After a frustrating start to her season, last year’s leading scorer, guard Megan Vasquez ’13, finally found her stride in the Elis’ three games over Thanksgiving break.
Vasquez broke into double digits in points for the first time this season as the team notched its first win of the season against the University of Houston. The Elis (1–4, 0–0 Ivy) then traveled to Chicago, falling to DePaul and Northwestern in two close contests. Vasquez exploded for 21 points on 4–8 shooting from beyond the arc in the loss to Northwestern.
To kick off the week, the Elis hosted the University of Houston (2–4) on Saturday, Nov. 17. Led by a career performance from center Zenab Keita ’14, the Bulldogs defeated the Cougars in a thrilling 84–82 game to record their first win of the season. In her first career double-double, Keita netted 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs. Guard Sarah Halejian ’15 chipped in with 17 points, falling one point shy of matching her career-best in scoring.
“Zenab is one of our most improved players this year and is doing a great job of filling the void left by our graduated post player Michelle Cashen ’13,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said.
The scoring was spread for the Elis, with five Bulldogs in double figures, including guard Janna Graf ’14 with 16, forward Meredith Boardman ’16 with 11 and Vasquez with 12.
Despite a slow 2-for-20 shooting effort to open the game, the Bulldogs made up ground to pull within two at halftime. The Elis came out shooting to start the second half and jumped out to a 48–41 lead on a 13–4 run.
The Cougars came back to take the lead with just under six minutes to play, but a 12–0 run by the Bulldogs secured them their first win of the season.
“I think getting the first win was a good morale builder for the team,” captain and guard Allie Messimer ’13 said. ”At the same time, we have played a lot of games that we had the talent to win. From here on out we need to focus on getting more wins.”
Although Vasquez netted 21 points against Northwestern (4–0) — her most so far this season and only her second game so far in double-digit scoring — the Elis fell 75–83. Vasquez, who averaged over 15 points per game last season, missed much of the preseason due to injury and returned to her usual form against the Wildcats.
Yale stormed to a 10–2 lead to start the game off against Northwestern. In a very back-and-forth game, the Wildcats ended up holding a 39–33 lead at halftime after a 7–2 run.
The Bulldogs took control to start the second half, charging to within 43–42 on a 10–3 run. The Wildcats responded with a 17–0 run to put the game out of reach for the Elis. Despite answering back with a 13–1 run in the final 2:35, the Bulldogs fell short.
“We were right in it with Northwestern for the majority of the game, but the biggest lesson was that we need to play hard and work hard for a full 40 minutes,” Messimer said. “We can’t take breaks because that’s when we get beat.”
The one statistical category where the Wildcats beat the Bulldogs by a wide margin was points in the paint. Northwestern netted 54 points in the paint compared to 20 for the Elis.
The Bulldog bench contributed 37 points to the effort led by Vasquez with 21 and guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 with 11. Starting guard Halejian added 11 of her own, while Graf was one point short of a double-double with 9 points and 12 rebounds.
“The scoring distribution on the team is great. The depth allows a player to have a bad night without the major loss in offense,” Messimer said. “I think down the road having so many weapons makes us harder to guard.”
Yale also took on DePaul (5–2) on the Chicago trip and suffered a 80–95 loss despite 16-point performances from Halejian and Sarju and a season-high 13 points from Messimer.
The Bulldogs were once again beat in the paint, scoring only 32 points compared to 64 from the Blue Demons. Turnovers were also a problem for the Elis, leading to 37 points for DePaul.
“The games against DePaul and Northwestern made for some bittersweet emotions,” Gobrecht said. “We realized we competed very well against quality programs from the Big East and the Big Ten, but we also felt we could have done even better.”
The team will tip off at 7 p.m. at home against Quinnipiac (3–0) on Wednesday.