In an auspicious start to the new year, the women’s basketball team carried its six-game winning streak into Ivy League competition.
After going 2-7 in their first month of play, the Elis (8-7, 1-0 Ivy) picked up the pace with a win against former NCAA Tournament competitor Marist (13-4), 67-52, to kick off their winning streak on Dec. 22. The Bulldogs then wiped out the next five teams they played, including their first league rival, Brown (2-13, 0-1), 69-49, on Jan. 13.
The Elis now have the big picture under control, center Erica Davis ’07 said. Over the past six games, the team has improved on its rebounding and shooting, culminating in a season-high 53 boards against the Bears and their second-highest field goal percentage (45.6) against Lehigh (5-12) to win, 66-56, on Jan. 3.
“Our team finally started to play how we know we can,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “We picked up our defense and rebounding.”
Davis leads the team and the conference in field goal percentage, while captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 is responsible for most of the Bulldogs’ boards. Davis also won Ivy League Player of the Week honors after scoring her 1,000th career point against Quinnipiac. Guard Melissa Colborne ’10 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week twice during the win streak. Colborne has won the award five times so far this season.
“It hasn’t been this much fun in a while,” Davis said. “It’s better because we’re winning. It’s good to feel all our hard work pay off.”
The Elis put in their dues — a month filled with losses — before finding themselves on the brink of Ivy League competition with hopes of continuing their long winning streak.
The Bulldogs posted good numbers against their six opponents over the past three weeks, including their highest scoring game since March 2005 — an 81-64 win over Quinnipiac (10-5) on Dec. 31.
Improvements on several fundamentals contributed to the Bulldogs’ recent surge. The Elis’ rebounding abilities are at the base of the team’s success. Yale has been out-rebounded only three times this season, including its victory over Lehigh. In spite of early trouble at the charity stripe, the Elis have since improved their free throw percentage, highlighted by a 10-for-10 team effort against the Mountain Hawks.
But the root cause of the winning streak was the Elis’ defeat of Marist, with double-doubles from both Okafor and Davis and a 16-point lead at halftime.
“I’d say the win against Marist was one of the highlights,” guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 said. “It really helped build our confidence and proved that we can beat anyone.”
The Bulldogs rode on the confidence they gained against the Red Foxes to propel themselves through a tight game against Providence (12-5) to eventually win, 68-55, on Dec. 29.
The Bulldogs have also improved their shooting accuracy since beating Marist. They have maintained a field goal percentage of over .400 in all but two games and sunk a season-high 6 of 13 three-pointers against Quinnipiac. Davis has tallied five double-doubles, and guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 averages 4.4 assists per game and has played in all 14 matches this season.
The Bulldogs also took on Massachussetts (9-9) on Jan. 6 and were led to a 70-60 victory by Davis’ 25-point, 13-rebound game.
“The best part is just seeing those players just so happy with their very hard-earned success,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “They worked very hard to get to the point that they have achieved, where they finally have their game together.”
The Elis’ teamwork and confidence level have improved with the winning streak, team members said. Davis said the team has played very well about two times, but has won games because of the Bulldogs’ work ethic.
“What really shone through was our commitment to working hard all the time,” she said. “The majority of [the games] were just grinding it out and working really hard on almost every single possession.”
To gear up for their second Ivy game of the season at Brown this Saturday and to try and continue their six-game winning streak, the Elis will be working on perfecting various aspects of their game, such as shooting and eliminating turnovers, Davis said.