While a good portion of Yale has come down with one form of illness or another recently, the women’s basketball team has been struck by another virus — the injury bug. Trying to build off last week’s ice-breaking Ivy League win, the Bulldogs will again be shorthanded as they hit the road and try to even their record.
After getting over the hump with a 61-58 victory against Columbia, the Bulldogs (4-13, 1-3 Ivy) dropped another game and another player the following day to Cornell (7-10, 1-3) when Bonnie Smith ’04 went down with a heel bruise.
This weekend, the schedule gets no easier as the Elis travel tonight to face Dartmouth (7-10, 1-3) before heading to Cambridge tomorrow to face defending league champion and current leader Harvard (12-4, 4-0). Having beaten Columbia (9-8, 2-2), the Bulldogs are now sure they can compete with the top teams in the league.
“That first win was critical for us,” said head coach Amy Backus, who is two victories shy of 200 for her career. “It was a really well-played game, and the kids saw what it took to beat a very good Columbia team. We showed a lot of willpower and confidence in getting the win.”
Smith agreed that the team needed a win to get the ball rolling and gain some much-needed momentum.
“Our first Ivy win was special because it was a great team game,” Smith said. “Each of us played our best game, and we were working so well together.”
Despite the bull’s-eye on the Crimson uniform, Yale knows it cannot overlook the Big Green on its home court, especially when each win is so precious right now.
“For us it’s one game at a time,” said Lindsay Page ’05, who is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder this season. “We’re focusing on who our next opponent is, and right now the focus is Dartmouth. Hopefully we’ll get another win under our belt and the confidence from that will take us into Harvard.”
Both Dartmouth and Harvard pose dangerous threats down low, although each features a different style on offense. For the Big Green, the Bulldogs will focus on Katherine Hanks, who is third in the league in scoring, averaging 18.5 points-per-game. Harvard’s big gun is returning Ivy League Player of the Year Hana Peljto, who is on a torrid pace again this season, leading the league with 20.8 points per game, including a 32-point performance against the University of Pennsylvania Saturday night.
“Katherine Hanks isn’t a true back-to-the-basket post player,” Backus said. “Hana is a true power forward, and she gives us mismatch problems because they start with another big player inside. We’re trying to stop two leading scorers who are inside players so we’re mixing things up, trying some zone defense and just packing it inside. “
While the Bulldogs have been decimated on the perimeter with injuries, they should be relatively sound on the inside. That is, if Aubrey Smith’s ’04 nagging foot injury does not become a problem again. She is questionable for the games this weekend.
While the other Smith — Bonnie — is expected to return this weekend, starting point guard Brynn Gingras ’04 is still out with a fractured thumb. Team captain Maria Smear ’03, who suffered a concussion against Brown Jan. 25 and missed last weekend’s games because of illnesses related to the injury, returned to practice Wednesday and should be ready for the weekend.
Against Cornell, Tory Mauseth ’05 had to play all 40 minutes because of the number of players who were injured or who had fouled out. Backus is hoping Mauseth does not have to repeat that performance.
“Tory did a superb job,” Backus said. “Out of all our players, Tory is most capable of playing 40 minutes. But you never want someone to have to do that.”
Another person who stepped up was Julie Cohen ’04, earning Ivy League Honor Roll status for the first time this season after her career-high 12 points against Cornell.
Besides affecting the Bulldogs’ on-court performance, the injury problem has hindered the team’s ability to practice and get ready for game situations. This week, the Elis have had to resort to having men come help out simply for the sake of numbers.
“It’s been very difficult and very frustrating,” Page said. “Every day you walk in and it’s someone new. We haven’t had 10 players in order to do scrimmaging and so we’ve had to do smaller breakdown drills. It’s crippling for our coaches and us to not have the ability to practice game-like situations.”
While the injury parade has undoubtedly affected the Bulldogs’ ability to prepare their in-game rotation, it hasn’t shaken their focus or desire to pull out a pair of crucial victories this weekend. Wins this weekend under these circumstances would go a long way toward making a run in the still-wide open Ivy League title race.