Nyasha Sarju ’16 has been a valuable player for the Yale Women’s Basketball team this season, scoring double digits in the Elis’ last three games. In the Ivy opener win against Brown, Sarju was the second top scorer with 13 points. The News spoke with Sarju about the changes in her role on the team after the injury of captain Sarah Halejian, the win against Brown in their Ivy opener and her expectations for the upcoming games.
Q How does it feel to be one of the few juniors on the team, and the oldest now that lone senior Captain is out for the season?
A Sarah was obviously already the only senior prior to the injury so the juniors have had a role of leadership this year just being that there was only one senior. I don’t really feel that much different in terms of what my role is on the team as a member but I do think that her getting injured woke everybody up to take more responsibility and to realize how big the role is that we have to play now, more so on the court than off the court. In terms of basketball and playing, a lot of us have accepted the fact that it’s going to take more of an effort from everybody for us to succeed.
Q How has the program changed with Halejian’s absence, both on and off the court?
A She’s actually still around all the time and she’s kind of another coach now; she has a lot of great basketball insight. On the court it’s different — we don’t have that one person we can go to and pull us out of a situation, and we’ve had to step up. It’s hard not having her, and its sad because she loves basketball and loves playing more than anyone that I know and her not being able to play is the toughest part.
Q If not, who do you feel has been stepping up to a leadership role now?
A Whitney [Wyckoff ’16] steps up a lot as a leader and I think she’s been doing that this year more and in a really positive way. The PG is usually the person to lead the team more and I think even though she’s not playing PG, she’s playing that role of calling everyone together and lighting a fire under us to regroup and to produce. But everyone has stepped up in a huge way.
Q How did the team feel before going in to its first Ivy League game? Did you guys expect the result?
A I think we were expecting to have to play a good game and to be a good team. I don’t know that we talk about winning prior to a game — that’s not a consideration ever. We were expecting to follow what we did in the practices and were excited about starting ivy play like every team is. I think we did a good number of things well. They missed layups that they probably won’t miss this time, and we need to play better defense. Some of it was our play and some was stuff that they’re going to raise their level. The game also showed how many people on our team can contribute in different ways.
Q How is the team morale now that you played so well against Brown?
A I think that morale is probably less important than persistent commitment to what we’re trying to do. It’s a tough ivy season; it’s just every game and every practice matters and I think we know that we have the ability to do good things in this league but we have to keep wanting. We need to remember the fact that it’s not going to be easy and it takes a consistent effort in order to produce a game like that or a better game, which we’re going to need to do.
Q In the last three games, you have scored in the double digits. What do you think has caused this improvement, and how are you feeling about your performance?
A I think my teammates find me really well by giving me good passes. The coach is confident in my ability to shoot the ball and I’ve been trying to be more aware of situations. My ability to score comes from the fact that everyone is a threat on our team.
Q Against Brown, the team played very well defensively. How can you keep that going in future Ivy games?
A We want to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Our ability to create turnovers defines us, and I hope we can continue that against other teams. I think that is something that we want to do, and that we work on. Hopefully that doesn’t change. In terms of rebounding, we need to box out better, and we need to continue having a sense of urgency and tenacity in practice and that will carry over in the game.