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    Pensavalle believes in competition, commitment

    Yale University
    Courtney Pensavalle, with her stick raised, celebrates a Yale goal against Harvard.
    Yale University
    Courtney Pensavalle

    A resident of Winchester and captain of the ice hockey and volleyball teams while at Noble & Greenough, Yale University’s Courtney Pensavalle is one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award based on her extensive community involvement and volunteer efforts. Among other projects, she heads a marrow registration drive at Yale in support of the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, named after the late Yale player who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia during her junior year at the school in 2008. A member of the Unorthojocks, an acapella group made up of Yale student-athletes, Pensavalle has sung the national anthem before each of her team’s home games since her first year at the school. A senior forward, she wrapped up her playing career Feb. 24 with Yale’s loss in the ECAC quarterfinal round at Clarkson. A sociology major, Pensavalle has a 3.9 grade point average in her major and has received multiple ECAC Hockey All Academic selections. She is a triplet with brothers Sean, a captain of the lacrosse team at Union College, and Ryan, and the three have an older brother, Alex, as well.

    Q. How did you first get into hockey?

    A. I guess it’s a funny story there. I started out in ballet. My mom wanted me to be a good dancer. My older brother played hockey and I’d go to games, and I’d be up against the glass and watching, and I desperately wanted to be out there. I was terrible at ballet. There are videos that are evidence of that. It wasn’t my thing. I finally convinced my mother to let me skate.

    Q. How is life as a triplet?

    A. Growing up as a triplet is hard to explain. It’s completely different at times. I think my parents would tell you it was World War III at our house sometimes. It’s so unconventional. It’s not like anything you can imagine. At the same time, I don’t think I’d be the player or athlete I am without Sean and without us pushing each other. Our other brother, Ryan, went to Rhode Island College and pursued acting. We’re all real close in different ways. We connect over different things. We all have sports and singing and we definitely connect over that.

    Q. What did you think about being named a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award?


    A. It’s an incredible honor. I was obviously thrilled Steve Conn and Andrew Weiss [of Yale’s Sports Publicity office] even thought of me initially. I wasn’t really expecting much. Kids who have been nominated have done amazing things. Then I was named one of the 11 nominated by the association, and that’s a huge honor. When I found out I was finalist . . . I’m still in shock by it. I think maybe mine was a different type of application. I didn’t do something specific. I tend to overcommit and do a lot of things and sometimes feel I have to do everything. If there’s some type of volunteer initiative, I jump on it.

    Q. What are you going to miss most about college hockey?

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    A. I think I’m going to miss the competitive nature of everything. I’m pretty competitive and I’m never going to have that again, no matter how competitive the beer league is I play in. I’m going to miss playing for something and playing with the Yale jersey on. That’s pretty cool. I’ll definitely miss being at the rink, I love spending time there. And it’s a great source of happiness feeling I’m a part of something bigger than myself.

    Q. What’s been your favorite class at Yale?

    A. Maybe it’s not one class, but I’m really, really enjoying writing my senior thesis. It’s one of these unique opportunities Yale gives you, and you conduct research and engage with people on a high level. Mine is on resume self-censorship of people entering the elite professional service industry. I’m talking to people entering the business world about resumes and how they represent themselves in resumes and also interviewing people in hiring offices at institutions like Yale and asking how they prepare kids. It’s been awesome and I’m in the thick of it now. It’s a cool experience. Time is ticking. The final date is April 20. Let’s hope it’s in by then. It’s due at 5 p.m.

    Q. What do you plan to do after you graduate in May?

    A. Next year, I’m going to be in the Teach for America program. It’s along the same idea as the Peace Corps. I’ll work for two years in a low-income community and teach in Brooklyn, N.Y. or somewhere in New York City. I’ll be working towards a masters in education, and they’ll help pay for it and I can defer my loans.

    Q. How did you come to be the national anthem singer at your home games?

    A. One of the assistant coaches my freshman year, Jess Koizumi, who is now the associate head coach at Vermont, heard that I sang and coerced me into singing the national anthem my first game because it’s apparently a tradition at Yale that someone sings the anthem. The first time was pretty rough, considering that it was my first ever collegiate game, but I got the hang of it and have been doing it ever since!

    Allen Lessels can be reached at