After a freshman year marked with success, Sarah Halejian ’15 continues to be a spark on and off the court for the Yale women’s basketball team. The 5’9” sophomore hailing from Wyckoff, N.J., kick starts every game-day routine with a 30-minute power nap, the same music playlist, stretching and shooting.
“Prior to a game, the only motivation I really need is the desire to win,” Halejian said.
Coming from an athletic family, Halejian credited her drive and competitiveness to the influence of her older brother, Eric, who played three years of Division I basketball at Ithaca College.
“In the offseason, I work out with my older brother all the time which is a good challenge for me,” Halejian said.
She attributes her versatile style of play to Sandy Gordon, her basketball coach at Ramapo High School. Halejian said Gordon gave her plenty of freedom to develop at Ramapo, where she was a two-time North Jersey Player of the Year and graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Upon entering Yale as a freshman, that focus and motivation to win became apparent as Halejian started 22 of 28 games and averaged 8.1 points per game, the fourth-highest average on the team. She was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week six times during the season and was selected as the 2011–’12 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, becoming only the fourth Yale player to receive the honor in program history.
“I don’t like to think about accolades or anyone else’s expectations of me, but rather just about getting better,” Halejian said. “My focus is to just continue to grow as a player and to have more of a role in contributing to the team’s success.”
With 13.6 points per game and a 71.9 percent shooting average this season, she is the leading scorer for the Elis. Guard Janna Graf ’14 said that Halejian has come into her own as a top player on the team despite her youth.
“Everyone looks to her as a leader,” Graf said. “She has a really important presence and has worked a lot on creating her own shots.”
In the team’s six conference matches this year, Halejian has put up double-digit figures, including a career high of 21 points against Brown last month. Her impressive performance places her sixth in scoring in the Ivy League standings.
Her role has become even more imperative since the start of conference play. Yale holds a 32.7 field goal percentage and relies heavily on Halejian to contribute points to the board each night.
Despite a recent 99-53 loss to Princeton, Graf describes the team dynamic as being incredibly positive.
“Sarah’s always cracking jokes and lightening the mood,” Graf said.
With only eight games left in the season, Halejian and the Elis are looking to climb back into the Ivy League fight after a 2–4 start to the conference slate.
The Bulldogs will be on the road for their next four games and will take on Cornell this Friday at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena in Ithaca, N.Y.