Without a doubt, the most important moment of the Bulldogs’ young season will occur tonight at 6 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

That’s when the women’s basketball team tips off against Harvard (3-10, 1-0 Ivy) in the team’s opening weekend of Ivy League basketball.

This Ivy weekend, in which Yale faces Dartmouth (1-10, 0-1 Ivy) Saturday, marks the real beginning of the Bulldogs’ year.

“We are all really excited to start Ivy League play,” forward Bonnie Smith ’04 said. “It means a fresh start — another whole season to prove ourselves.”

More than simply the first Ivy contest of the year, tonight’s match-up allows Yale to play at home against archrival Crimson.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to open up at home,” head coach Amy Backus said. “It really doesn’t get any better than this.”

Yale will be looking to make its mark on the league and to improve on last year’s Ivy record of 7-7, and this appears to be the perfect chance.

“We’re facing two perennial powers in the league who both seem to be struggling this year,” Backus said.

The fact that Yale will be taking on Harvard will only heighten the game’s intensity and already has players’ emotions running high.

“I think the team has a surprising amount of energy going into this weekend,” center Lily Glick ’01 said. “The rush of the Ivy League opener combined with the fact that we get to beat Harvard for our first win in a couple of games has everybody pretty excited.”

The Crimson, traditionally a very strong team, has suffered some early losses this year but seems to be back on track, winning its last two games, including a 70-57 victory over Dartmouth.

“[Harvard and Dartmouth] both have very good individual players,” Backus said. “Harvard has two very strong freshmen post players, and we’ll be concentrating on them.”

The two Crimson freshman forwards, Hanna Peljto, who has been named Ivy League rookie of the week three times, and Tricia Tubridy will be the main forces on the Harvard offense.

Still, the big key in the Bulldogs’ most recent games has been their level of emotion, which shouldn’t be hard to raise against the Crimson.

“We just have to play with the amount of intensity and energy we are capable of,” Glick said. “It’s also great that the game is at home. We’ll be a lot harder to shut down with the fans backing us up.”

With the intensity level increased, Yale will play a faster paced game.

“We’re looking to put Harvard and Dartmouth on the defensive right of the bat,” Backus said. “We’ll be using a more aggressive defense and up tempo game.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs will host Dartmouth, a team very similar to Harvard.

“Dartmouth returns the Ivy League rookie of the year in Katharine Hanks,” Backus said. “But she doesn’t have the same supporting cast she did last year.”

The Bulldogs, who have been inconsistent in their recent games, will need to be more focused, in this, the biggest weekend of the season.

“Our goal is to be in the thick of it,” Backus said. “Every game is critical because things seem to be up for grabs in the Ivy League.”

This seems to the perfect starting point for the Bulldogs to send a message to their Ivy counterparts.

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