The women’s basketball team is peaking at the wrong time. With only one weekend left in the season, the Elis (6-19, 3-9 Ivy) are already assured of a sub-par record that will no doubt linger with them in the offseason.
But the Bulldogs are on a tear right now in comparison to their sluggish start. Having split the past two road weekends, Yale returns home tonight to close out its season against league powerhouse Harvard (20-4, 12-0) and Dartmouth (14-11, 8-4). Against the top two teams in the league, the Elis have their chance to prove that their recent play is more indicative of their ability as a team than their early-season showings.
Tonight’s game against the Crimson presents a unique opportunity. Harvard is the only team in the country to have clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament because the Ivy League has no post-season tournament to determine the automatic bid. With Harvard gunning for a perfect season, the Bulldogs would like nothing more than to put a damper on the Cantabs’ plans.
“We’re obviously playing our best basketball of the season now,” said Julie Cohen ’04, who stepped in as point guard in the absence of Tory Mauseth ’05 last weekend. “Everybody’s back from injury, and it should be an exciting weekend. One of the goals that is on everyone’s mind is to play spoiler to Harvard and put a loss on its record.”
Retribution is also on the minds of the Elis, not just for the 25-point drubbing Harvard gave them in Cambridge Feb. 8, but also for last season, when the Crimson captured the Ivy League title at Yale’s expense.
“Last year, when we played them at their place, they clinched the league against us,” head coach Amy Backus said. “That wasn’t a whole lot of fun, watching them celebrating an NCAA bid and an Ivy championship. We would love to give them their only league loss, not only for revenge but to keep building on our momentum.”
To pull out the victory, the Elis will rely on the hot hand of Bonnie Smith ’04, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, as well as on a host of other scorers, any of whom have stepped up and carried the scoring load on a given night. Defensively, the focus will be on Harvard junior Hana Peljto, who is likely to repeat as Ivy League Player of the Year. She leads the league with 21.2 points per game and put up 19 in the teams’ first meeting.
Dartmouth is led by Katherine Hanks, who sits third in the league in scoring and who burned the Elis for 27 points Feb. 7 when the Big Green recovered from a one-point halftime deficit to win 85-72.
This weekend has different meanings for different people. Team captain Maria Smear ’03, who has been riddled by injuries the past two seasons after leading the team in scoring in both her freshman and sophomore campaigns, will close her career against Dartmouth.
But Smear is the team’s only senior. For the rest of the team the weekend will serve as a barometer for how far it has come and what needs to be accomplished for next season to take a different course.
“It should be a fun weekend,” said Brynn Gingras ’04, who returned from an eight-game absence last weekend. “We have a good chance to beat Harvard, and that’s always a goal for us. For me personally, I just want to have fun.”
As the Elis close out a season marred by injuries and inconsistency, they still have a chance to go into the offseason on a high note.