One down, six to go.
With one league win finally under its belt, the Yale women’s basketball team needs to win its final six league games to finish with a .500 Ivy record.
First, the Elis (4-17, 1-7 Ivy) will face two imposing obstacles this weekend at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, playing Princeton (6-14, 3-4) Friday and the University of Pennsylvania (13-7, 7-0) Saturday.
“Even though it seems like it’s the end of the season, the truth is we still have six games left, and we can finish .500,” Yale head coach Amy Backus said. “The Harvard game was a real boost for us. To be able to fight it out and duke it out for 40 minutes was a real boost for our team.”
In the 62-59 win over the Cantabs last Saturday, the Bulldogs came out strong and had a two-point halftime lead over the defending league champions. But in their last trip down to Philadelphia and Princeton earlier this season, the Bulldogs yielded early edges to the Quakers and Tigers and were unable to come back.
“After the Harvard game, putting two halves together for a win is something that we can use for this weekend,” Yale forward Morgan Richards ’05 said.
Despite losing both those games by narrow margins, the Elis appear more prepared entering this weekend’s grudge matches.
In the previous Princeton match-up, the Bulldogs were coming off an exhausting game at the Palestra where they staged a 10-point second half comeback only to lose 59-57 after failing to convert on two field goal attempts on their final possession.
The following night at the Jadwin Gym, the Bulldogs did not have enough fuel in the tank to create another close finish and lost 66-58.
Another problem that came into play against the Tigers was the Elis’ rotation. Backus said the rotation was still unstable at that point, but after the effort against Harvard, she hopes to be able to play as many as 10 players once again.
“I felt that we played very well as a whole [against Harvard],” center Erica Davis ’07 said.
The Bulldogs will need every weapon they have against the Quakers — undefeated in the Ancient Eight this season. But the Bulldogs’ near victory at the Palestra should provide a measure of confidence.
“For us, losing [the Penn game] by two was really painful and we have the confidence that we can play with them,” Richards said. “They may see us as another win, but we’re going to come out really strong.”
At Penn, the Elis’ defense held Quaker forward Jewel Clark, the Ivy League’s second leading scorer, to a mere six points.
But all of the focus on Clark helped free up her teammates for 11 3-point field goals.
Because of their opponents’ shooting abilities and improvements in the Bulldogs’ defense, Backus said she expects to play much less zone defense this weekend.
“We played a lot of zone [defense] in that game, and now we feel a lot more comfortable with our player-to-player defense,” Backus said.
On offense, the Elis will look to attack the opposing post players like Davis and Yale forward Christina Phillips ’04 did against Dartmouth and Harvard. Although Penn’s Jennifer Fleischer and Princeton’s Rebecca Brown play better post defense than the Big Green and Crimson frontlines, the Bulldogs will try to match the Killer P’s inside.
Last weekend, Phillips and Davis drew five fouls on Big Green forward Elise Morrison and four fouls on Crimson forward Hana Peltjo. Bulldogs centers Aubrey Smith ’04 and Julie Mantilla ’07 came off the bench to force Morrison and Peltjo to adjust to different styles of play down low.
“Pennsylvania definitely has a better inside defender [than Harvard] in Jennifer Fleischer, but we’re still going to go at her,” Backus said. “[Against Princeton,] we’re going to try to get Rebecca Brown in early foul trouble. We feel we can do that because of our own strength and variety of post players.”