Saturday, September 21, 2013

Westchester Marches Down the Field

Yale Hockey shocked sports enthusiasts in 2013 (John Hassett/Yale Athletics photo)

On a cold April night in downtown Pittsburgh and before the eyes of a national television audience, a buzzer sounded in the big hockey arena. It proclaimed a turning point in Yale athletics. Yale hockey, as alumni should know unless they have ignored all communications from New Haven, turned some heads. It surprised all who follow the college version of the sport.  By defeating its Nutmeg neighbor Quinnipiac, it won a national championship, a rare event at Yale, where sports successes are usually measured by football victories over Harvard. 

Yale will host Harvard in Nov., 2013 (YWAA photo)
There haven't been many football wins over Harvard in the 2000's--only one, and many more blank stares and quiet, forlorn post-game tailgates.  

Yale hockey squeezed itself into the tournament, pummeled teams to earn a spot in the Frozen Four and seized the NCAA trophy. Until then, Yale sports in recent years had been more widely known for the failed fourth-down gamble late in the 2009 game against Harvard, when Yale could've punted and coasted to a win over the Cantabs (but didn't). 

Townsend, Basketball, Chappaqua
Does the hockey championship signal a real rebound? Does the men's lacrosse team's appearance in the NCAA tournament this past spring reaffirm that athletic turnaround?

Moreover, are Westchester athletes contributing to what could be an actual about-face at the Yale Bowl, in Payne Whitney or on the spacious, updated fields along Derby Avenue?

Sanders, Fencing, Rye
Surprise. Westchester sportsmen and sportswomen might be more of a factor in a general turnaround than many know.  Around the nation, Westchester County isn't ordinarily on lists of hotbeds to recruit Division I athletes.  Michigan, Florida and Northwestern don't come crawling along I-287 to look for elite football players. 

Cohen, Fencing, Irvington
Nonetheless, in certain sports, especially those that aren't swamped with Harvard-Yale football glory or those that exist beyond the scope of the attention span of most alumni, Westchester athletes are starring on soccer fields, on field-hockey turfs, on fencing platforms, and in sailing waters.  One Westchester junior has captured a regular playing spot on the men's basketball team, grabbing rebounds and swishing baskets in the way he ruled the courts in high school in Chappaqua. He could make an all-Ivy team in the next year or two. And another senior has played regularly in women's basketball throughout her time in Payne Whitney.

Westchester performers appear in just about any arena or turf Yale maintains.  The list is broad and reflects the breadth of sports offerings in Westchester high schools.  And of course, don't dismiss academic prowess.  It shouldn't be a surprise that at least three Westchester athletes were valedictorians at their Westchester high schools.
Virtue, Lacrosse, Rye

Matt Townsend '15 was one of those valedictorians (in 2011 at Horace Greeley). In high school, he averaged 28.8 pts./game for his basketball team and likely filled his room in Chappaqua with shelves of trophies and local awards.  At Yale, he received a basketball academic award as a freshman, while pursuing a major in molecular, cellular and developmental biology.  Townsend, now a starter on the team, averaged 7.7 pts./game last year and hit 19 points in a game against Cornell as a 6-7 forward.

Gogel, Field Hockey, Bronxville
Alexandra Osborn-Jones '14, from Valhalla, played basketball at Rye Country Day and set numerous records there.  Her first link to Yale was her grandfather, who long ago coached the Yale freshmen team.  At Yale, she has been a regular rebounder off the bench. 

Katie Underwood '14, a four-year member of the Yale women's soccer team, is another high-school valedictorian.  At Briarcliff Manor High School, on the field, she helped her team win three state championships.  Like Townsend, Underwood juggles sports with her major in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. 
O'Driscoll, X-Country, Rye

Stephen Shoemaker '15 decided to flee the grasps of Harvard and play football at Yale.  His father and sister are Harvard graduates.  He is now a junior offensive lineman for the Elis with well-beefed, lineman's size (285 lbs.). At Bronxville, he anchored the line on a team that won a New York State championship and dominated southern Westchester football during his time there. 

Byrd, Crew, Bedford Hills
For a small high school, Bronxville has had a lineage of success in sports in recent years, even beyond football. Brooke Gogel '14 from Bronxville is a senior on Yale's field hockey team and earned a national field hockey academic award last season, while majoring in English. Her brother, Evan Gogel '10, by the way, was a Yale Whiffenpoof. 

Rye High School's Garnets appear on a few rosters at Yale. Tori Virtue '16 from Rye High School was selected the most improved player on the women's lacrosse team last spring.  She led her high-school team to the state semifinals. Cornelius Sanders '14, a senior and Rye High School graduate, will captain the Yale fencing team for the second year in a row after helping the team to its 11th-place national finish last season.

And Clara Robertson '17, a freshman from Rye High School, has joined Yale's co-ed sailing team, which achieved a No. 1 national ranking in mid-September. 

Hogan, Swimming, Scarsdale
Sanders is not the lone Westchester fencer.  Peter Cohen '14, from Irvington, was the Yale team's most valuable player as a freshman. A Hackley graduate, he has earned all-American honors and placed third in national epee competition last year.

Men's crew includes two from Westchester.  Henry Byrd  '16, a sophomore, is from Bedford Hills.  Kamil Sadik '16, also a sophomore, followed Townsend's footsteps by being named valedictorian, too, at Horace Greeley in Chappaqua.

At least one Westchester athlete could appear in this year's Harvard-Yale game
(YWAA photo)
Brian Hogan '16 from Scarsdale will enter his sophomore season this winter as a freestyle swimmer on the men's team. Rachel O'Driscoll '14, a senior from Rye (who attended School of the Holy Child), appears on the women's cross-country team this fall.

Shoemaker, Football, Bronxville
Richard Slenker '17, a freshman, has now been on campus about a month. He crowned his final season at Fox Lane High School in Bedford Hills with the selection by Westchester news media as the area's best high-school baseball player.  He hopes to get playing time at shortstop next spring.

And now, if only Shoemaker in football gets a chance to scoop up a fumble and ramble 40 yards for a late score to win The Game this November against Harvard in the Bowl. 

(Yale Athletics photos)

Sadik, Crew, Chappaqua

Underwood, Soccer, Briarcliff
Osborn-Jones, Basketball, Valhalla

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