At the onset of a new season, the women’s basketball team looks to begin to erase the memories of last year’s dreadful campaign with a win against a Patriot League powerhouse.
Yale will face off against Holy Cross in its first game of the year tonight in Worcester, Mass. The season premiere has the potential to set the tone for the whole non-conference campaign, so the Bulldogs are looking to start off this season better than they did last year, when New Hampshire shut them down, 75-59, in the 2005-’06 opener.
In an attempt to redefine itself out of the ruin of last season, Yale put together a tough preseason schedule that will test the team before it takes on some formidable Ivy opponents like Brown, Princeton and Dartmouth starting in January.
As the Elis get set to go up against a Crusaders team that went deep into the Patriot League playoffs last year, they will have little choice but to bring their A-game from the first whistle.
“We know that they are always very successful,” guard Emily St. Jean ’09 said. “It will be a good test for us.”
The Crusaders’ penetrating offense will test the Bulldogs’ defense. Holy Cross led the Patriot League last year in assists with 15.47 per game, and was third in field goal percentage (.400) behind Army and Navy. Their defense is also more than capable, leading the 2005-’06 season in steals with an average of 10.43 per game.
The Bulldogs will have to work on an offensive presence that pulled up the rear in almost every offensive category in the Ivy League last year. Last year, the Elis’ scoring offense was last in the league, averaging only 51.4 points per game. Their field goal percentage of .353 ranked them seventh, only higher than Columbia. Despite their woes on the attack, the Bulldogs’ scoring defense was fourth to the three league forerunners, with an average of 64.5 points per game.
The two teams have different styles of protecting the basket: The Bulldogs play a one-on-one defense but will face a Crusaders team that sticks by the zone.
“We both play a real aggressive, up-tempo game,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “But they run more patterns in the offense, and they do junk defense while we have a player-to-player defense.”
Offensively, the Crusaders appear to have the edge over the Elis’ lackluster 2005-’06 offense, a difference that is apparent in the contrast between the teams’ leaders. The Crusaders’ Kaitlin Foley led the team in points with 447 last season, 207 more than Yale leader captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07. Foley also led the Holy Cross squad in free throws (117) and field goals (180). Forward Sara McCollum ’08 led the Bulldogs in free throws by racking up just 69, and Okafor led the squad with 96 field goals.
But the Bulldogs are hoping that with the new season, their offense will be revived and they will have more of a foothold in the Ivy League race this year.
“They are one of the powers in New England,” Gobrecht said. “It’s important to keep perspective on the difficulty of the preseason and remember that when we open on Jan. 13 against Brown that that’s what we’re ready for.”
After a disastrous campaign last year, Gobrecht said, the team is in the building stages. With five incoming freshmen, some new blood may help revitalize the squad so they start winning games.
On the cusp of a new season, the Elis want to start off with a win against the Crusaders in their opener. Okafor summed up the Elis’ strategy going in to the game.
“We are playing against a very good team,” she said. “We really have to be able to rebound every single time.”