The first time around, Erica Davis ’07 ensured that Cornell didn’t even have a chance.
The senior center swatted away nine shots, and was just short of recording a program-first triple-double, in the Bulldogs’ (11-14, 4-6 Ivy) last match against Cornell (10-13, 6-4). Her performance led the Elis to a victory against the then-Ivy League leader, a particularly impressive feat coming off a loss the night before.
The Elis are set to tip off against the Big Red — now in third place — in Ithaca, N.Y. tonight at 7 p.m., after losing two on the road. The Bulldogs are also in for a rematch against seventh-place Columbia (7-17, 3-7), whose first league win came against the Elis on Feb. 9, tomorrow at 7 p.m.
These final two road games will close out the Bulldogs’ away schedule, which has brought them nothing but misery this season, before they return home for their farewell weekend at John J. Lee Amphitheater. But first they have to tour the Empire State and try for that elusive first win on the road.
“We just want to win,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “Whether it’s on the road or at home is not so much the issue. We want to play like we were playing through our best stretch this year.”
When Cornell took the court against the Elis in New Haven, the visitors played a very fast game and had an almost omnipresent defense that the Bulldogs had a tough time getting used to. Eventually, the home team was able to flourish under the Big Red’s defensive pressure, beating their opponents by 16 points.
Stemming the play of Cornell’s two inside players will give Eli centers a reason to look like goalies. The Big Red boasts post players Jeomi Maduka and Moina Snyder, who have torn up the league in defensive rebounds and blocked shots, providing a challenge for Davis and center Sara McCollum ’08 on the offensive end. But the Big Red duo also leads its squad in points per game and field goal percentage, so Davis and McCollum will not have time to rest on the defense, either.
“It’s a matter of the posts going in really hard,” Davis said. “We won’t necessarily score the first time that the ball goes in, but on kicking the ball back is when we are going to get it to the basket.”
After the long trip upstate, the Elis will make a pit stop in Manhattan before traveling the final stretch back to New Haven for the last time this season. The Elis will face off against the Lions, to whom they have fallen in their last three matchups, dating back to March 2004.
When Columbia took the court in New Haven, their guards gave Eli point guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 a hard time, sticking tight on defense and allowing the league-runner-up for assists to deal just three balls. The home team’s backcourt play will be the largest area of concern for the Elis because of Cornell’s tight, limiting defense as well as their ability to get the ball inside.
The Lions’ outside players also know how to find the basket: Brittney Carfora and Megan Griffith together sink the ball .414 percent of the time.
“They’re very athletic guards,” guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 said. “But we’re going to change our style of defense a little bit to contain them. We’re not going to let them affect our game as much this time.”
The Elis will also have to worry about their own play in the coming games. Since the injury to captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 and her subsequent reduced playing time, the Bulldogs have had trouble getting and keeping possession of the ball, Gobrecht said.
Just last weekend, the squad’s high number of turnovers and inability to get boards hurt them in games against Dartmouth and Harvard. The Bulldogs gave up 46 points against the Big Green and the Cantabs by turning the ball over a combined 45 times, while their opponents only lost possession 34 times. Also hindering their ability to create opportunities, the Elis were out-rebounded by the Crimson and no Yale player grabbed more than six boards in either of the two away games.
“Rebounding has been a concern for us since we lost the Ivy League’s top rebounder [in Okafor],” Gobrecht said. “We have to get a lot more people involved in getting some more possessions for us.”
The Bulldogs will have to work through some of their past mistakes to eke out their first conference win away from New Haven.