Despite having eight months to recoup and rework, the women’s basketball team could not snap a four-game losing streak dating back to the tail end of last season in March.
Holy Cross defeated Yale, 68-56, on Friday in Worcester, Mass., in what was the season opener for both squads. The Elis, who fell behind 38-21 after subpar first-half play, were unable to catch up to the Crusaders.
The Bulldogs, beginning their long, tough non-conference schedule, placed their focus on building fundamental skills for their impending Ivy matchups in January, not on the final score of the season premiere. Captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 said her goal for the weekend was for the team to get a lot of rebounds. That the Elis did, racking up 38 rebounds to top Holy Cross’s 33.
The Crusaders dominated the first frame, outscoring the Bulldogs by 17 points and leading in field goal percentage 57.1 percent to 28.6 percent. Most strikingly, the Elis did not manage a single appearance at the free throw line in the first half, but conceded 13 points to Holy Cross off free throws. Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said that the team was nervous in the first half, which accounted for the difference in play.
After the break, the Elis began to find their way around the court and gained some ground on the leading Crusaders. They outscored Holy Cross 35-30 and made 80 percent of their free throws versus the Crusaders’ 33.3 percent. The Bulldogs were on their way to a comeback but went scoreless in the last 2:19 and ultimately fell to Holy Cross.
Despite the late offensive surge, the Elis were hurt by their inability to score from behind the three-point line all night long. Usually a team strength, even guard Jamie Van Horne ’09, who led the team last year with 43 shots made, only tallied one basket from outside the three-point line.
“The only thing that we didn’t do well was shoot the ball from the three,” Gobrecht said. “That’s something that was a freaky thing and that’s not going to happen again.”
Center Erica Davis ’07 led the team with 18 points, followed by Okafor with 14, and guard Melissa Colborne ’10 with 10 while playing in her first career game. Of the five Yale freshmen, guard Jacqueline Erickson ’10, forward Ashley Carter ’10 and Colborne ’10 — the three newcomers who were not sidelined by injuries — all got minutes on Friday.
Together, the trio tallied three assists and 14 points, with Colborne leading the team with four free throws in four attempts.
“We are a team, and the freshmen don’t seem like freshmen,” Van Horne said. “They seem like part of the team.”
Although the Bulldogs’ offensive showing seemed promising, the Crusaders’ offense was even more dynamic. Guard Laura Aliosi scored 20 points with seven assists and made half of her six free throws. Still, the Elis took 70 shots and the Crusaders only attempted 48, proving that the Bulldogs were attacking well but were just unable to find the basket.
On the defensive end, the Elis had problems with communication and defending screens, Davis said.
“Everyone put up a very good individual effort, really trying to stick to their girl,” she said. “Holy Cross focuses a lot on screens, especially blind screens and cross screens. We had a hard time calling out the screens before they happened.”
Last Friday’s match will have no bearing on the Elis’ conference record, but it showcased their ability to play under pressure. Their comeback in the second half could have won the game for the Elis, but a late dry run prevented the victory. Gobrecht said she is optimistic about the outcome.
“It was us playing the way we want to play, which is putting on a lot of pressure and staying on people and making it hard for them,” she said. “There were a lot of positives that came out of [the game], no major concerns. We’re fine, we’re right on track.”