The Hidden Dominance of CT Sports
At first, the average individual doesn't think of Connecticut as synonymous with sports. Why would he? Connecticut lacks a major league team in the MLB, NFL, NHL, or NBA. Even our only women's professional team, the Connecticut Sun, is a basement dweller in the standings. Yet if that same individual looks beyond the professional arena, he will find a state brimming with collegiate teams dominating their respective sports.
This state which ranks 48th in size, 29th in population and seemingly has fewer colleges than the city of Boston, should be known as the "Jock State" instead of the Nutmeg state.
The discussion starts at the top: women's college basketball. The UConn Huskies have won a record eleven national championships including an unprecedented fourth in a row. The team’s accomplishments include winning eighteen Big East tournaments, three AAC tournaments and holding the record for the most undefeated seasons (five) in either men's or women's collegiate sports.
Dedicated fan and math teacher Stephen Clark commented on their dominance: "They have good players, and they play the most beautiful basketball on the planet. They understand good teamwork, and they work relentlessly at it. UConn women dominate the game because they always play great team defense, and their coaches teach them how to play the most selfless, flowing, and coordinated offense -- AND they work incredibly hard at it, always striving to make their teamwork perfect."
Yet, while the UConn ladies clearly are preeminent, don't forget that the UConn men's basketball team has won two national championships in the last five years. Just this year, two Connecticut men's basketball teams entered the NCAA tournament: Yale won the Ivy League title and upset a strong Baylor team and the UConn men earned another bid to the big dance.
Connecticut also has two top ranked squash teams: the Trinity Bantams and the Yale Bulldogs. The men’s squash program at Trinity has been ranked as one of the top ten sports dynasties of all time by ESPN. The team won thirteen national championships in a row since 1998. Yale won thirteen national championship title last year. Spencer Lovejoy '16 will be joining the team next year. He said, "I am fairly sure they are the hardest working collegiate team out there and that is why they have gotten to the position they are in today. Their team dynamic is one of the best." Allison Chun ’17 said “They are an incredible team!”
Currently, the Nutmeg state contains two top-five teams in both men's and women's collegiate squash (Men: Trinity #1 and Yale #2;Women: Trinity #4 and Yale #5).
Moving from the squash court to the ice, Connecticut residents once again can claim domination. Just three years ago, our state residents enjoyed having two local teams in the NCAA championship game.While Yale won the NCAA title game in 2013 over neighbor Quinnipiac, the Bobcats of Quinnipiac reminded the nation of the dominance of Connecticut sports in returning to the finals this year. Jeffrey Gu ’18 said, “Excellent teams are led by excellent coaches. Collegiate hockey has become a force in Connecticut primarily because of the leadership of the coaches Keith Allain (Yale) and Rand Pecknold (QU). For Yale, it’s been about speed and putting the puck on net at every opportunity and for QU, Pecknold emphasizes physicality and sacrifice of the body.”
Currently, there are three CT men's hockey teams nationally ranked (Quinnipiac –#2, Yale- #11 and Trinity –#4 D3). Trinity actually won the NCAA D3 title in 2015. Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, two women's ice hockey teams also maintained high national rankings in 2016 (Quinnipiac-#4 and Yale #20).
While hockey seems to garner a lot of attention in this area, the rowing programs of Connecticut which quietly dominate regattas on the national level. This year, the Yale men's heavyweight team is ranked as the top collegiate team in the nation. The women’s team is also ranked in the top ten along with two other Connecticut teams (Yale -#8, Trinity #3 DIII, Wesleyan #8). The high school club teams in Connecticut have also dominated the national championship scene. Connecticut's Maritime Rowing, Saugatuck Rowing, and Norwalk River Rowing have all garnered medals at this year's National High School Championships.
So while we Nutmeggers may have a dearth of local professional teams to cheer on, our state actually dominates a plethora of sports on both a national collegiate and high school level. Although most of these teams don’t garner the same attention of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team, they quietly monopolize their respective sports with an air of excellence for which our state is known.