After a rough start, the women’s basketball team is looking to kick off the Ivy half of their season with some much-needed wins.

The Bulldogs (1-12, 0-0 Ivy) will open up Ivy League play with a home game against Brown (5-7, 0-0) this Saturday. The Bulldogs lost their final game in non-conference play against Fordham and hope to turn things around this weekend.

But a formidable challenge awaits the Elis. Brown, picked to finish fourth in the Ivy League in preseason polls, is an experienced team that starts three seniors and two juniors. The Bulldogs will have to find a way to contain captain Sarah Hayes, who is averaging 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest from the guard position.

Senior Colleen Kelly could also prove troublesome for the Bulldogs, as she was named to the all-tournament team when the Bears competed in the Georgia Tech Tournament. She ranks 22nd in the nation in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on more than 48 percent of her attempts. The back court duo of Hayes and Kelly is one of the best in the Ivy League.

Besides being a very experienced team, Brown presents another critical challenge: athleticism. The Bears score a great deal of points in transition and have four players averaging more than four rebounds per game, making them a particularly difficult opponent for the Elis, who have struggled with rebounding and taking care of the ball all season.

“Brown is probably the most athletic team in the League,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “They have an aggressive, fast style of play that is unique from other teams in the Ivy League. They’ll definitely go after things that we’ve struggled with, and we’re going to have to prove that we can handle their pressure and transition game.”

Although the Bulldogs’ record this year is less than stellar, there has been a definite improvement in their level of play over the last few games. Since their win over Lehigh last week, the Elis are attempting to build on their success. The emergence of guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 over the last few games has been a significant factor in the team’s improved play. Since she was inserted into the starting line-up against Lehigh, Van Horne has proved she can definitely score. She has led the team in scoring in the last three games since entering the starting line-up and has been on fire from beyond the arc, hitting 13 of her last 19 attempts.

“Jamie has always been a very good shooter,” Gobrecht said. “It was just a matter of the rest of her game coming along enough so we could play her. She’s really improved a lot and giving her more playing time was really a no-brainer.”

Brown comes into Saturday’s game having beaten the Bulldogs seven straight times. Yale’s last win against Brown was a 79-60 victory back in 2001. But the Bulldogs said they feel ready to face the challenge.

“The Ivy League is what we’ve been working towards all year,” guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 said. “We have definitely improved a lot and our game is coming together at the right time to make some damage in the league.”

Center Sarah Zoubek ’08 also said she thinks the team has been improving lately.

“We’ve been playing a lot better the past few games,” Zoubek said. “I think the main thing for us is just to get off to a solid start so we don’t have to come from behind.”