Change is coming — it’s just not here yet.
After a listless loss to Cornell the previous weekend, the Bulldogs (9-11, 2-4 Ivy) pumped up the effort and energy this weekend but ultimately came just short of upsetting first-ranked Dartmouth (10-9, 5-0), ending the game at 51-42. They also fell 70-63 to second-ranked Harvard (12-7, 4-1).
With those three losses, the Elis have now played last year’s three Ancient Eight co-champions. But even though it lost all three games, Yale left no doubt that it can compete with the best teams in the conference.
The action started up on Friday night with a nationally televised rivalry game against the Crimson. The preseason favorite to win the Ivy League came out very sluggishly while the Bulldogs got off to a quick start — something the Elis have been trying to do all season. Accurate shooting right off the bat from guard Yoyo Greenfield ’11, who finished with 14 points off a blistering 4-for-5 shooting display from behind the arc, pushed the Yale lead to as much as 10 points (at 34-24) in the first half.
“We really wanted to start off with a lot of energy and show that we belonged,” Greenfield said. “They were leaving me pretty wide open so once I made the first two, I got enough confidence to knock down a couple more.”
But that was the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs.
Harvard began to settle into the game and a slew of Bulldog turnovers — including a myriad of mysterious traveling calls — eventually gave the Crimson a four-point lead at the half.
“I’m going to have to take a look at the film of this game because there were so many travelling calls,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “If that was traveling, then everybody was traveling.”
The traveling calls continued to pester the Elis in the second half as Harvard took over the flow of the game. The Crimson’s staunch defense and slow-it-down offense ground away at the Bulldogs as the visitors pushed their lead to as much as 57-47.
“Harvard came out in the first half wanting to run with us and that was a mistake,” Gobrecht said. “In the second half, they came out playing a controlled, boring game, and we lost our intensity. It’s a common strategy we’ll see until we learn to handle it.”
Even so, Yale made a push to close the gap, getting as close as 64-63 behind the energetic play of forward Mady Gobrecht ’11, who tied a career high with 16 points behind a much improved shooting stroke.
“After missing some free-throws in the last couple of games, I really dedicated myself to getting up more shots in practice this week,” she said. “Plus, I was just feeling it.”
Unfortunately, the referees weren’t “feeling it” and when Mady Gobrecht was whistled for her fifth and final foul just as Yale closed the gap to one, the wind seemed to come out of the Elis’ sails and they would get no closer, eventually falling 70-63.
Last year, Yale upset Harvard’s bid for the outright Ivy title and an NCAA tournament bid when it defeated the Crimson in their last game of the season. This weekend, the Crimson exacted some revenge and added more fuel to the fire.
For their second game of the weekend, the Bulldogs faced this year’s Ivy leader, Dartmouth, which boasted a huge lineup with seven players over six feet. By clogging the lane, Dartmouth forced Yale into a jump-shooting team in the early going. Two three-pointers in the opening ten minutes from captain and guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 were the Bulldogs’ only points as the Big Green opened up a 14-6 lead.
Behind strong defense and dominating post play from its starting player Brittney Smith, who finished with 16 points, Dartmouth kept control throughout most of the first half.
But in the second half, the Bulldogs made their run and turned up the pressure to eventually chip away at the Big Green. Part of that came from an effort to get on the boards, and forward Ashley Carter ’10 ignited that spirit when she got two offensive rebounds in a row to extend a Bulldog possession that eventually sparked a mini-run for the home team.
“She just gives such a great effort every night and I thought she played really well,” Chris Gobrecht said.
Yale would get as close as three behind the Big Green, but every time the Bulldogs scored a basket, Dartmouth responded. With under two minutes to go, the Elis went to an intentional foul strategy but their opponents made no mistakes at the line, closing out the game with a final score of 51-42.
“I thought we gave a tremendous effort tonight against the best team in the Ivy League,” Chris Gobrecht said. “We just dug too much of a hole early and after that, I think we really outplayed them. They’re just too great a defensive team for us to make a full comeback.”
Although the Elis dropped both their games this weekend, they fought hard and showed that they are capable of hanging with the best.
“These teams are two of the best teams in the league and we came away with two close losses,” forward Haywood Wright ’10 said. “They’ve been blowing everybody else out so we can definitely take some positives away from this weekend. We’re going to have another chance at them in a few weeks, so we just have to stay positive and hopefully pull off the upset.”