After an exhilarating weekend in New Haven, the women’s basketball team looks ahead to continuing its success on league opponents’ territories.
Yale (10-8, 3-1 Ivy) will travel south, making its first stop in Princeton (8-9, 2-1) tonight at 7 p.m. and continuing on to Philadelphia tomorrow for a match at Penn (6-10, 1-2) at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs played two games for the record books with victories against Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend. Guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 led the Elis with two career-high scoring marks and guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 trailed right at her heels. The wins also marked the best conference start Yale has had since going 3-1 to open the 2002-’03 Ancient Eight season.
Tonight, the Elis are set to tip off against the Tigers, who are only one win behind second-place Yale in conference standings. Princeton is coming off a loss to league-leader Cornell on Jan. 13 that was preceded by a victory over bottom-dweller Columbia the previous night.
“The biggest challenge is that Princeton is an offensive team,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “They push the ball aggressively up the floor. We have to contend with their ability to score points. It’ll be kind of a matchup of strengths against strengths.”
The Tigers’ junior forward Meagan Cowher — and her league-leading 19 points per game — is one of the squad’s most potent offensive weapons.
Princeton’s rebounding game is somewhat different from that of the Bulldogs. The Elis get consistent boards from captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 and center Erica Davis ’07, but the Tigers — who top the conference in defensive boards — rely on more of a team effort.
Against a Penn team that relies mostly on its powerful seniors — forward Monica Nalter and guard Joey Rhoads — the Elis will take on a squad with a more similar style of play. The combination of Nalter’s team-high 17.2 ppg and Rhoads’ team-high three-pointer total (27), has been enough to earn the team one more win than last year’s overall total, but not enough to propel the team out of the bottom of conference standings.
Okafor said the Bulldogs’ depth gives them a very good chance against these opponents.
“They don’t match up to all the different weapons we have,” she said. “We are more well rounded; they have one or two players [we have] to watch but they have to watch five or six of our players.”
In addition to the Elis’ deep bench, the team gets decent contributions from many of its underclassmen, including six-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, guard Melissa Colborne ’10, as well as from under-the-radar players like forward Sara McCollum ’09, whose field goal percentage is among the squad’s highest.
After two consecutive wins, the team is not looking to alter its game and has continued to focus on their transitions and defensive strength.
Even though the Bulldogs are turning heads with their hugely improved level of play since last season, they have a long way to go, considering that the conference schedule is still in its early stages. The upcoming games against the Tigers and the Quakers will be valuable tests of the Elis’ strength on the road, Gobrecht said.
As Yale attempts to make the jump to first place this weekend, the players will need to maintain their concentration to be effective away from New Haven, Van Horne said.
“We know that it’s a big weekend, and these are games we need to win,” she said. “Playing on the road is tough, and we’re trying to stay focused.”