Women’s basketball in the Ivy League is underway as teams finish up their non-conference schedules and prepare for Ancient Eight competition. While Dartmouth and Harvard may be the early favorites to win the league title, players from across the league said this year promises a close race.
“The Ivy League is going to be very competitive this year,” Dartmouth guard Jeannie Cullen said. “I am sure it will be a close race all the way to the end of the season.”
Princeton forward Rebecca Brown said while she expects the Cantabs and the Big Green to be the Tigers’ toughest competition this year, every team has a shot at the title.
“Dartmouth and Harvard have been very strong … [but] the Ivy League title is up in the air and could be anyone’s,” she said.
The Crimson and Big Green kicked off league competition Jan. 8 in Hanover. After falling 19 points behind the Big Green midway through the second half, the Cantabs staged a bold comeback, thanks in part to team captain Reka Cserny who scored 10 points in six minutes to put the Crimson back in the game.
Although Harvard pushed the game into overtime, Dartmouth won, 73-70.
“The win over Harvard was big because it was the first conference game,” Cullen said. “It’s also important to defend your home court during conference play so we knew we had to get this game.”
That same evening Columbia met Cornell in Ithaca for their first Ivy League face-off.
Columbia wiped out a seven point deficit at the end of the second half of the game to beat Cornell 68-59. The Lions outscored the Big Red 22-6 in the final seven minutes of regulation to notch their first league win.
In the third game of league play, Brown posted a 27-point win over Yale Jan. 15 in New Haven. The Bears have come in second place in the Ivies for the past two years. While the second-place finishes proved disheartening for the Bears, the team learned lessons which will serve them well this season, said senior Brown center Holly Robertson.
“After these two years of just missing, we’ve learned and made adjustments to our team in order to hopefully succeed,” she said.
Dartmouth head coach Christina Wielgus said favorable overall records are not particularly important when evaluating an Ivy League team because they don’t always reflect a team’s abilities.
“I don’t really pay much attention to overall records. A lot depends on the quality of your opponent,” she said. “I have my own system of evaluating opponents.”
When a team faces a difficult opponent, the experience gained can make a team more formidable in spite of a loss.
“Strength of schedule can have a lot to do with your record, making it deceiving,” Cullen said. “If you have a tough non-conference schedule you … gain experience, which hopefully carries over to league play.”
Cornell and Yale have struggled this season and seem to be longshots for the championship. Yale hasn’t won a title since the 1978-79 season, and Cornell has never finished first in the history of the women’s conference.