The Ivy League preseason media polls give both the men’s and women’s basketball teams reason to be optimistic entering the 2004-2005 season.

The men were picked to finish third, behind Princeton and Penn, while the women received 62 votes for fifth place in the standings.

With their three top scorers returning, the Eli men are confident about their abilities in the league this year and their perennial goal remains the same.

“Our goal is to win the Ivy League and go to the tournament; it goes without saying,” captain Alex Gamboa ’05 said. “We’re not preparing to finish third, we’re preparing to finish first. Finishing third will be a disappointment, as will finishing second. Finishing first is our goal.”

Gamboa and Edwin Draughn ’05 played a significant role as freshmen when the Bulldogs captured a piece of the Ivy League title in the 2001-2002 season, but now, after three seasons of experience in the back court, they will be counted on to provide the senior leadership.

Draughn has started every game and led the team in scoring in every season as a Bulldog. As point guard, Gamboa has been a leader on the floor for the past three seasons. Although his 255 assists put him at 10th on the career list at Yale, he can also be counted on for a scoring punch, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc. Between Draughn, Gamboa and Casey Hughes ’07, who appeared in 24 games and often provided the key spark, the Bulldogs’ back court should be among the best in the league.

At center, Dominick Martin ’06, whose .603 field goal percentage led the Ivy League last season, will return again to work the paint for the Elis. Martin will likely be joined by Sam Kaplan ’07, who saw consistent minutes at power forward last season. With the departure of crowd-favorite center Justin Simon ’04 comes the addition of Matt Kyle ’08 and Taylor Schall ’08, who are 6-10 and 6-8, respectively.

“I think the juniors on the team [Juan Wheat ’06 and Dexter Upshaw ’06] and Kyle will help make our front court one of the best in the league,” Kaplan said. “Everybody brings their own type of post play; everybody does certain things really well, which will help us a lot.”

Combining the experience of the back court and the size and strength of the front court before Ivy League competition starts will be the challenge in non-conference games. The Elis, who open Nov. 19 against Radford in Williamsburg, Va., have a single focus, Gamboa said.

“We want to take every single game one at a time,” Gamboa said. “We want to make sure we’re coming out and playing really hard.”

The glass is certainly half full for the Eli women, even though they were just shy of finishing in the top half of the poll. At the end of the 2003-2004 season, the Bulldogs won five of their last seven games, getting key wins over Dartmouth and Harvard, who were picked to finish first and second, respectively.

With only three seniors, the Bulldogs could be concerned about their odds in the Ivy League, but the Eli women consider their youth an advantage, Tory Mauseth ’05 said.

“Almost half of the team wasn’t even here last year,” Mauseth said. “This year’s team is very different; there’s a different dynamic, which is going to work really well for us.”

Although the Bulldogs are a young team, they will be led in the back court by captain Morgan Richards ’05 and Mauseth. Richards is an explosive shooting guard who finished fourth on the team in scoring last season after appearing in all 27 games, starting in 16 of them. Shooting 47.5 percent from behind the arc, Mauseth finished fourth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.

In the front court, the Elis will rely on the strength of Ivy League All-Rookie selection. The Bulldogs expect a lot of production from the post this season as center Erica Davis ’07 led the team in scoring, rebounds and blocks. She also led the league in field goal percentage, hitting 53.1 percent from the floor. Depth and height should not pose a problem for the Elis as Davis and Julie Mantilla ’07, who saw action in 25 games last season, will be joined by freshmen Alexandra Chen ’08, Sara McCollum ’08 and Sarah Zoubek ’08, who stand 6-1, 6-3 and 6-4 respectively.

With both inside and outside scoring threats taken care of, the Bulldogs have buckled down on their defensive game in practice, Mauseth said.

“We’ve really been trying hard to utilize each player’s individual strengths to help the team,” Mauseth said.