It was a fitting end to a frustrating season. A night after pushing league champion Harvard to the limit, the Yale women’s basketball team had a three-point lead with seconds to play against league runner-up Dartmouth. The Bulldogs seemed assured of a win that would send them to the off-season on a high note.
That was until Angela Soriaga banked home a 35-foot runner at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, the Big Green (15-12, 9-5 Ivy) outscored the Elis (6-21, 3-11) 13-6 and squeaked out an 84-77 victory.
One night earlier, the Bulldogs had a victory over Harvard (22-4, 14-0) within their grasps. After answering every Crimson run with a run of their own, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game with under 10 seconds remaining. But two missed free throws by Aubrey Smith ’04 and two successful free throws by Harvard sophomore Reka Cserny sealed a 69-65 Cantab victory.
Cserny and Hana Peljto, now a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, combined for 53 of Harvard’s 69 points; Bonnie Smith ’04 led a more balanced Yale attack with 25.
“It’s really unfortunate, because we played so well and we were so confident, but we just couldn’t come away with a win,” Smith said. “Dartmouth chucked up a half-court shot to send it to overtime. I guess that’s the story of our season. It was promising, though, because they are the two best teams in the league.”
The Elis finished the season alone in the Ivy League basement but only one game out of a three-way tie for fifth with Cornell, Columbia and Princeton. While the final record accurately reflects a season that did not meet expectations, it does not reflect the circumstances that caused the slide.
Injuries to no fewer than seven players left the rotation depleted and often precluded productive practices. And the Dartmouth miracle shot was just a part of a season filled with increasingly more heartbreaking defeats.
The injuries forced players to acclimate to new positions and new roles, and that versatility should be on display next season when more than 10 players who played significantly return. Only team captain Maria Smear ’03 graduates.
“Definitely toward the end of the season, we were playing our best basketball,” said Christina Phillips ’04, who led the team in scoring with 11.0 points per game. “We know we can compete with Harvard and any other team in the league. We’re going to come back with hopefully everyone healthy. All of us in different ways gained experience, stepping into different roles, and we should be better for it.”
While injuries forced the Bulldogs into a trial-by-fire setting during many crucial Ivy League games this year, next year figures to be a different story. And with nowhere to go but up, the Elis are hoping that this season’s downfalls will only be a prelude to a much brighter future.
“Hopefully, we can use this year as a time of learning,” Phillips said. “Next year won’t be so much of a learning year as a year where we come away with more wins.”