December 16, 2011

Defending Ivy Champions Elect Maddy Sharp 2012 Captain

Junior Forward is Bulldogs' 42nd Captain

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The 2011 Ivy League champion Yale field hockey team took its first major step towards the 2012 season on Monday Dec. 5, electing junior forward Maddy Sharp (San Diego, Calif.) captain. Sharp, the 42nd captain in Yale history, was selected by a team vote at Ray Tompkins House.

"I'm honored my teammates have that much faith in me," said Sharp. "Obviously we're coming off an incredible year. I hope that we are Ivy champions again next year, and we make the NCAA Tournament."

Sharp has been a part of a record-breaking run by the team in the past three years, a run that culminated this season with the school's first Ivy title since 1980. Yale went 11-6 overall and 6-1 in the league, tying Princeton for first place to earn a share of the Ancient Eight crown. The Bulldogs are 34-17 overall in Sharp's three seasons, 17-4 in the Ivy League (second place twice, first once). That is the most overall wins, and the most Ivy League wins, in a three-year span in school history.  

This past year the Bulldogs also set the school records for goals (69), assists (68) and points (206). They tied the school record for wins in Ivy League play with six and reached double digits in overall wins for the third straight season -- the first time in school history that feat has been accomplished.

As Sharp pointed out, the road to this past season's accomplishments began right after the 2010 season ended.

"We trained very hard last spring and through the summer," Sharp said. "Every single person was committed to our team goals, which were to win the Ivy League and make the NCAA Tournament. Every single person really put that extra effort in, and it paid off. And the team chemistry was great. We had a really cohesive team."

Sharp also pointed to the captains that she has played for at Yale as examples of what it takes from a leader to help the team succeed.

"Julia Weiser '10, Katie Bolling '11 and Erin Carter '12 have been fantastic," Sharp said. "Each of them exemplified leadership qualities that I hope to emulate."

Sharp had a career-high 10 points (3-4-10) in 2011 while starting all 17 games for the first time in her career. She has played 50 games in her career, totaling nine goals and six assists.

Sharp is part of a junior class that also includes back Lexy Adams (Lancaster, Pa.), midfielder Mary Beth Barham (Fairfax, Va.) and goalkeeper Ona McConnell (London, England).

 "Our class has the potential to step up and fill some big shoes," Sharp said.

Adams appeared in all 17 games this season, a first for her.

"We lose three people in the backfield to graduation, so I think Lexy will be a huge contributor next year both on and off the field," said Sharp. "She's also a great leader, and very involved in community service too."

Barham was a second team All-Ivy League selection this past year, the second time in her career she has earned All-Ivy honors.

"She's a very reliable, consistent player and should also be a huge contributor next year," Sharp said.

McConnell's battle with Myotonic Dystrophy has united the team behind the annual "Get a Grip" campaign, which the Bulldogs started in 2010. McConnell was diagnosed with the disease, the most common form of muscular dystrophy, midway through her freshman year but has continued playing through pain.

"Ona is obviously a huge inspiration to the team," Sharp said. "She is out there at practice working just as hard as everyone else."

Sharp is the second Yale field hockey captain from California, joining the 2000 captain Anne Rippetoe '01 (Los Altos, Calif.). She is also the second La Jolla High School graduate elected captain of a Yale team for next season, joining Nihal Kayali (La Jolla, Calif.) of the cross country team. Coming from an area that is not one of the traditional field hockey hotbeds, she got a late start in playing the sport.

"I only picked up field hockey my freshman year of high school," Sharp said. "My dad played tennis in college, and I wanted to play tennis in the fall. I tried out, but there wasn't a coach yet, so my friend encouraged me to come to the field hockey tryouts. I had never played field hockey before; it's not that big in San Diego. I ended up really liking it."

Her arrival at Yale three years ago came after a hectic period; she did not start the recruiting process as a field hockey player until her senior year of high school.

"I played club soccer my entire life and always figured I would play soccer in college, but I got burnt out from playing so much," Sharp said.

Sharp's field hockey coach at La Jolla was Paula Conway. After Conway's husband, Nick (who has worked with both the men's and women's U.S. National Teams), saw Sharp play, he passed along some advice.

"He saw me play, and he talked to Paula," Sharp said. "She then talked to me and encouraged me to compile a highlight tape and send it out to college coaches, because at that point I realized I really wanted to play a sport in college but it was too late to play soccer."

Sharp did have multiple Ivy Leaguers in her family: her uncle, Douglas Sharp, attended Brown and her grandmother, Norma Taylor, attended Radcliffe. And she also had ties to the Connecticut area, as her maternal aunt, uncle and nieces live in Mystic. Yale wound up offering her an official visit in December of her senior year.

"I came out, and I was here for maybe a day," Sharp said. "I was in-and-out, and I loved it even though I was here for such a short amount of time."

Sharp is a member of Silliman College at Yale. An environmental studies major, she plans to go to medical school.

"I was going to major in biology," Sharp said. "But I figured I was going to have to take those courses as prereqs [for medical school] anyway, so I may as well get a degree in something else I'm passionate about, which is the environment."

Sharp earned a spot on the National Field Hockey Coaches' Association National Academic Squad in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.  In the summer of 2009, she interned at a biotechnology company specializing in treating cancer tumors with a genetically modified bacterial strain. In the summer of 2010 she was in Uganda for two months, interning at an HIV/tuberculosis co-infection clinic.

"That was really a valuable experience, because I'm interested in doing global health," Sharp said.

In addition to taking a class this coming summer, Sharp said she would also like to travel to Africa or South America to do more medical work.

Sharp has also been active in community service. At Yale she takes part in the field hockey team's "Get a Grip" campaign each fall, raising funds and awareness for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation in honor of McConnell. In the spring the team works on the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive, named after the Yale women's ice hockey player who passed away earlier this year after battling cancer for more than two years.

Sharp has also worked with Club Hand-Up, which distributes canned goods to the homeless in downtown San Diego and to military families at Camp Pendleton. In high school she was vice president of Club Connexions, organizing activities such as bike rides, picnics and sports days for mentally challenged children.

"Maddy has a strong presence on and off the field," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "As we look to build on our success in 2011, Maddy's commitment to the team and determination to be the best will be important for the challenges ahead."

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity