As the weather finally heats up in New Haven this week, so does the Ivy League race for the women’s basketball team.
The Bulldogs go into this weekend’s games at Columbia and Cornell in virtually a dead heat with Harvard for second place in the league, with only four games remaining on their schedule. While Princeton seems to have run away with the conference title for the third straight year, the second-place finisher will get a bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and the chance for post-season glory.
The Elis (15–9, 7–3 Ivy) are currently a half-game ahead of Harvard (13–10, 6–3 Ivy) in the conference standings, though the Crimson has an extra game remaining. Last weekend at home the Bulldogs had a chance to beat Harvard for the second time this season, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. A win would have pushed Harvard back to two and a half games out of second place and put the Elis in the driver’s seat going forward, but the Crimson played as if it knew its season was on the line, and won decisively 71–51. Head coach Chris Gobrecht said she was upset with her team’s performance, but acknowledged the excitement that the next two weeks will hold.
“We do like to make it interesting,” Gobrecht said.
The Bulldogs hope to replicate last year’s finish when they stole the No. 2 spot in the conference from the Cantabs in the final two weeks of the season and earned their first-ever bid to the NIT. Both teams finished with 10–4 records in the conference, but Yale’s 78–64 win over Harvard on the penultimate Saturday of the season proved decisive. The victory gave Yale a 2–0 advantage in the season series and the tiebreaker that awarded the Elis a National Invitational bid.
But the Bulldogs and Crimson still have four and five games left to play, respectively, and it is too early to talk about tiebreakers. Yale plays Columbia and Cornell tonight and tomorrow, and Princeton and Penn next weekend. Harvard plays all four of these teams with the addition of Dartmouth. Both the Bulldogs and the Crimson lost to Princeton in the teams’ first meetings, but neither has lost to any of the other teams they have left to play.
Guard Aarica West ’13 said that last week’s loss to Harvard will motivate the team to avenge itself against Princeton and finish off the rest of its remaining opponents a second time.
“Coach told us to focus on the emotions after [the Harvard game] and remember how bad that felt,” West said. “I think those memories are definitely going to give us an edge in the games we have left.”
Columbia (2–21, 0–9 Ivy) is sitting in last place in the Ivy League and has not won a game since Dec. 30, but the Lions showed the Elis they still had some roar left in them when the teams first met. Columbia jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half before guard Megan Vasquez ’13 set a career-high mark with 28 points and led the Bulldogs back for a 73–59 win. The Lions are last or second-to-last in the Ivy League in nearly every statistical category, and the Elis should take advantage of Columbia’s poor shooting and anemic defense.
In Yale’s last meeting with Cornell, two milestones were reached as Vasquez scored the 1,000th point of her collegiate career, and Gobrecht won the 500th game of her head coaching career. Vasquez scored 25 points that night, and Yale made an incredible 16 of 30 shots from beyond the arc in a 86–73 victory over the Big Red. The Bulldogs’ most dangerous opponent against Cornell may be fatigue, as several players acknowledged the challenges that the grueling, five-hour bus ride from New York City to Ithaca poses.
Tipoff tonight is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Columbia’s Levien Arena.