After finishing last season’s campaign with an overall record of 15–12 and claiming sixth place in the Ivy League standings, the Yale women’s basketball team will look to improve upon an up-and-down year as it tips off the 2017–18 season on Friday.
Yale will attempt to maintain the momentum it built towards the conclusion of last year’s campaign, when it won four out of its last five games. The Bulldogs are projected to finish fifth in the conference, according to the Ivy League media preseason poll. Despite coming off a season in which the team struggled offensively — finishing last in the conference in total assists — the Elis are extremely confident that they have the tools to be successful in conference play.
“Our goal going into this season is to win the Ivy League title,” captain and guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “At the end of our season last year we really adopted a nothing to lose mentality. We started to play more freely. That little stretch was just a small glimmer of our potential as a team.”
This season, the Bulldogs are seeking to improve their offensive output after ranking just seventh in the league in points per game and last in field goal percentage last year. They will rely on All-Ivy Honorable Mention forward Jen Berkowitz ’18, the only returner to average over 10 points a game last year, to continue her consistent level of play. Last season, Berkowitz averaging 13.4 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game, the top marks on the team.
Head coach Allison Guth noted that the team is committed to playing an up-tempo, fast-paced brand of basketball while focusing on being fundamentally sound. In addition, Guth outlined several areas of emphasis that the team will look to improve upon from last season, including defending aggressively without fouling, winning the rebounding battle, limiting turnovers, sharing the ball and converting opportunities at the free-throw line.
“Our offensive mindset is to push, push, push,” Santucci said. “If we can score in transition in six seconds, that is what we will do. Beyond that we really want to get the defense moving, get the ball from one side of the court to the other, inside to our bigs, and then back out to the perimeter.”
On the defensive end, the Bulldogs are led by reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year guard Tamara Simpson ’18, who led the league with 2.9 steals per game last season. With a full season to play before graduation, Simpson already holds the Yale career record for steals with 232.
The Elis will miss the sharpshooting of their graduated seniors, including Academic All-Ivy guard Lena Munzer ’17 and guard Meghan McIntyre ’17. Munzer was a huge presence on the offensive end, leading the team in assists and three pointers made, while finishing seventh in the Ivy League in three-point percentage. McIntyre was also deadly from long range, finishing second in three pointers made for the Bulldogs and sixth in the Ancient Eight. The Bulldogs will also miss valuable contributions off the bench from forward Elizabeth Haley ’17, who appeared in every game last season.
Despite losing these three seniors, 10 of the 14 players on the roster are returning, which allows the Elis to build on last year’s chemistry as soon as the season begins. The new additions to the team — Ale Aguirre ’21, Tori Andrew ’21, Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 and Alex Cade ’21 — are eager to begin their college careers and find their own niche on the court. Guth praised the veteran leadership of Berkowitz, Santucci and Simpson, noting that the addition of the four first years have immediately raised the level of talent and competitiveness in practice.
With the team graduating both Munzer and McIntyre, the two incoming guards, Aguirre and Andrew, will have big shoes to fill. Aguirre joins the team after finishing first in San Diego, second in California and seventh in the nation in career three pointers made during her high school career. Andrew set school records for double-doubles and three pointers made. The two will be required to space the floor for the Eli forwards to thrive in the paint.
“Both the team and the coaching staff are extremely supportive of the first years and encourage leadership from any team member,” Aguirre said. “We can bring new energy, talent and personality that will meld well with the already-successful team.”
The Bulldogs open the season at home against LIU-Brooklyn tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The Blackbirds finished the 2016–2017 with an overall record of 6–23, struggling against nonconference teams, against which they accumulated a 1–10 mark. Yale plays fourteen nonconference games over the next two months before starting Ivy League competition in January.
At the end of the double round-robin conference slate, the team with the best record wins the Ivy League title. For the second time in the conference’s history, the top four teams in the league will compete in a postseason tournament in which the victor earns a bid in the NCAA Division I tournament.
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