Coming off its historic sweep of Columbia and Cornell last week, the Yale women’s basketball team will head north this weekend to take on Dartmouth and Harvard for the second time this season.
The Bulldogs (9–13, 4–4 Ivy) will first travel to Hanover on Friday to take on the Big Green. In the first meeting of the two teams this season, Dartmouth (6–15, 4–3 Ivy) fought off a second-half surge by the Elis to hold on for the 63–48 win. The Bulldogs had trouble finding their shooting touch in the game and finished 23.8 percent from the field. Guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said the team has come a long way since that game.
“The biggest difference now is that we are sharing the ball on offense more and finding better shot opportunities,” Halejian said. “We are now a much harder team to guard.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will compete against Harvard (13–8, 4–3 Ivy) in another rematch from earlier in the season. In a game very similar to their matchup against Dartmouth, the Elis fought back early in the second half against the Crimson but were unable to gain the lead, eventually losing 67–54.
Slow starts plagued the Bulldogs against Harvard and Dartmouth early in the season, but the Bulldogs have improved their energy coming out of the gate in the past few games. After trailing by 12 and 15 points at halftime in its previous games against Harvard and Dartmouth, respectively, Yale has entered the break with a lead in three of its last four games.
“I think the biggest thing we learned from the first time playing each team is that we need to start the game strong,” captain Allie Messimer ’13 said. “We did a good job last weekend coming out strong against Cornell and Columbia and we need to make sure to do the same again.”
In their first meeting, Harvard took advantage of Yale’s small front line and outscored the Elis 40–12 in the paint behind a career-high 20 points from 6-foot-4-inch Crimson forward Temi Fagbenle. Dartmouth also beat the Elis in the paint, scoring 30 points compared to the Bulldogs’ 14.
“Our post play is going to be critical this weekend,” Halejian said. “Both Harvard and Dartmouth rely heavily on their post game to score a lot of points, so our bigs are going to need to step up, play some great defense and have a presence on offense.”
After the sweep last weekend, the Bulldogs find themselves in a tight race for a top position in the league. At 4–4, the Bulldogs are only a half game behind both Harvard and Dartmouth, who are tied for third place.
The Big Green and the Crimson have played only seven of their conference games so far due to postponements from the recent blizzard, and wins this weekend would put the Elis in contention for a top-three spot in the Ivy League. Princeton, at 7–0, is a heavy favorite to earn its third straight conference title and NCAA tournament bid, but the second-place finisher in the league gets an automatic berth in the post-season Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
“Many teams in the league have improved tremendously this year and we need to play our best basketball each night,” Halejian said. “Having been swept the first time around, we are definitely motivated to have a successful weekend.”
After a 1–3 start to their Ivy schedule, the Bulldogs have improved tremendously. Having won three of their last four games, the Elis hold the momentum heading into the weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard, who were both swept last weekend.
“We need to take care of the boards, have strong defense and work together on offense,” Messimer said. “We have what it takes to beat both of these teams.”
Friday’s game at Dartmouth is set to tip off at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will then take on the Crimson in a 6 p.m. game at Harvard Saturday.