogs' triumph than athletic director Tom Beckett. Since arriving at Yale in 1994, he has resuscitated a moribund department. By improving relations with the admissions office and hiring highly skilled coaches in a variety of sports, Beckett has moved Yale steadily upward. “Our goal in every sport that the Ivy League sponsors is to win the title,” Beckett said. “We are now in a position to do that in most sports.” If the Ivy League awarded a commissioner’s trophy for the best all-around athletic program after the fall season, Yale would win. Although no Bulldog squad captured a conference title, all five team sports had winning league and overall records. In fact, Yale’s combined conference record in the five sports (23-12) was the best in the Ivies, quite a feat considering that just two years ago Yale’s combined league record in these same sports was a mere 12-22.

This turnaround can be credited in part to women’s field hockey coach Marisa Didio, who came to Yale after successful stints at Northwestern and New Hampshire. In her second season in New Haven, she has turned a program that went 1-5 in the league in 1996 into a title contender. Led by captain Lindsay Hobbs '99 and Ivy Rookie of the Year Amanda Walton '02, the Bulldogs beat Harvard twice to finish second in the conference (5-2) and capture the ECAC postseason tournament crown. The women’s soccer team, led by coach Rudy Meredith, also captured an ECAC tournament title.

Under third-year coach Brian Tompkins, who inherited a team that went 1-6 in the league in 1995, men’s soccer recorded its third straight winning season and finished second in the conference (5-2). Ivy Player of the Year Jac Gould '00 [see story at left] and All-Ivy forward Phil Harris '00 comprised the league’s most potent attack. Against no teams was this offensive might better demonstrated than in wins over Princeton and Harvard. The Bulldogs captured the Big Three championship by downing the Tigers 7-4 and edging the Crimson 5-4.

No Yale team dominated Harvard more than volleyball, which defeated its archrival three times on the way to a second consecutive third-place finish at the Ivy tournament. The Bulldogs were led by Rosie Wustrack '99, arguably the best player in school history. A three-time first-team All-Ivy performer and two-time league player of the year, Wustrack registered an outstanding senior season, breaking the school records for career kills and blocks. Success on the volleyball court is nothing new for Yale players. In her 13 seasons at the helm, head coach Peg Scofield has built a perennial title contender. Until very recently, her program was one of Yale’s few consistent winners.

But this year, Scofield’s team is less unusual. With the return to prominence in football, field hockey, and soccer, the goal of a department-wide renaissance is becoming a reality.  the end





Danger on the hoof

To watch Jac Gould '00 play soccer is to see an artist at work. The Phoenix native combines blistering speed with solid foot skills to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. One of the nation’s most potent offensive players, he scored 15 goals in 17 games this season on his way to earning Ivy League Player of the Year honors.

“He is probably the most dangerous striker in the league,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Jac’s speed is remarkable. There aren’t many guys who can keep up with him.”

Harvard’s defenders certainly couldn’t. In a September grudge match between the traditional rivals, Gould netted two goals, including the game-winner in the second sudden-death overtime period, to lead the Bulldogs to a 5-4 win in Cambridge. He registered a pair of hat tricks on the year, scoring all of Yale’s goals in the 3-1 win over Davidson and the 3-0 blanking of Cornell. In a narrow 5-4 loss to Hartford, he scored two goals in a span of just 20 seconds.

Gould’s athleticism has certainly not been lost on Yale’s track coaches. When he is not on the soccer field, Gould can be found sprinting for the Blue. During last winter’s indoor season, he recorded the fastest times for an Eli runner in the 55-, 100-, and 400-meter dashes.




Some recovery!

In her first two years at Yale, Ariana Kelly '99 was hardly a remarkable cross-country runner. “Freshman year, I was injured most of the time,” she says. “I spent most of sophomore year at the back of the pack.” Nearly two years later, however, Kelly is a champion.

“She’s the first dominant runner we’ve had in the past five years,” head coach Mark Young '68 said. “She’s really become a force.” As a junior, Kelly emerged as the squad’s top athlete, finishing fourth at the Heptagonals and qualifying for the NCAA Championships, where she placed 43rd.

In her senior season, Kelly was even better. She swept through the early part of the schedule, winning every race she entered. She placed first in the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet and captured the ECAC individual title. Heading into the Heptagonals in New York, she was the odds-on favorite.

Kelly did not disappoint. She won the race, completing the 5,000-meter course in a time of 17:40.9 and establishing herself as the premier runner in the Ivy League. “It was a really satisfying victory,” she says. “I am really happy to leave the Ivies on that kind of note.” Who wouldn’t be? With the victory, Kelly became the first Yale woman in ten years to capture the league’s individual title. She went on to compete in the NCAA championships for a second straight year, again placing in the top half of runners.


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