The Bulldogs travel to Cambridge tonight for what might be the most important game of their season thus far.
A week after earning a decisive 10-point victory at Brown in their first Ivy League game of the season, the Elis (9–7, 1–1 Ivy) fell to the Bears in their second conference game, a tightly contested match that ended in a heartbreaking 60–55 loss. Even this one loss, especially so early in the season, puts Yale’s title hopes in jeopardy and raises the stakes in tonight’s game against Harvard (8–7, 1–0 Ivy).
“We need to win to stay in the running for the Ivy League title,” captain Michelle Cashen ’12 said. “One loss doesn’t put us out of the running, but every game counts now.”
The Crimson, who finished tied for second with the Bulldogs in the Ivy League last season, also aspire to take the league title.
The preseason Ivy League poll picked Harvard to finish second and Yale third, but both teams will be chasing two-time defending champion Princeton. The Tigers (13–4, 3–0 Ivy) have only one conference loss in the past two seasons and are the clear frontrunners once again this year. Because the Ivy League is the only remaining Division I conference that does not have a playoff system, the league championship and the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid go to the team with the most league wins. The Bulldogs need every win they can get if they hope to catch Princeton.
Last season the Elis completed the season sweep of Harvard for the first time since 1994, with convincing wins of 11 and 12 points against the Cantabs. These wins gave Yale the tiebreaker over Harvard that sent the Bulldogs to their first ever National Invitational Tournament. If the two teams finished tied for second again, the outcome of tonight’s contest could determine which team is awarded the postseason bid.
To ensure that this game does go their way, the Elis will look to guard Sarah Halejian ’15 to continue the high level of play she has exhibited over the past few weeks. Halejian has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for three straight weeks and is averaging 14.5 points and 2.5 assists per game over that stretch. The freshman stepped into a starting role when the team faced the University of Houston in November. She has continued to excel over the past few weeks, as evidenced by the Rookie of the Week honors. Most recently she had 13 points, three rebounds and two steals in last week’s loss to Brown.
That loss was particularly disappointing, not only because of the blow it dealt to Yale’s title hopes, but also because the Elis had defeated the Bears so handily the week before. The team was done in by a poor shooting night and a failure to control the possession game, but Halejian said they are determined to look past it.
“We’re looking forward and are going to try to just put Friday behind us,” Halejian said earlier this week. “We need to have a good week of practice and make sure that we are ready for Harvard on Friday.”
The Crimson are led by its backcourt duo of Brogan Berry and Christine Clark. The alliterative pair is averaging 28 points and seven assists per game together.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Lavietes Pavilion.