When the women’s basketball team takes the floor Friday night, it will turn for leadership to Michelle Cashen ’12, its one constant presence from the last four years. The captain is the only Bulldog to have played in each of the past four seasons and has only missed three of the 99 games that the team has played since she arrived three years ago.

This type of commitment was not always there, though, Cashen said. Her dedication to the sport has grown tremendously over the decade and a half since she first picked up a basketball, but this passion was certainly not love at first sight.

“According to my mom, I didn’t want anything to do with the sport when she first tried introducing me to the game,” Cashen said. “Apparently when she took me to the kiddie clinics, I was too scared to play because I thought we were using the standardized sized hoops. Little did I know they had miniature versions for us. But she took me back the following year and I guess I’ve been playing ever since.”

Cashen has earned All-Ivy Honors for all three of her completed seasons and is in the top five on the team in five statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

Her love of sports was something first learned at home. Born into an athletic family, her drive and talents, she said, were developed as part of her upbringing.

“My parents especially have had a major influence on my basketball career,” Cashen said. “My mom played tennis in college, and my dad played football and basketball in high school. Their competitiveness and passion for athletics has definitely been instilled in me.”

Cashen was a standout at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. and was named most valuable player of her team both her junior and senior years. Her talents for leadership were apparent, and she was named captain of that team in her final season as well.

In a NY1 News scholar-athlete report published during Cashen’s senior year of high school, her former coach Artie LaGreca praised her ability to motivate the team.

“On the court she’s a leader,” LaGreca said of Cashen. “She can lead by example and, for the most part, she’s very encouraging with her teammates, knows when to get on them.”

Equally high praise could be heard from Cashen’s current coach, Chris Gobrecht.

With only two seniors on this year’s team and five freshmen or sophomores playing more than 10 minutes, Cashen’s veteran presence is all the more important, Gobrecht said, especially as the team heads into conference play.

“Michelle has been such a steadying force for us on the court this season,” Gobrecht said. “She is really helping the younger players learn and fit into our system.”

When she arrived at Yale as a freshman, Cashen had an immediate impact. She played in every game that season and started in five of them. She averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and was selected to the All-Ivy Rookie Team. Cashen earned a regular starting role her second season and followed up her rookie season honors by making the All-Ivy Second Team, an honor which placed her among the top 10 players in the Ivy League.

During her junior year, Cashen played on one of the most successful Yale teams in recent memory, a team that won a shocking 91–85 victory over No. 14 Florida State.

Cashen recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds in that game, and she added five assists to help the Bulldogs achieve what Gobrecht said was the greatest win in Yale women’s basketball history.

“Unbelievable,” Cashen said of the experience. “It was the best offensive game I think we’ve ever played. Nothing, besides maybe winning an Ivy League championship, can compete with that moment.”

After finishing second last year in the conference, the team kicks off its Ivy League schedule Friday with its eyes set on the title and Cashen at its helm. The senior has 14 games left in her regular season career and one final shot with her team at that ultimate prize.

“We’re fired up,” she said. “We gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about ourselves [this season]. Now it’s time to use that experience against other talented teams in the league.”