With all five starters returning from last season, the Yale women’s basketball team is entering the 2019–20 campaign with high expectations. Following a disappointing end to last season, this year’s team is hungry for results.
Despite finishing with a 6–8 record in conference play and failing to qualify for the Ivy tournament last season, the Elis are prepared to assert themselves as a legitimate contender in the conference this year. The current three-year streak of winning 15 or more games a season represents the longest in Yale women’s basketball history. But despite a strong start to Ivy League play last year with four wins in the first five games, the Bulldogs’ success tapered off as they tallied only two conference wins in the next nine games. If the Elis can play to their potential throughout the campaign, they will undoubtedly turn heads come tournament time. Yale’s first challenge of the season comes on Tuesday against Providence.
“We are really excited about this season, especially since our disappointment in our finish last season and not making it to the Ivy League tournament,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “That is something that is definitely fueling us … I am confident we have all the pieces of the puzzle to top the Ivy League this year and make it to the Ivy League tournament.”
The team is preparing for the rigor of Ivy play with a non-conference schedule featuring 10 teams that played in either the NCAA tournament or the WNIT last season.
Among the non-conference fixtures, the most notable contests are against UCLA and UNC. UCLA, currently ranked No. 11, earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament last season after emerging from the Pac-12 with an at-large bid. The Elis face an equally tough opponent in the Tar Heels, a perennial ACC powerhouse. Yale also takes on Quinnipiac, who went a perfect 18–0 in the MAAC last year en route to qualifying for the Big Dance.
In the latter half of the season, the focus will turn to taking down its Ivy foes. In the League’s preseason poll, Yale earned the No. 4 spot, trailing Princeton, Penn and Harvard. Since only four teams qualify for the Ivy tournament, the Bulldogs must excel during conference play to make it to the postseason.
Last year’s campaign saw the Elis take down Princeton in overtime 96–86 in February. However, come March, the Elis fell to the Tigers in the crucial tournament-qualifying game that brought Yale’s season to a close.
Princeton, who won the Ancient Eight last season and fell to No. 17 Kentucky in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, is the favorite to win the league alongside Penn. The Quakers posted a 12–2 record in conference play and lost to the Tigers in the Ivy Madness championship.
In anticipation of this season’s challenging fixtures, the team has taken a novel approach during its preseason training. After failing to maintain high shooting percentages last season, the Elis have focused almost entirely on this aspect of the game over the past two-and-a-half months.
“Every shot by every player was tracked and charted throughout preseason, and we were given a comprehensive chart at the end of preseason that showed each player’s shooting percentage from three-point attempts, two-point attempts and free throws, and how those percentages varied week by week,” guard Tori Andrew ’21 said. “We think last year we had a pretty tough team, but our shot-making ability was something upon which we knew we needed to improve.”
The squad will be led by captain Megan Gorman ’20, Barahman and Andrew, among others. Barahman, who garnered first-team All-Ivy honors in 2018, led the league in points per game with 18.6, and delivered one of the Elis’ most memorable moments of the season. With the clock about to expire and the score tied 62–62, Barahman drained a half-court shot to lift the Elis over archrival Harvard.
The Bulldogs also return guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury five games into last season. Andrews, who played in all 32 games her first year, should be a big contributor to the team’s success.
“Recovery was definitely a long and challenging process, but I came back from summer break feeling really confident in my knee’s stability and strength,” Andrews said. “It’s been so great being back out on the court, and I definitely won’t take any chances I get to contribute this season and next for granted.”
The squad has an opportunity to translate its preseason efforts into reality against Providence on Tuesday.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Drew Beckmen | email@example.com
Sophie Kane | firstname.lastname@example.org