On Nov. 15, the Yale women’s basketball team will play St. John’s at home — the first of 28 games in its 2014–15 season.
Having finished its 2013-14 campaign with a 13–15 record (7–7 Ivy), the Bulldogs enter this season ranked fourth in the preseason poll, trailing behind Princeton and Penn, who tied for first, and Harvard.
St. John’s will be one of the strongest opponents the Bulldogs face this season.
Currently ranked second in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, St. John’s finished last season with a record of 23–11 (13–5 Big East), second in the conference. But only two of the Red Storm’s starters will return this year after three graduated. One of the two returners, however, is standout junior guard Aliyyah Handford.
Averaging 16.7 points per game last season, Handford was named to the 2013–14 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American Honorable Mention as well as the 2013-14 All-Big East First Team.
“We are all extremely excited for our first game of the year, just like we are every year,” Lena Munzer ’17 said. “However, I think playing a team that had as much success as St. John’s did is definitely adding to this excitement. We know we are going up against a tough team, and it’s going to take a ton of energy and focus to come away with the win.”
However, the Bulldogs will prove to be tough contenders. Lone senior and captain Sarah Halejian ’15 said that the team is prepared and extremely excited for its home opener.
A two-time First-team All-Ivy player, Halejian averaged 15.5 points per game and started all 28 games last season. Joining her are two other returning starters, Meredith Boardman ’16 and Munzer. With the most playing experience of all forwards on the team, Boardman started 21 of 28 games last season with a 5.1 points-per-game average, enough for 12th in the Ivy League. Munzer, a guard, also made a significant impact in her inaugural season with a 5.5 points-per-game average, fourth on the team and the most among the freshman class.
The Elis will have a strong offense going into the game against St. John’s. Halejian and Munzer will be joined by Nyasha Sarju ’16 — who made 39.8 percent of her field goals and 95.5 percent of free throws during her sophomore campaign — as well as Whitney Wyckoff ’16, winner of the Most Improved Player award last season.
Though Yale lost four players to the graduating class, including three guards and one forward, Halejian is confident that the incoming freshman will help carry the team to success.
“The freshman have played well from the very beginning,” Halejian said.
Newcomer Tamara Simpson ’18 will likely be a threat on the court, having accumulated over 2,000 career points prior to Yale. Six-foot-two forward Jen Berkowitz ’18, who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game in her final high school season, will also be an instrumental player on defense.
Halejian said that the team has been training to prepare for a very strong opponent.
“Since we will be facing a very athletic St. John’s team, we have been focusing on remaining fundamentally sound on offense and defending penetration on defense,” Halejian said.
Halejian added that while the team is confident in its ability to compete against St. John’s, the players understand that Saturday is going to be a battle for them.
The Bulldogs will host St. John’s this Saturday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m.