Though the women’s basketball team was unable to rack up any wins this past weekend, the improvement in its level of play was immediately noticeable.

The Elis (1-16, 0-4 Ivy) put up valiant efforts against two of the better teams in the league, Harvard (5-11, 1-2) and defending champion Dartmouth (12-4, 3-0), but came up short in both contests. Yale fell, 55-48, to the Crimson on Friday, and lost the next day to the Big Green, 77-60.

Traveling to Cambridge, Mass., and entering the hostile confines of Lavites Pavilion on Friday evening, the Bulldogs immediately showed that they would not back down. In a game of runs, Yale struck first. A pair of early treys from sharpshooter Jamie Van Horne ’09 propelled the Elis out to an early 11-6 lead. But the Crimson answered quickly, going on a 16-3 run to find themselves up 22-14 midway through the first half. The Elis trailed 30-25 heading into the locker room.

The Bulldogs came out strong in the second half and kept themselves within striking distance for much of the game. Guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 scored five consecutive points to cut the Crimson lead to three with just over five minutes remaining, but sharp foul shooting kept Harvard in front. Yale would rally to within a basket late in the game, but was denied the win in the final minutes.

Captain Chinenye Okafor ’07 had another solid game, racking up her first double-double of the season, with 10 points and 11 rebounds. For the Elis, it was their fourth consecutive loss to Harvard, but a considerable improvement over last season’s lopsided defeats. In two contests against the Crimson last winter, the Bulldogs fell to the Crimson by a combined 72 points.

Players said they felt good about the way they competed against Harvard.

“I think we really took a big step forward against Harvard,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “We played them really close, it was just a matter of not scoring enough points.”

Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht also recognized the importance of the game against the Crimson.

“It’s Harvard-Yale,” Gobrecht said. “We knew they were going to be fired up and come after us. I think we banished some of the ghosts from the past by playing well on Friday.”

The Bulldogs continued their road trip with a journey to Hanover, N.H., on Saturday to face the Ivy League favorite, Dartmouth. The Bulldogs maintained their high level of intensity from the previous night, but once again the team’s inability to stop opponents from going on large scoring runs hurt its chances at the end. Despite a career-high tying 17 points from Van Horne, the Elis could not overcome the balanced scoring attack from the Big Green, which featured five players in double figures.

Yale kept the game relatively close for much of the first half before Dartmouth showed why it is considered the top team in the league. With just over eight minutes left before halftime, the Big Green exploded for a 13-0 run en route to a 40-20 halftime advantage. Despite their best efforts, the Elis were not able to close the gap. Sharp-shooting Dartmouth cruised to a 17 point victory on 54 percent shooting from the field.

The Bulldogs return home this weekend to take on two teams with widely different levels of Ivy League success, Princeton (12-4, 3-0) and Penn (3-13, 1-2). After not having played a game in John J. Lee Amphitheater since Jan. 14, players said this weekend will provide a much-needed homecoming.

“Home court advantage is so great,” center Sarah Zoubek ’08 said. “Harvard fans are really nasty. It’s good to be back home.”