In the final weekend of the season, the women’s basketball team will say goodbye to two seniors while looking for wins against Penn and Princeton, who are knotted at fourth in the conference.
The Quakers (10-14, 5-6 Ivy) boast three impressive seniors of their own, and will take the court at 7 p.m. at Payne Whitney Gymnasium tonight. Tomorrow, the Elis (11-15, 4-8) will face the Tigers (11-14, 5-6), who bring to John J. Lee Amphitheater the Ivy League’s best blockers and some of its most efficient shooters in a senior-night showdown.
The Bulldogs, who began January red-hot on their longest winning streak in years, have cooled down considerably in February and now will likely finish their season in the bottom half of the Ancient Eight.
Penn — who only has one league win away from the Palestra — will have to face the Elis in the Elm City, where Yale has lost only one Ancient Eight contest this season. But Yale will also be battling its own history, because the squad has not recorded a sweep of the Quakers since the 1997-’98 season.
In this year’s penultimate game, three of Penn’s seniors will keep the Bulldogs on their toes. One of those seniors, point guard Joey Rhoads, will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend, guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said.
“She’s smaller so we’re going to try and stay up with her and control her vision,” she said. “She’s also really quick and has a great outside shot.”
On top of Rhoads’ squad-leading 15 points per game, Eli center Erica Davis ’07 will have her hands full under the basket. Guard Lauren Pears’ 4.33 assists per game are good for second in conference standings, and once she serves the ball to senior Monica Naltner — who matches Rhoads’ team-leading scoring mark — the Bulldogs’ centers will have to make the most of their 3.65 blocks per game.
Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said that Penn’s size and players match up against the Elis very well, but Naltner and Rhoads are still a threat on the court.
“Penn has got the two-headed monster,” she said. “Those two are very good players and you just have to do your best to contain them. They are all over the floor and they are never in the same place twice.”
Though the Killer P’s are level in the middle of the conference, the Tigers’ performance this season is much more impressive than Penn’s, wins and losses aside.
The majority of Princeton’s points come from forward Meagan Cowher, but their guards and posts do most of the work. The squad just tops Yale in the conference with 3.68 blocks per game, largely due to post player Ariel Rogers, making the Elis’ usually dominant rebounding critically important tomorrow. Even more worrisome for the home team, the Tiger guards know how to take care of the ball. They specialize in finding teammates with an open look at the basket and rarely turn the ball over.
But the Bulldogs have backcourt players to rival Princeton’s. Stephanie Marciano ’08 and Jamie Van Horne ’09 are experts at finding the basket from beyond the three point line and Melissa Colborne ’10 — who was crowned with multiple Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors this season — hits her shots to the tune of 11 points per game.
“We’ve been working on ways to push the ball and to always be aggressive in running our plays,” Davis said. “It helps that we have great guards who can create shots and can intuitively keep up spontaneous action before going into an offensive set.”
Davis and captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07, will have to fight for boards against the Ancient Eight’s top defensive rebounding team. Yale’s rebounding has been an area of concern in recent games following an injury to Okafor, though she still leads the conference in offensive rebounds.
Along with a duo of challenging matchups against the Killer P’s, a ceremony is in store this weekend for Davis and Okafor, the Bulldogs’ graduating members.
Gobrecht said it was hard to see the pair leave because of Davis’ recent successes and Okafor’s contributions to the program throughout her Yale career.
“The team has made such huge strides this year and it has been an extremely competitive season of basketball,” she said. “I know that the team wants very much to just finish it off with a statement of who we have become and what this program has become.”