Courtesy of Sam Rubin

As the Yale women’s basketball team heads into the 2018-19 season, it hopes to build off a historic run — last year, the Bulldogs collected a record-setting 19 wins and became the first women’s team in Ivy League history to claim an out-of-conference postseason title.

Led by captain Gabby Nelson ’19, all-Ivy honorable mention point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 and head coach Allison Guth, the Bulldogs aim to improve on last year’s result — arguably the team’s most successful season ever. In her third season at the helm, Guth coached her team to eight wins and six losses in league play, in addition to the team’s first-ever berth in the Ivy League Tournament.

The Bulldogs not only surpassed the season wins record set by the 1979–80 squad that triumphed in 17 contests, but they also defeated league champion Dartmouth and long-time nemesis Harvard along the way. A win against Princeton also snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Tigers.

“We’re a 20-plus win team,” Nelson, a guard and forward, said. “Last season was the most [wins] in our history, but it still seemed like there were games we look back on that we could’ve won.”

Despite last season’s successes, the Elis lost several close contests against teams from Power Five conferences, including a six-point loss to Kansas and a four-point heartbreaker to Indiana. Nelson stressed the importance of nonconference games in deciding postseason tournament selections.

One of the biggest storylines this season will be how the Bulldogs fill the defensive void left by two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year guard Tamara Simpson ’18, who led the conference with 79 steals in her final season. Simpson’s presence in the lineup allowed the Elis to play to her strength with a high pressure, on-the-line, up-the-line defense. Now without Simpson, the coaching staff has introduced a new defensive system.

“What we’re working on this year is defending as a unit together,” Guth said. “We really want to force teams to take contested jumpers and low-percentage shots by guarding our yard in the paint and at the rim.”

The Bulldogs will implement a “pack-line” defense, forcing teams to move the ball around the perimeter in hopes of holding opponents under 60 points per game. They will also count on Barahman’s speed along with the length and rim protection of five-star ESPN recruit and Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year, 6-foot-5 forward Camilla Emsbo ’22.

On the offensive end, the Bulldogs will miss recent graduate and first-time All-Ivy Selection forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 who ranked first in the conference, shooting over fifty percent from the field. But with Barahman, sharpshooting wing Tori Andrew ’21 and forward and News staff reporter Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 returning for the Elis, the Bulldogs have plenty of scoring options.

“Our mentality going into this season will be about filling the role-players we lost, but keeping the mindset that each season has a new life of its own,” Barahman said. “We have the pieces and the talent.”

Yale is one of 16 teams to be selected for the 25th Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Bulldogs are among a competitive pool that includes three teams — Marquette, Miami and Nicholls State — that made appearances in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The Bulldogs were also picked fourth in the 2018–19 Ivy League women’s basketball preseason media poll behind Penn, Harvard and the defending league champion Princeton.

The Elis eye a return to the Ivy League Tournament, which would be just their second appearance in team history. The path to the tournament will not be easy, as Princeton returns four of five starters, including Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie. Additionally, four of the Crimson’s five leading scorers will be back this season to protect Harvard’s undefeated home record, while the Quakers will seek redemption after falling short in the Ivy Tournament as runners-up.

Raising the stakes for the Bulldogs, the 2019 Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments will be contested at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater, where the top four teams will compete for the right to represent the Ancient Eight in the NCAA Tournament in March.

The Bulldogs have not won the Ivy crown since 1979, the lone conference title in the program’s history.

Julianna Lai | julianna.lai@yale.edu .