I think I can, I think I can — that’s what the little Ivy that could was thinking while earning a 2-2 record against big non-conference opponents over Thanksgiving break. While everyone else was gobbling up turkey, the Bulldogs (3-3, 0-0 Ivy) played two tournaments, showing plenty of promise for the upcoming Ivy League season.
In two sets of back-to-back games, the Bulldogs pulled off victories against North Carolina State and New Hampshire but fell to Minnesota and Kentucky.
In their biggest win of the season so far, the Elis triumphed over N.C. State 65-61 on Nov. 22, which was also captain and guard Jamie Van Horne’s ’09 birthday.
“It was one of the best all-around experiences I’ve ever had in basketball,” she said. “It was the first time that we beat an ACC team, and I think we all felt it, with the historical weight of what it meant for us and our program.”
The win was not the only thing Van Horne celebrated this break. In a last-second 87-82 loss against Kentucky two games later, she scored 19 points. Adding five more treys to her total, Van Horne broke the school record for career three-pointers, surpassing the previous record of 165 by Tory Mauseth ’05.
“She’s certainly one of the best, if not the best three-point shooter in the Ivy League,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “I think it’s very fitting that she has the school record, and she’s going to add a whole bunch more to that record.”
Indeed, over the course of the four-game swing against N.C. State, Minnesota, Kentucky and New Hampshire, Van Horne has already pushed her three-point career total to 170, with the rest of the season to go.
But Van Horne was not the only one scoring points during the course of the week. Guard-forward Melissa Colborne ’10 is averaging an Ivy-League leading 17.8 points per game and earned All-Tournament honors for both the Subway Classic in Minnesota and the LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Melissa’s always been able to score the ball, so none of that has been surprising,” Gobrecht said. “But what’s huge for us is she’s also stepped up her defensive effort. She’s one of our best athletes and we really look for her to shore up our defense.”
Colborne was quick to point out the effectiveness of the team in her success.
“A lot of my success comes from the team’s ability to create opportunities on offense by running the ball and getting extra possessions,” she said. “Because our team is a lot deeper offensively, a big focus for me is defense and helping the team to ignite our fast breaks.”
Forward Haywood Wright ’10 also earned all-tournament honors in Brooklyn and currently leads the team with eight rebounds per game. With contributions from forward Mady Gobrecht ’11, who is close behind with an average of 7.5 boards per game, winning the battle on the glass has been instrumental to sparking the Bulldogs’ fast break.
“Rebounding has been one of our points of focus because our team is so small,” Wright said. “Getting boards is really just about effort. We may not be as athletic or as skilled as some of the big teams, but we can control our effort on the glass.”
That effort and fearlessness has been a huge factor in Yale’s success over the last four games. N.C. State, Minnesota and Kentucky are all big conference opponents who have plenty of athleticism and size, while New Hampshire had never lost to the Elis in their past nine matchups. But Yale stunned N.C. State and was able to keep up with a much bigger and more physical Minnesota team, before ultimately losing 87-63 to the Gophers. The Bulldogs’ heartbreaking loss to Kentucky was the result of an unfortunate mistake, but the team came back the next day to blow out New Hampshire 76-55 with stifling defense. The Elis are shaping up into a fast, push-the-tempo team with a focus on defense, a team identity that will result in success if they can sustain it.
“We were very disappointed with our defense against Kentucky because if you put up 82 points, you should be winning,” Chris Gobrecht said. “We made a big commitment to come out and defend New Hampshire and if we are to win the Ivy League Championship, it will come on the defensive side.”
With plenty of positives from the past week, Gobrecht said she is impressed with the team’s mental toughness.
“One of the biggest things I see in this team is they just don’t get rattled, they don’t get intimidated and they don’t back down,” she said. “If we stay healthy, we will be contending in the Ivy League.”
The Bulldogs will continue their campaign with two more games in New York on Dec. 8 and 10. They will first travel to Stony Brook for a 6 p.m. showdown with the Seawolves, then wrap up a four-game Empire State swing with 7 p.m. matchup at Army.