New head coach Chris Gobrecht and the women’s basketball team began their 2005-06 season last week with a rough start.
Predicted to finish sixth in the Ivy league, the Bulldogs (0-4) dropped their first four games over Thanksgiving break. The young team has had to make many adjustments this season, including integrating a new coaching staff and adopting a new style of play.
Despite a strong first-half showing in their debut against New Hampshire (3-1), the Bulldogs relinquished the lead in the second half after captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 was forced to leave the game following an injury. Kaitlyn Lillemoe’s ’09 19 points were not enough to stop a late 21-2 Wildcats run, which ended in a 75-59 defeat for the Elis.
In the team’s second outing, against Providence, it was Friars head coach Phil Seymour and not Gobrech, who registered a first career win with a new program. Several large runs put Providence in charge for much of the game, and the Friars defeated the Bulldogs, 74-53.
Next, the Bulldogs traveled to Missouri for the St. Louis Billiken Classic seeking their first win, where they challenged host St. Louis University in the opening round. After falling behind early, the Elis came within four points late in the game only to be denied by the Billikens and fall to 0-3. Forward Sara McCollum ’08 led Yale with 11 points and nine rebounds in the 65-50 loss.
In the consolation game of the tournament, the Elis took on the New Orleans Privateers in what was perhaps the break’s most exciting contest. Lillemoe kept the tenacious Bulldogs within striking distance with a game-high 16 points and a Jamie Van Horne ’09 three-pointer closed the gap to two with 31 seconds remaining. But Yale’s efforts were thwarted in the final seconds and they ended up on the wrong side of a 54-50 heartbreaker.
Conspicuously absent from the Eli lineup over their first contests was last year’s starting center, Erica Davis ’07. Davis led the Bulldogs in average points per game (12.3), average rebounds per game (6.8), and total blocks (55). Guard Emily St. Jean ’09 said Davis is expected to return to the team later this winter, but St. Jean could not discuss why Davis has not yet played this season.
Despite a disappointing start to the season, players said they are still confident that they can turn the season around. Guard Kaitlin Emmerling ’09 said she has a positive attitude about the team’s outlook.
“Obviously our record is a little discouraging, but we’re learning so much about our team with each game,” Emmerling said. “We are just going to take what we learn and apply it to the next game until we find our flow.”
Players said the rocky start has not discouraged the team, but has rather provided fuel for continued hard work and determination. Starting point guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 said she is pleased with her team’s positive attitude.
“Everyone is still really excited and really motivated,” Marciano said. “I think the most important thing is for us to learn to play together and develop a good chemistry. We’re still adjusting to a staff and style of play, and that takes time.”
Assistant coach Meghan Brown said she has been encouraged with the progress the team has made.
“We are obviously not satisfied and know we need to work on some things, but we’re confident we’ll get to where we need to be,” Brown said. “The girls are starting to respond more in game situations and being a little more innovative with what we’re trying to do. We’re definitely starting to get on the same page.”
The players also said they believe they are transitioning well to Gobrecht’s style of coaching.
“I think overall the adjustment has gone well,” Lillemoe said. “Coach Gobrecht is very intense, but our team really believes in what she is trying to do. She really knows basketball and our assistant coaches are also great and believe in our team too.”
Despite their record, an exciting atmosphere surrounds the Bulldogs as they look forward to the rest of the season. With continued enthusiasm and resolve, the Elis will face off against Sacred Heart this Thursday in search of the first win of the Gobrecht era.