Season Preview: Women hoopsters rely on ‘D’

Good defense creates good offense.

This season, the women’s basketball team will rely on that principle. As Yale sets to open its third campaign under head coach Amy Backus, the team is hoping to significantly improve on last year’s 9-18 (4-10 Ivy) record.

The team will focus on strong defense to create points off turnovers. The Bulldogs boast last year’s best rebounding defense in the Ivy League, hauling in 35.8 per game. They will complement their presence on the boards with greater communication and improved weak-side defense.

“We have made a commitment this year to use the entire floor defensively,” Backus said.

The 2001-2002 squad will also showcase an up-tempo offense, capitalizing on the athleticism of returning players and of a talented crop of freshmen.

“We talk about getting out there and running hard,” Backus said. “We have the kids, quality and quantity to do it.”

The Elis will run a motion offense, keeping four players on the perimeter and one post player in the key. The team, always a threat from behind the 3-point arc, hopes to take advantage of both its strong perimeter shooting and aggressive post play.

“We have really good shooters, so [the offensive scheme] is giving them a chance to pass the ball around and shoot more,” captain Meg Simpson ’02 said.

The Bulldogs gave fans a sneak preview of the season Tuesday night in an exhibition game against Galatasaray SK, a squad from Istanbul, Turkey. Following through on their game plan, the Elis forced 21 turnovers and outrebounded Galatasaray SK 33-23. The efforts led to a 71-51 Yale victory.

The team also had balanced scoring from its guards and post players. Forward Christina Phillips ’04 had 11 points, while point guard Brynn Gingras ’04 and shooting guard Maria Smear ’03 added 12 points each. Forwards Helene Schutrumpf ’03 and Simpson rounded out the starting lineup. Backus said the five have played together all preseason, slowly gelling into a cohesive unit.

“It is important for us to have a core group that is confident with each other,” Backus said. “Those guys have to continue to earn [their starting spots.]”

The team was able to shut down Galatasary SK star Celen Kilinc. Although she averages 17 points per game, Kilinc only scored 11 against Yale and was held scoreless in the second half. In addition, the Bulldogs finished the game strong, never letting Galatasary SK sneak back in.

“We need this kind of game,” Backus said. “We need to learn how to play with a lead and finish out a game with a lead.”

The team will play a variety of non-league games before heading into the Ivy season. Most notably, the Elis will face in-state rivals Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut, Hartford and Sacred Heart universities.

“Those are games that can be real confidence boosters,” Backus said. “It will give the team a hint of what we’re capable of doing.”

Last season, Yale struggled in non-league games, going 4-8 before the start of conference play.

“In the early going we ran into three Texas teams that steamrolled us,” Backus said. “That really broke our confidence.”

Members of the Ivy League media picked the Bulldogs to finish sixth in the conference, a position that would not satisfy Yale. But to prove their critics wrong, the Elis will have to contend with teams such as Harvard, picked to win this year’s Ivy title, and Penn, which went 14-0 in 2000-2001.

“We obviously believe that we’re better than [the poll indicates],” Smear said. “We feel like it’s better that we’re underrated than overrated and we’re gong to surprise a lot of people.”

Here is a breakdown of the 2001-2002 Bulldogs by position:



Center

Simpson, traditionally a power forward, and Aubrey Smith ’04 will both see significant time at the center position. The 6-foot-2 Smith averaged 10 minutes per game as a rookie and will look to build on that experience this year. Freshman Andrea Kay ’05, the tallest player on the Bulldogs at 6-foot-3, will also get a chance to prove herself.

Last season’s most valuable player, Simpson was second on the team in rebounds, averaging 5.0 grabs per game. As this year’s captain, she will have the dual role of both anchoring the post play and providing leadership on and off the court.

“[My role] is definitely to be a positive reinforcement and to interpret some of the things the coaches say,” Simpson said.



Forwards

Yale will have to fill the gaps left at the forward positions by graduating seniors Alyson Miller ’01 and Lily Glick ’01. Backus will call upon Schutrumpf, second on the team in scoring in 2000-2001 with 8.6 points per game, to step up her game even more.

“We expect Helene to have the kind of year she had her freshman year,” Backus said of the 1999-2000 campaign, in which Schutrumpf played in all but one game.

Phillips, who averaged 6.8 minutes per game last year, should come into her own this season with strong post play and an ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Bonnie Smith ’04 and rookie Lindsay Page ’05 will be key backups for the Bulldogs.



Guards

Smear will be the team’s biggest offensive threat from the outside. Yale’s leading scorer last season, Smear was second in the Ivy League in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made. Against Galatasaray SK, Smear picked up right where she left off, hitting three of five from behind the arc.

At point guard, Gingras will direct the offense as well as provide an offensive spark of her own. She is an excellent 3-point shooter, going two for two from downtown against Galatasaray SK. Last year, she played in more games than any other freshman.

“The point guard minutes she played last year will pay off so much this year,” Backus said. Gingras will be backed up by a committee, with Caitlin Bair ’02, Julie Cohen ’04 and Morgan Richards ’05 all seeing minutes at the helm of the offense. Bair, one of three seniors on the team, can also play off guard.

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