After the long and difficult journey that has been the 2004-2005 season, the women’s basketball team will soon have to face new obstacles on the path ahead.
The Bulldogs (6-21, 3-11 Ivy) ended the painful year on a slightly more positive note during the final weekend of the season. Faced with being tied for sixth place as their best-case scenario, the Elis displayed a feat of strength to shut down Cornell (3-24, 1-13) in a thrilling victory, and played fiercely against Columbia (12-15, 5-9) despite a 59-57 loss at the buzzer.
The squad’s final game against the Lions was indicative of the type of season the Bulldogs went through this year.
From the first official game, it was apparent that the Elis would have a bumpy road ahead. After losing to Sacred Heart in the season opener, the Bulldogs would drop another five games before capturing their first win against Morgan State.
“I, personally, wish I could say that I failed running this or that play,” center Erica Davis ’07 said, who made the all-Ivy second team. “But if any of us really knew what we were doing wrong, we would have rectified it early in the season. A lot of the problems we had were in our heads.”
The Bulldogs soon found that their wins would be scarce and scattered throughout the season.
After compiling a small three-game home winning streak, the competition grew more intense for the Elis and wins became even harder to come by against Ancient Eight foes.
“We didn’t consistently play at the level we wanted to play,” Yale guard Chinenye Okafor ’07 said. “For instance, we lost to Harvard by almost 40 points, but then we crippled Cornell, who had just lost to Harvard by only eight.”
With nothing to lose at the end of the season, the Bulldogs pounced back into action and won two of their last three games.
The end of the season gave the Bulldogs some new confidence as they face a unique season ahead.
While college teams always have to cope with the loss of their graduating players, the Elis have to cope with a lot more.
First of all, the team will be losing three key players and strong assets to the squad. Captain Morgan Richards ’05 showed great leadership abilities as she stepped up her game during the conference season and led the Elis in scoring during the Ivy League games.
Yale forward Lindsay Page ’05 will also be missed, as she has brought a great amount of energy to the team.
Finally, the Bulldogs will lose Tory Mauseth ’05, the team’s leading three-point shooter who shattered the school record for career threes.
On top of losing these three titans, Yale head coach Amy Backus also announced her retirement several weeks ago and has accepted a position on the school’s athletic administration. As of now, the head coach’s job is still empty as officials review possible candidates.
“The administration said they would keep [the team] aware of the input it gets,” Davis said. “They probably aren’t set on a specific person yet, but either way Backus will still be with us in the summer.”
Because there were no juniors on the squad this year, Davis and the rest of the sophomores will assume the role as leaders for the 2005-2006 season.
While the squad will be fairly young next year, a lot of talent still remains.
Davis led the Bulldogs in scoring with 12.3 ppg and rebounds with 6.8 rpg. Also, she has used her undeniably apt defensive skills to demolish her own record for blocks with a season total of 55. Both Davis and Bulldog center Julie Mantilla ’07 blocked five shots in a single game twice this season.
Okafor showed her versatility on the court, proving to be highly effective in driving the lane, nabbing steals and clamping down on her opponents.
Despite the coaching situation, the Yale squad sees a bright future ahead.
“I know my expectations for next season are bigger than what I was expecting for this year,” Okafor said. “This year was a big step for a lot of our freshmen.”
Eli forward Sara McCollum ’08 was rewarded for her play this year, earning a spot on the Ivy League All-Rookie Team. Centers Sarah Zoubek ’08 and Alexandra Chen ’08 and guard Jessica Kimball ’08 also showed improvements in the last several games.
After brushing away a forgettable season and coping with the loss of three players and a coach, the Bulldogs will now use their off-season to build up on the potential they still have.