While the women’s basketball team tallied the most wins ever under head coach Amy Backus, the squad ended its season on a sour note.
In its final weekend of the season, Yale (14-13, 7-7 Ivy) dropped two games on the road. The Bulldogs fell to Harvard (21-5, 12-1 Ivy) 77-65 Friday night in Cambridge. Saturday night in Hanover, Dartmouth (11-15, 7-6 Ivy) narrowly defeated the Elis 69-67.
With the victory Friday, the Crimson clinched sole possession of the Ivy League title and the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. A win over Dartmouth would have solidified at least a third-place finish for the Bulldogs, but now Yale will have to wait until Tuesday, when the regular season ends, to find out the final standings.
“I think we were all disappointed,” Christina Phillips ’04 said. “Even after losing to Harvard, who is number one in the league, we really wanted that win over Dartmouth. We would have loved to have our seniors end on a high note.”
Phillips had a double-double against Dartmouth, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Helene Schutrumpf ’03 led the Elis with 16 points.
But once again Big Green junior Katharine Hanks dominated the game, scoring 22 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early start, going up by as much as 22 points early in the second half. But a 20-4 run brought the Big Green right back into the game and with 1:37 left to play, the Elis were only up 67-64. Two free-throws from junior Katie Skelly and a layup from junior Keri Downs with 21 seconds left sealed the victory for Dartmouth. Hanks, who scored six points during a key stretch of the comeback, also added a free-throw to solidify the win.
“They made a few key foul shots down the stretch and they got it inside to Hanks,” Bonnie Smith ’04 said. “She’s a clutch player and they got it in her hands.”
Smith was Yale’s leading scorer against the Crimson with 16 points. But Yale’s offense started off slowly as the Cantabs jumped out to a quick 19-3 lead en route to a 45-29 lead at halftime.
“They were able to beat our press consistently for most of the first half,” said Caitlin Bair ’02, one of three seniors to end her Yale career this weekend. “We spent most of the first half attempting to defend them and not playing much offense.”
Harvard’s two star players, sophomore Hana Peljto and freshman Reka Cserny, both turned in monster double-double performances. Peljto led all scorers with 24 points and 13 rebounds and Cserny added 19 points and 10 boards of her own.
Although the Elis bounced back in the second half, outscoring the Crimson 36-32, the comeback effort was not enough. Yale never pulled within less than 12 points.
Harvard last won the Ivy League Championship in 1998. The Crimson then went on to become the first team, either men’s or women’s, to knock off a No. 1 seed as a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Cantabs upset Stanford 71-67 in the first round before falling to Arkansas in the second round. Harvard will now have to wait until next Sunday to find out its seed number for this year’s tournament.
“I think it’ll really depend on who they’re matched up with, but if they get strong games out of their support players behind Peljto and Cserny, I think they could surprise somebody,” Backus said.
As for Yale, the squad can take heart that it has shown steady improvement in the three years of Backus’ tenure. With the influx of a talented crop of freshmen and strong senior leadership, the Bulldogs finished above .500 for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
“We accomplished things this year that are really positive steps in our progression towards being a contender every year,” Backus said. “I’m really happy with the style of our play [and] I’m happy with the intensity of our play.”