The women’s basketball team’s last season began inauspiciously, with losses in the first six games. Despite adding a new head coach and four new players to the roster, this season has so far continued the Bulldogs’ early season drought. Last night’s game against Sacred Heart University (3-1) was no different.

The Bulldogs (0-5) lost, 74-51, the largest margin of victory for any Yale opponent this season. The Elis have struggled all season to find a win, but head coach Chris Gobrecht said the team is still improving and hopes to continue that process with their home opener Saturday against Fairfield University.

Though Yale led twice during the first half of the game and narrowed the Pioneers’ lead at times, Sacred Heart dominated the ball and led by as much as 18, ending the half up, 45-27. The second half saw the Bulldogs slip even further, never surpassing a 7-0 run.

But Yale players said the statistics do not accurately portray the game’s ups and downs.

“First half they came out strong, and we didn’t match their intensity,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “We stuck with them second half.”

While Eli rebounding and shooting was not up to Sacred Heart’s standards, 30 to the Pioneers’ 38 and .380 to their .420, Lillemoe said Bulldogs rebounding had improved from previous games of the season. She led the Elis with 15 points and a .500 shooting average. Forward Julie Mantilla ’07 led Yale’s rebounding with eight.

Perhaps the most telling statistic of the night, the one that likely did capture the root of Sacred Heart’s success, was the number of turnovers. Though Sacred Heart played imperfectly with 15 turnovers, Yale racked up 25. More importantly, the Bulldogs turned their 15 opportunities into only 10 points, while Sacred Heart converted on far more, notching 32 points from turnovers.

Last night’s defeat was not unexpected, Gobrecht said. She said Sacred Heart is an experienced team that she anticipated would be tough competition. The Pioneers have won seven out of the last 10 contests with Yale. Last year’s game saw the Bulldogs score 57 points in an eventual loss. But Gobrecht said the players still in action accounted for only eight of those points.

Regardless of the competition, the Elis have had struggles of their own this season. Last year’s team leader in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage, center Erica Davis ’07, continues to sit the season out, with Gobrecht saying Davis needs to “complete conditioning requirements” before she can return. Forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 has been out since the first game of the season with an injury. The two accounted for 37 percent of last year’s offense and 29 percent of last year’s rebounds.

The injuries seem to be having an impact on the team’s depth. Sacred Heart drew 25 points from its bench, but the Bulldog bench had only seven.

Adding to the list of woes, the team has had to integrate four freshmen and a new head coach into the team, adding a steep learning curve, Gobrecht said.

Saturday will see the Bulldogs home opener against Fairfield (2-1). The team will practice today specifically for Fairfield’s match, and players said they are unsure what to expect at the game. Gobrecht said the entire year will be a learning process.

“This year is just laying the groundwork,” she said.