The women’s basketball team features four talented freshmen, all of whom have contributed to the team’s successful campaign so far this season.
The Bulldogs, currently sitting at 10–10 overall and 4–2 in Ivy League play, have competed at a high level throughout the season, making Yale a tough matchup for any team in the conference. The Elis have found success in the team’s depth: Ten players average double figure minutes per night. The talent throughout the team has translated to a strong squad on the court in games and in practices.
According to guard Sarah Halejian ’15, the team’s success has stemmed from the contributions and efforts of all members, including both upperclassmen and underclassmen. She noted that the combination of experienced players and younger players has positively impacted the game.
Guard Lena Munzer ’17 has led the way for the team’s newest additions. She has played in all 20 games this season and has worked her way from a bench role to a position in the starting lineup, starting all six conference games.
“What Lena brings to the table is she is really aggressive, and she has an extremely strong work ethic,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “She’s constantly on the go, she’s constantly trying to make things happen … she’s constantly doing something to help the team.”
Coach Gobrecht is not the only one to notice the qualities that Munzer brings to the floor. Halejian agreed that Munzer brings a ton of energy every time she steps onto the court and that it rubs off on the rest of the team.
Captain and guard Janna Graf ’14 added that Munzer is one of the hardest and most relentless basketball players she has ever played with, noting that Munzer comes to every practice and game with energy and focus.
“Every day she gets up extra shots, works on learning the plays, and competes in practice which has made her a very consistent player on this team,” Graf said. “Lena is an extremely talented basketball player and contributes to the team on both ends of the floor.”
According to Halejian, Munzer also brings talent and athleticism, along with her knowledge of the game.
Munzer, a native of Illinois, brought a strong resume from her time at Highland Park High School, where she started for four years and averaged 24.6 points per game as a senior. Gobrecht said Munzer has adjusted well to the college game. At the high school level, she said, players can often get away with mistakes due to the level of competition, and at the college level freshmen are more prone to making mistakes. The coach added that Munzer has taken this thought to heart and continued to improve throughout the season.
“My teammates and coaches have made transitioning from high school to college as easy as it probably could get,” Munzer said in an email. “Obviously, it’s a completely different game at the college level, and that’s something I had to learn very quickly. I do my best to bring a lot of energy day in and day out.”
Halejian added that Munzer has also gained a lot of confidence in her game, which will only help her continue to get better and make critical contributions to the success of the team.
Munzer, who is leading Yale freshmen with 19.4 minutes a game, is scoring 5.8 points per game, third most on the team. Furthermore, Munzer is shooting 41.9 percent from beyond the arc, second only to Graf for players with more than one attempt per game. Munzer also contributes 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
Munzer’s success belays the depth of Yale’s squad
“Every member on the team is extremely talented and brings something exceptional to practice and games,” Graf said. “Practices are more productive than ever because everyone is competing and no one goes easy on each other. Every person is willing to put the team first and do what is asked with them.”
Although the team made mistakes early in the season, Yale has started to hit its stride throughout conference play. The Bulldogs are averaging two and a half points per game more against Ivy League opponents while turning the ball over two fewer times each contest.
As the team has continued to improve throughout the season, Gobrecht expressed excitement about the team’s potential.
“I think we’ve crossed over into joining the heavyweight ranks in the conference, and you play at a different level when you are finally as good as anybody in the conference,” Gobrecht said. “Even though we have two losses and even though we have a very tough road trip ahead of us, we’re still playing at a high level.”
The Bulldogs are on the road this weekend with games at Penn and Princeton before coming home for matchups against Cornell and Columbia.