With conference play starting this weekend, center Erica Davis ’07 simply summed up what she and the other women on the basketball team are feeling right now.
“I’m really excited,” Davis said. “I’m just really looking forward to seeing how our team does in our first Ivy game.”
The Bulldogs (3-10) take on Brown (7-5) Saturday in their first Ivy League game of the season. Heading into this game, the Elis hope to extend their three-game winning streak at home with a win over the Bears. For the Elis to overcome their opponents from Rhode Island, they will need to get the ball inside to posts like Davis, as well as sink shots from the perimeter.
“All of our posts are excellent inside and when we have good guard play it only opens up the inside,” Yale captain Morgan Richards ’05 said. “We are most dangerous with balance.”
At 6-foot-3, Davis will lead the inside attack. Her 13.5 average points-per-game is the best on the team.
Davis said her main focus this game is to be a good target for her teammates.
“I need to be available and open,” Davis said. “We really need to establish an inside-outside game to really keep the defense honest and utilize all of our strengths.”
Unfortunately for Davis, she is not going to have an easy task, due to her match-up with Brown’s Holly Robertson. Robertson has two inches on Davis and averages 15.8 points a contest. The battle down low between the two centers is likely to be fierce.
Despite the talents of her opponent, Davis said she is not the type of player to focus on who is she guarding and prefers to focus on her own play.
“Going against [Robertson], I look at it as being aware that I’m playing against a 6-foot-5 player who is a strong post, so I have to be on top of my game,” Davis said. “I need to be posting up strong, holding my own, and making sure that I am on top of my defense. I can’t afford to get fouled and sit on the bench while she is in the game, giving them that advantage.”
Davis, along with Chineye Okafor ’07, will be hitting the boards hard as well. The Bulldogs need to limit Brown’s second chances while giving the Eli offense time to work by getting defensive and offensive rebounds. Davis is averaging 7.5 rebounds, with Okafor backing her up with 4.4 per game.
On the perimeter, the Eli guards have been doing their job well recently. Richards has had a major role setting up the offense with her team-high 35 assists. She said she wants to do anything she can to help the team.
“I’m going to try to be consistent,” Richards said. “Basically I want to do what I can to help the team play together and help my teammates play to their potentials. I hope to be a vocal leader.”
Richards also said the team has used the entire season so far to prepare for the Ancient Eight. After playing challenging opponents like Alabama and Ohio State, the Bulldogs have faced different situations that will help them against any Ivy team.
“I feel like we are very prepared,” Davis said. “We have gone against very strong teams in the past. It will be a testament to all the work we have put into practice and our improvements.”
Despite their less-than-stellar record at present, the Elis seem confident with the team that they have become. Julie Mantilla ’07 said the Elis have proved to themselves what they are capable of accomplishing.
“We have held our own against a lot of teams,” Mantilla said. “I think for pretty much any Ivy game, we need to stick to our defensive rules and come out and play hard. It sounds simple, but we are not adapting to a team like Brown. We are sticking to what we know we can do.”