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Yale's Jenna Collignon shoots on goal against Johns Hopkins in an NCAA tournament second-round game in New Haven, Conn.

Meet Jenna Collignon, the Star of Yale's Best Team in a Generation

May 16, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
David Schamis/Yale Athletics

Yale’s Jenna Collignon was a tornado in the eight-meter arc as the clock wound down in the third quarter last Sunday: stick twisting ahead of her, forging an uncertain path ahead.

Swiftly, surely Collignon managed to evade the double team and get her stick free. Her shot flew past Johns Hopkins goalkeeper Madison Doucette, causing immediate stick celebrations among Yale players before a quick catch-up in the huddle.

That goal, one of Collignon’s four on the day, handed the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish in their 9-7 NCAA tournament second-round defeat of Johns Hopkins.

It was a meaningful, historic game for Yale in several ways as they reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.

But for Collignon’s teammates, it was just another day playing alongside her doing what she does best: scoring.

“Jenna is going to be clutch when we need her to be,” midfielder Fallon Vaughn said. “Four goals are normal for her. We were laughing when she scored eight against Harvard. I didn’t even notice it was any different from what Jenna usually does because she’s always helping our team in the moments we need her to step up.”

Collignon, who has 64 goals and four assists, has emerged as the star of Yale’s best team in a generation. She’s speedy and sure handed, a threat from practically any angle. Her dodges are head-spinning, sending defenders reeling as she makes her way toward goal. And she comes up big when Yale needs her most, whether it’s giving the Bulldogs the lead against Hopkins or sending their Ivy League championship matchup with Penn to overtime.

Collignon’s impact is clear in her statistics, coach Erica Bamford said. But Collignon has a drive not easily communicated in numbers.

“She’s hungry for more,” Bamford said. “She is extremely coachable. She works incredibly hard. What you see on game day is what she does every day.”

Collignon credits her competitiveness to her athletic family. Her parents both played basketball at Denver, while her sister Sydney played lacrosse there and graduated in 2023. While she thought about Denver, she decided to do something different. As soon as Collignon visited Yale, she knew it was the school for her.

But the start to her college career was bumpy. A member of the high school class of 2020, Collignon graduated into the pandemic and chose to take a gap year during the 2020-21 academic year given uncertainty about the Ivy League’s athletic policies. She was one of several Yale players who did so, leading the class of 2025 to expand to 20 players.

There wasn’t much organized lacrosse for Collignon that year, as she lived at home in Hinsdale, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago — and worked at a bank. But she went to the field with former Hinsdale Central High School and future Yale teammate Charlotte Callahan, going over concepts and working on conditioning.

During that time, Collignon reflected on what was ahead of her and grew excited. Finally, she got to go to college, to spend time with her teammates. She wanted to make the most of the opportunity and have fun.

Bamford said Collignon “didn’t miss a beat” when she arrived freshman year. Collignon posted 26 goals in 11 games before being sidelined with an illness for the remainder of the season.

That was another opportunity to reflect and gain excitement about every opportunity to play, Collignon said. She credited practicing each day as the biggest source of improvement during her first year at Yale.

“I had the chance to get better every single practice, whether that’s just a small drill or we’re scrimmaging,” she said. “All of those opportunities where I can push myself, push my skill level and have my teammates right there beside me — that really contributed.”

Collignon returned for an electric season in 2023, posting 53 goals and 15 assists. She and her teammates in the class of 2025 came back more knowledgeable with a year of game experience under their belt. They inched even closer to their goal — winning the Ivy League championship — in a 15-14 overtime loss to Penn in the title game.

The pain of two straight exits in the Ivy League tournament stayed with Collignon and her class. Collignon remembered being on the line doing runs in the offseason thinking, “This is what we’re doing it for: to meet these goals, to win the Ivy League.”

Four goals are normal for her. We were laughing when she scored eight against Harvard. I didn’t even notice it was any different from what Jenna usually does.

Yale midfielder Fallon Vaughn

This season, it all came together for the Bulldogs. Three years of building chemistry has been key for the attack, Collignon said, giving them the trust needed to break zones. The defense has also clicked, ranking No. 2 nationally with just 7.79 goals allowed per game.

Collignon had a smooth transition from sophomore to junior year, playing at a similar level (65 points in 17 games in 2023, 68 points through 19 games in 2024). The 5-foot-10 attacker also takes draws and leads the team with 71 draw controls. Approaching the game in a passionate, thoughtful way has helped.

She’s a “quiet, hard worker,” Vaughn said, who leads by example.

“She’s always thinking about lacrosse,” Vaughn said. “Even in the hotel after we’ve watched film for a million hours on an away trip, she’ll come up to the middies asking different questions or [tell us] what she thinks is the right move to do.”

Collignon also has a great sense of humor, Bamford said. She recalled Collignon and roommate Sky Carrasquillo dressing as artist Bob Ross for their Halloween practice last year, cracking up as they tried to mimic paintbrush motions through their play.

What’s also set Collignon and her Yale teammates apart this season is their ability to live in the moment. At tense times in the huddle against Johns Hopkins, Collignon said she embraced Bamford’s advice about playing loose and fun. Vaughn said she feels like she hasn’t processed reaching the quarterfinals because each week this season has been solely about that week.

Now the Bulldogs get to enjoy moments they had only dreamed about entering the season. The Johns Hopkins victory was one. Sixth-seeded Yale plays third-seeded Syracuse today (2:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU) in search of another.

“We’ve never been in that situation before, and to pull it off was super rewarding because we knew we could do it,” Collignon said. “I feel like people can underestimate us because we’ve never recently been in this position. To prove we deserve to be there and advance was just so rewarding.”

Collignon will lead again by her example, spinning and twisting through the eight-meter arc, relishing the chance to play more of the game she loves.