Alyssa Zupon Elected Captain for 2012-13

Alyssa Zupon. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Alyssa Zupon. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Junior Forward Leads Bulldogs into 36th Varsity Season

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Junior forward Alyssa Zupon (Basking Ridge, N.J.) has been elected captain of the Yale women's ice hockey team for the 2012-13 season. Zupon was selected by a team vote last month, and will be introduced formally at the team's post-season banquet this Saturday. In addition to her on-ice performance, Zupon has been a leader in a variety of community service initiatives during her time at Yale, including a charity for tsunami and earthquake relief in Japan that she co-founded.

"It's such an honor to be elected captain by people I deeply respect and for a program I love so much," said Zupon. "My teammates are my best friends, and Yale hockey has impacted my life most over my three years here, so I couldn't ask for a better group or program to devote myself to. Yale hockey has given me so much over the past three years, and I'm excited to put all of myself into this opportunity to give back to the program and lead this team."

Zupon leads Yale into its 36th varsity season. One of the team's best defensive forwards, she has battled through injury to appear in all 87 games of her career. She has totaled 32 career points -- tops among returning players for 2012-13 -- on 10 goals and 22 assists. She tied for the team lead in assists as a freshman in 2009-10 with 11.

Zupon and her teammates began their preparations for 2012-13 shortly after the past season ended.

"We always treat the spring as the beginning of the new season, so we've taken our training very seriously," said Zupon. "To us, every day is an opportunity to improve individually and as a group. Our goals this spring have been to improve our individual mental and physical strength and build the team dynamic that we want to carry into the fall. We have worked very hard over the past five weeks and accomplished a lot towards these goals. I'm proud of our efforts so far and hope the momentum we've built will only increase as we head into the summer and fall."

A graduate of The Pingry School, Zupon is a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major at Yale and is planning to go to medical school. She will earn her third ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team selection this year.

Zupon will spend this summer in New Haven working as a laboratory associate in Yale-New Haven Hospital's neurosurgery department. She also spent last summer in New Haven in that same department, and is listed as a contributing author for a journal article that she worked on during that time.

Zupon is in Morse College at Yale and is part of a junior class on the women's ice hockey team that also includes goaltender Erin Callahan (Kenilworth, Ill.), defenseman Emily DesMeules (North Pomfret, Vt.), defenseman Jamie Gray (Calgary, Alta.), forward Jen Matichuk (St. Albert, Alta.), forward Danielle Moncion (Round Lake Center, Ont.) and defenseman Natalie Wedell (Arden Hills, Minn.).

Zupon has made some of her biggest contributions off the ice. After traveling to Japan in 2011 to see the area devastated by the tsunami and earthquake, she and her mother, Shizuko, decided to do something about it. Along with a Japanese friend of her mother's, they founded a registered non-profit organization named "Hope for Tomorrow," for which she is Chairperson for North America. To date, Hope for Tomorrow has raised approximately $140,000 and arranged for in-kind donations of items such as computers to assist in recovery efforts for Japanese high schools.

One of Zupon's principal initiatives with Hope for Tomorrow has been establishing a program to interact with high school students in Japan. She and other volunteers in the United States engage in weekly reading and conversational groups with the students, using Skype and the donated computers.

"The purpose of these interactions is to improve their English conversation skills and, ultimately, assure them that they are not alone and that they can still achieve their dreams despite hardship," said Zupon.

Zupon has expanded the program to include one of her Yale women's ice hockey teammates (sophomore forward Patricia McGauley (Wilcox, Sask.)) and members of Yale's Japanese-American Student Union. Hope for Tomorrow has also recently started sponsoring visits to the United States by students from the affected areas. Along with the Harvey School in Westchester, N.Y., Hope for Tomorrow is sponsoring two-week home stays and American school experiences for four Japanese students. Zupon coordinated a visit to Yale for those students, and she hopes to start a similar program with her own high school.

Zupon has also been active on a more local level. She was instrumental in starting the "Bulldog PAWS (Pediatric Alliance With Student-athletes)" program at Yale, formerly known as "Bulldog Buddies".  Under the guidance of her faculty advisor, former Yale golfer David Gimbel '03, she initiated a program that pairs pediatric neurological/cancer patients from Yale-New Haven Hospital with Yale varsity athletic teams.  Working closely with a former Yale football player (Dr. Michael DiLuna'98 MD '03), the Yale women's ice hockey team was the first team to "adopt" a patient -- a local nine-year-old named Giana, who was recovering from surgery for a brain tumor performed by Dr. DiLuna.

"Giana gained 23 big sisters and we gained an incredible, inspirational little sister," said Zupon.

Bulldog PAWS is currently led by Zupon and senior Virginia Waldrop (Houston, Texas) of the softball team. The program has expanded to include seven Yale teams, with a waiting list of more teams awaiting patients.

Along with the rest of her team, Zupon has also been involved in two annual events in memory of Yale women's ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), who passed away in April of 2011 after battling cancer for more than two years. The Bulldogs play a "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser game at Ingalls Rink each fall to raise money for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, the charity started by 2011-12 team captain Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.). And every spring, Yale hosts the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale. The drives have added more than 3,000 potential marrow donors to the Be The Match registry, and located at least six genetic matches for patients with life-threatening illnesses who are in need of transplants.

Zupon has also spent her summers doing things such as working as a counselor at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with cancer and serious blood diseases (2010) and working as a resident assistant at Fellowship Village Nursing Facility (2009). From 2008 to 2011 she participated in five fundraising or site building projects with Habitat for Humanity, and from 2007 to 2011 she participated in multiple events for Special Olympics in New Haven and the Girls & Boys Club in Newark, N.J.

At Yale, Zupon has been appointed to the NCAA Student Athlete Advisory Committee and was selected to head the Community Service sub-committee. This will be her second season with that group.

Zupon has also been a part of the USA Hockey program, as she was a member of USA Hockey's Select 15s, 16s and 17s.

Playing for the New Jersey Rockets prior to Yale, Zupon was the Mid Atlantic Women's Hockey Association scoring leader (37 goals, 33 assists in 54 games) in 2008-09. She was a Member of the Atlantic District Select Team. She was a part of three MAWHA League Championship teams and Two Atlantic District Championship teams.

Zupon also played lacrosse and captained the soccer team at Pingry, where she was a Member of the Cum Laude Society, an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholar. She also won New Jersey's Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar Award and the Somerset County Scholar Athlete Award. While at Pingry she founded the International Food Club, which promoted cultural awareness and raised funds for local hunger relief agencies.

Zupon is a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has won gold and silver at the Junior Olympics. She is the second New Jersey native to captain the Yale women's ice hockey team, joining Katherine Michel '93 of Gladstone, who captained the team in 1992-93.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity