Erin Appleman never cared much for the idea of an Ivy League tournament. The way she saw it, each team played all the others in the league twice — home and away — and that was a fair enough method for deciding who would represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
But the Ivy League did have a tournament last season for the first time, and Appleman’s Yale Bulldogs won it.
“It was super exciting,” she admitted. “Having experienced it, it was very exciting. It was do-or-die … kind of gave it an NC2A feel.”
And it helped Appleman, now in her 20th season at the helm in New Haven, Connecticut, add to her already sterling resume.
In her previous 19 seasons at Yale, the former Penn State assistant won 11 Ivy League titles and made seven NCAA Tournaments. Twice she has been named the league’s coach of the year, an award that wasn’t bestowed by the Ivy League until 2014.
After beating Penn in four sets last Saturday — a match that broke Yale’s streak of winning five straight sweeps — Appleman has a career record of 358-130, making her the winningest coach in program history. What’s more, Yale has a commanding three-game lead in the Ivy League with four matches left in the regular season.
Appleman’s journey has been filled with memorable moments. Appleman recalled winning a match late in her second season (2004) that put Yale into the NCAA Tournament and beating Ohio U in the first round of the 2008 tourney.
“It was a match we had no business really winning,” Appleman said about the five-set win over the Bobcats.
With her team down 14-12 in the fifth set, she called timeout and was congratulating them, telling them how wonderful their season had been. Essentially putting a bow on their season.
That turned out to be premature, since the Bulldogs rallied to win the fifth set 17-15.
Winning that match, she said, ranked right up there with winning a national championship in 1999 as a member of Russ Rose’s staff at Penn State. (Coincidentally, Yale was defeated by Penn State after that improbable win over Ohio U, and the Nittany Lions continued marching toward the second of their four consecutive national titles between 2007-10.)
All the memorable wins, Appleman said, are too numerous to mention. What stands out to her the most in her career are the little, individual victories achieved by her players.
“The things I really get excited…