The women’s basketball team is back at John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend, striving for another victory at home after a winless weekend on the road.
The Elis (2-17, 1-7 Ivy) return to New Haven to close out the home portion of their schedule with a four-game home stand starting with Dartmouth (16-4, 7-0) Friday and Harvard (8-12, 4-3) Saturday. With both of its opponents performing well in the conference, Yale will have a tough weekend ahead.
Dartmouth, currently leading the Ivy League, holds a 43-14 overall record against Yale. The Big Green also won the last three encounters with the Elis, the most recent of which was a 77-60 decision on Jan. 28.
“[Dartmouth] is a very good team but they’re going to look past us.” guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 said. “We hope to catch them off guard and hopefully we can prove that we have gotten better since the last time we played them.”
Other team members sounded optimistic about their chances against Dartmouth because of their performance in the two teams’ last encounter in Hanover, N.H.
“We played well against them the first time around.” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “Everyone needs to step up and we need to play some good basketball to defeat them.”
The Big Green have the benefit of a solid veteran contingent leading them on the court. The Big Green boast four seniors on their lineup, while the Bulldogs only have forward Cassandra Harris ’06.
“[Dartmouth] is senior- laden,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “Seniors tend to play with a real sense of urgency. They have all those times of playing together and it does matter a little.”
Overcoming the Big Green will only be the first of Yale’s obstacles this weekend. Saturday, the Bulldogs will face Harvard, which stands fourth in the Ancient Eight and has a 26-22 overall record against Yale. The home crowd is looking forward to having long-time rivals in the Elm City. The Elis last played the Cantabs in Cambridge, Mass. on Jan. 27, losing the contest, 55-48.
The team seems to have spotted its errors from when it last played the Crimson and the Big Green and the Elis are working to fix these problems.
“We need to focus on our trouble areas.” Lillemoe said. “We’ve changed some things up since playing these two teams last time. It has been a good week of practice and we are looking forward to trying out what we have been working on.”
The area the Bulldogs need to concentrate on is their defense, Gobrecht and Lillemoe said.
“Transition defense is something that has been a challenge for us all year.” Gobrecht said. “We need to improve in that area. But we don’t have a particular area of strength. We just try to score any way we can and basically do the best job that we can.”
With the whole team chipping in, the Elis’ scoring has been spread out between the players.
This strategy worked well against Cornell, when the Bulldogs achieved their season-high total of 68 points. Captain Chinenye Okafor ’07 led the way, scoring a team high 17 points and pulling in 10 rebounds. Okafor, who was hampered through a large portion of the season due to a severe ankle injury, is showing signs of recovery.
“[Okafor] is playing more of her game.” Gobrecht said. “She is not back to a 100% yet but is getting there.”
Against Cornell, center Erica Davis ’07 had six points and ten rebounds. She was also the team’s top scorer against Penn and Columbia, despite being the sixth man in those two competitions.
Forward/center Julie Mantilla ’07 added eight points and three blocks against the Big Red. Her average of 1.33 blocks per game makes her third in the Ivy League. And guard Stephanie Marciano ’07 also notched up a career high 11 points. Her average over the last four games has been a full three points more than her season average.
With a lot of the players on the team performing well, Gobrecht said that no one or two specific players are pressured, which helps the whole team.
And with the way the team has come together, the Elis are hopeful that they can get their third win of the season.
“The chemistry amongst the players has been good,” Van Horne said. “We’re just going to use that to prove that we can compete.”