Clara Mokri

The Yale women’s basketball team salvaged its up-and-down Ivy League campaign with upset wins over Penn and Harvard. But after falling a game short of qualifying for the playoffs, it was left wanting more.

Moreover, losing the team’s emotional leader and go-to scoring option off the dribble in Lena Munzer ’17 — as well as captain Elizabeth Haley ’17 and sharpshooter Meghan McIntyre ’17 — will only make the journey to Ivy Madness next season that much tougher.

But a promising crop of recruits could help the Elis both compensate for those key graduating players and address the issues that left the Elis just short in 2016–17. In Alex Cade and Ellen Margaret Andrews, Yale will add to its arsenal two versatile and aggressive playmakers whose energy will immediately blend with the fast-paced style of head coach Allison Guth. Tori Andrew and Alessandra Aguirre, on the other hand, will provide some much-needed penetration and perimeter shooting, which was a key weakness for a Bulldog team that finished second to last in three-point shooting in the Ancient Eight. All four recruits have accepted their early action offers of admission, they told the News.

“Being able to go to a program that I feel will definitely grow in the coming years [was important to me],” Cade said of her decision to come to New Haven. “I wanted to be able to be a big part of helping a team grow.”

Guth, who could not be reached for comment, showed no hesitation in giving freshmen big minutes this past season — guard Megan Gorman ’20 started in her first 20 games — so it should come as no surprise if the class of 2021 makes an immediate impact in the 2017–18 campaign.

Guth’s flavor of basketball starts and ends with energy, especially on the defensive end. As her in-your-face zone defense and pressure grew more effective over the course of the season, Yale began racking up impressive wins. In its six Ivy League victories, the team conceded an average of fewer than 49 points per game.

Enter into the mix the 6-foot-1 Cade, and Yale’s defense could become even more formidable in the season to come. The Cleveland, Ohio native’s long frame can clog up the passing lanes for opposing teams and swallow up shots close to the rim. After recording a career triple-double with points, rebounds and blocks during her four seasons at Laurel High School, Cade can help solidify Yale’s back line with interior defense.

Forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 will anchor the Elis in the paint, but Cade could add a different look to the frontcourt and command attention both inside and in transition, where she says she is “fast for [her] height.” Though Cade’s jump shot may need some refining, it is clear she already has the mind-set of a hard-nosed Guth player.

“I’m really aggressive and if you’re going to take that ball from me, it’s going to be hard,” Cade said. “I’m really just excited to bring some energy, some rebounding, and if anything, just to bring my aggressiveness and help others do better.”

Another key addition to the defense will be Andrews, who can use her constant activity to wreak havoc and cause turnovers.  But where this Dallas star can really do her damage is in the transition game. With her propensity to run, any turnover can ignite a sometimes-stagnant Bulldog offense in transition.

Andrews played a mix of positions throughout high school from the shooting guard spot to power forward, so she has developed an all-around game that can help the Elis on both ends of the floor. With Munzer gone, Guth will be looking for someone to penetrate and set up the rest of the team.  Still, Andrews’s outside shot, like Cade’s, will need work before it begins to scare opposing teams.

“[Yale] definitely likes to push the ball up the court with a fast-paced style, which I really like,” Andrews said. “I’m a track athlete, so I try to use my speed to help me, so hopefully that will translate well.”

Moving from the inside out, Tori Andrew offers Guth and her staff a pure perimeter scorer. With range extending beyond the three-point line, the Minnesotan will look to fill the void left by the graduation of McIntyre, Yale’s most prolific shooter this season. For a team that at times struggled with ball movement and was susceptible to over-penetration, Yale can certainly use another option on the wing.

Although she can score with ease from beyond the arc, Andrew — who was originally recruited by the Elis’ previous head coach, Chris Gobrecht — will be hard at work to improve other facets of her offensive game before she arrives in New Haven. Apart from set plays to get shooters open, Yale struggled in creating offense in a half-court set.

“I’ll definitely be working on my mid-range game,” Andrew said. “I think adding that mid-range game will give me a little more versatility and a little bit of a leg up coming into the college game.”

Teaming up with Andrew in the backcourt will be Alessandra Aguirre, another sharpshooter who garnered national attention with her shooting prowess. As an ESPNW article reported, Aguirre totaled 15 threes and 50 points in just over a half of action during one of her high school games. But Aguirre is not just a shooter. She prides herself in her ability to create and will look to help Yale in a league full of young, explosive guards.

According to Aguirre, she set her heart on coming to Yale at a very young age: After attending a basketball camp in New Haven in eighth grade, the 5-foot-9 guard dreamt of playing basketball in blue and white. Five years later, she’s followed through and will live out her dream in a few short months.

As with every incoming class, the excitement is real and the possibilities endless. But with more than half a year until official play resumes, only time will tell if these recruits will take Yale basketball to the next level.

Bulldogs freshmen combined for 22 starts in the 2016–17 season, with Gorman accounting for all but one of the starts.