As season openers go, winning one for the first time in six years is certainly an achievement. But for the women’s basketball team on Saturday night, it wasn’t just about winning — it was the way the team won.
Up by as much as 18 points, the Bulldogs fended off a furious rally from perennial Patriot League powerhouse Holy Cross in the final minute to triumph by a basket, 65-63.
“It was a great game for us — it shouldn’t have been this close, but holding on to the lead was a great positive for us,” captain and guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 said. “Basketball is a game of runs and if we don’t let opponents get those runs against us, we can be pretty good.”
Yale (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) certainly had its hands full in trying to contain a Holy Cross (0-1) run with the clock winding down. In the final minute alone, with Yale ahead 60-52, the Crusaders hit three free-throws, a layup, a three-point play and then, with two seconds left, a three-pointer to pull within two points. Briana McFadden, who had six points in that span and finished with 24 points for Holy Cross, was instrumental to the run. But guard Yoyo Greenfield ’11 made five clutch free throws and when Yale inbounded the ball with two seconds to go, the game was over.
“Knowing how much those free-throws meant to us, I was just trying to be confident when I stepped up to the line,” Greenfield said. “I wanted to be there, to have that extra bit of responsibility of putting the game out of reach for them.”
On paper the Elis won by two, but head coach Chris Gobrecht said that was a little misleading.
“Don’t let the score fool you; we played a lot better than the scoreboard reflected,” she said. “We were good enough to get a big lead and obviously, we weren’t happy with their comeback, but we never lost control of the game.”
Indeed, Yale controlled almost the entire game. Taking a team-oriented, fast-paced approach, the Elis pushed the ball up the court and capitalize on transition baskets. At the same time, the Bulldogs also played stifling defense, limiting the Crusaders to only 34.9 percent shooting. Forward Mady Gobrecht ’11 dominated in the paint, tallying 11 rebounds in only 21 minutes until a shoulder injury forced her out of the game in the second half.
“I’m a lot stronger this year and went after the ball aggressively,” Gobrecht said. “Rebounding is a big part of my game and that was my primary focus of the night.”
That kind of focus on rebounding is especially important for the team this year because transition baskets cannot happen without a strong rebounder to ignite the break. On Saturday, all the pieces fell into place and that kind of well-rounded, high-energy play is exactly the identity that Chris Gobrecht wants for the team.
“When it’s November, you’re mostly concerned with being the team you want to be, so there was an emphasis on pushing the ball as much as possible,” she said. “We got a lot of transition baskets and we scored a lot before their defense had set early in the game.”
With the win, Chris Gobrecht earned the her 450th win. In her fourth season at Yale, she brings coaching experience from elite basketball institutions in the ACC and Pac-10 to an up-and-coming program that has continuously gotten better throughout her tenure. If the team can continue playing the way Gobrecht envisioned, it is clear the Bulldogs could be a force to be reckoned with in the league this year.
“It was a real ‘Yale’ kind of win, a team victory,” she said. “I’m really happy for the team and I hope it continues into the rest of the season.”