W. bball seeks solid ending to ’06

After beating Cornell last weekend for its third victory this season, the Yale women’s basketball team hits the road, ready to fight to make the best of its last two games before closing the books on the 2005-06 season.

This year has been particularly hard for the Bulldogs (3-21, 2-10 Ivy), but they have the chance to finish strong against Penn (4-20, 2-9) and stymie Princeton’s (18-6, 9-2) chance at the Ivy title.

Last week, the Elis split their two games, winning against Cornell, 64-54, but losing by a hair to Columbia, 59-57. The win against Cornell may not have been an epic victory — Cornell is tied for last place in the conference — but it may well have helped the Elis build momentum to top off the season on a high note.

Although the odds seem stacked against them, the Bulldogs remain optimistic.

“We’re excited to get these teams a second time around,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said.

Earlier in the year, the Elis lost to the Tigers, 53-37, but beat the Quakers, 53-52.

Guard Kaitlin Emmerling ’07 said the Bulldogs have a very good chance of beating both teams. She acknowledged that Princeton will be tough, but said she is confident that if the team can pull together, there should be no problem.

“Our style of defense is really hard for Princeton’s offense,” Emmerling said. “They like to shoot from the outside, and that’s hard against our pressure defense.”

The Elis said they are not ready to throw in the towel. They said two games is enough to turn around morale for next year.

“We’re setting ourselves up for next season because the way you exit this season leaves a lasting impression for the summer,” forward Sara McCollum ’08 said. “We’ve only got three wins, but we’re pretty motivated to get two more.”

McCollum and captain Chinenye Okafor ’07, the team’s leading scorers, will be crucial factors in both games. Okafor has scored an average of 9.9 points per game this season and was a key player in the win against Cornell, scoring 13 points. She also scored 12 points in the close loss to Columbia. McCollum averages 7.9 points per game and added 12 points in the victory against Cornell.

The Bulldogs all said they have faith in their head coach, Chris Gobrecht. This was Gobrecht’s first year at Yale, and many of the players attribute the rocky season to getting used to changes.

“It’s different this year,” Emmerling said. “All of us will have an idea of what [Gobrecht] is looking for next year.”

McCollum said Gobrecht has stressed that these games are important for boosting the team’s confidence. Although they cannot change their standings, the Elis can prove to themselves that they are a team with potential if they can put a dent in Princeton’s chances of overtaking Brown in the Ivy League standings.

Last week’s ups and downs helped the Bulldogs more than they hurt them. Lillemoe said it was frustrating losing to Columbia because the Lions’ record is worse than Cornell’s, but she stressed that the win against Cornell shows that the team is ready to challenge any team in the league.

More than anything, the Elis said they are happy that next season is coming soon so they can redeem themselves from this year’s performance.

“It will be a nice feeling to win, but a new season is a new season,” Emmerling said. “There is a whole half a year to regenerate and get going.”

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