Currently riding a season-best four-game winning streak, the Yale women’s basketball team will host Columbia and Cornell at home on Friday and Sunday.
The Bulldogs (8–8, 2–0 Ivy) are coming off of a successful start to Ivy play, having defeated Brown both at home 66–49 and once again in Providence 79–69. In its most recent away game in Providence, the team shot a season-high 54.3 percent from the field, and center Emmy Allen ’16 scored a team and career-high 17 points to make the Bulldogs 2–0 in the Ivy League.
“This is our first Ivy weekend with two games, so it is definitely a tougher challenge than we have faced thus far,” guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said. “We think if we bring our pressure, play together, rebound the ball and push in transition, we will put ourselves in a situation to be successful.”
After lone senior and captain Sarah Halejian ’15 was forced off the court due to a season-ending ACL injury, two underclassmen have stepped up to bolster the team’s offense. Guard Katie Werner ’17 leads all active Yale players with 9.7 points per game, immediately followed by guard Tamara Simpson ’18 at 8.8 points per contest. Additionally, Werner is the only player to have started all 16 games.
Yale’s pressure defense has also been crucial in the team’s recent winning streak against Maine, Saint Peter’s and Brown, limiting the Bulldogs’ opponent to under 60 points in all but one game. In addition, the Bulldogs caused over 15 turnovers in each of their last three games and currently rank second in caused turnovers in the Ivy League at 17.6.
Friday’s opponent, Columbia (6–10, 0–2), enters having lost both Ivy games against Cornell and having put up only 39 points in its away game in Ithaca. A pair of underclassmen Lions, sophomore guard Tori Oliver and freshman forward Camille Zimmerman, currently lead the team in average points per game with 17.6 and 14.5, respectively. Oliver has started all 16 games for Columbia and ranks second in scoring in the Ivy League. Joining Oliver and Zimmerman in double-digit scoring is freshman guard Alexa Giuliano, who averages 10.6 points per game and ranks third on the team.
Those three players have combined for 66.2 percent of Columbia’s scoring, meaning that it will be crucial for the Elis to shut down this trio.
“We know Columbia has a lot of young talent, and they definitely are not the same team as last year,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “We know it’s going to be a battle, but as long as we play our game we will be successful.”
In comparison, Cornell will likely be the more difficult opponent of the weekend. The Big Red (11–5, 2–0), like the Bulldogs, rides in on a four-game winning streak, having defeated Youngstown State, Howard and travel partner Columbia twice. Cornell currently ranks second in shooting in the Ivy League at 40 percent. Sophomore forward Nia Marshall, a three-time Ivy League Player of the Week winner, leads the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game, enough for third in the Ivy League. Fellow sophomore guard Nicholle Aston follows her in double-digit scoring at 11.9 points per game.
In preparation for the next two games, the Bulldogs are targeting their offense and defense to strike Columbia and Cornell right from the start.
“Winning our first two Ivy games was very exciting for us as a team, however we still have to work our hardest and be fully dialed-in if we want this streak to continue,” Simpson said. “In practice this week, we are really focusing on cleaning up our offense and tweaking our pressure defense in order to really go after Columbia and Cornell right from the beginning of the game.”
Yale will compete against Columbia at home this Friday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.