On Nov. 21, 2018, guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 of the Yale women’s basketball team suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Fourteen months later, the junior has become a critical piece in the Elis’ best start to a season in program history.
The Bulldogs (11–3, 1–0 Ivy) are primed for success this season. They kicked off Ivy play with a 79–72 win over Brown (6–8, 0–1), and according to head coach Allison Guth, the team is deeper than ever before. Among the team’s star players is Andrews who, averaging over 15.6 points per game, has consistently guided an aggressive Bulldog offense which currently ranks first in the Ivy League, with 74.5 points per contest.
Though Yale boasts three of the top five scorers in the Ancient Eight, the team ranks seventh defensively. After a 79–72 win at home last Friday, the Bulldogs will be looking to put together a full defensive performance with the hope of breaking their three-year losing streak at Pizzitola Sports Center.
“Looking towards this next game, we are just working on putting together a strong four quarters, instead of just three and being prepared to respond to the adjustments they made against us at the end of the last game,” Andrews said. “We have to remember this is a brand new game, and take nothing for granted.”
As a first-year, Andrews played in all 32 games and started in 28 of them. But during her sophomore campaign, a season-ending injury stalled her upward trajectory. Now in her junior year, Andrews has returned and reasserted herself as a force to be reckoned with in the Ancient Eight. Andrews, who has already been named Ivy League Player of the Week once this season, is currently ranked fourth in the league in points per game and third in total points scored.
Her season-high came in a matchup against North Carolina in which her 24 points were crucial in the tight 66–63 victory against the Tar Heels. With 19 points in the Ivy opener, Andrews shows no signs of slowing down.
“Ellen has been absolutely amazing this year,” captain and forward Megan Gorman ’20 said. “Her play both offensively and defensively are so central to the success we’ve had as a team. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, so it’s no surprise she’s playing at such a high level this season, despite tearing her ACL last year. Beyond what she brings [on] the basketball court, she is an incredible person and teammate.”
Growing up, Andrews was quite familiar with Yale and its basketball program. Her grandfather, David Sears ’53, played basketball for the Blue and White and her uncle also attended Yale.
After a strong first-year season in which she averaged 7.4 points per game, Andrews entered her sophomore season with even greater expectations. But those dreams were temporarily put on hold when she suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Cincinnati in just the fifth game of the 2018-19 campaign.
Although ACL injuries are severe and require reconstructive surgery, Andrews was not phased. She approached her surgery and subsequent recovery as she had always approached the game of basketball — with determination, grit and mental focus.
After undergoing surgery, Andrews returned home for the holiday recess and found herself in physical therapy three times per week for hours on end. Once back on campus, she established a grueling routine: waking up around 6 a.m. to workout on the bike in the Berkley gym before heading to Payne Whitney Gymnasium for physical therapy with the Yale training staff.
Despite these early-morning wakeups and extensive PT sessions, the hardest part of Andrews’ recovery was yet to come. Over the summer, Andrews returned home to continue recuperating.
“The summer was definitely the most crucial part of my recovery overall,” Andrews said. “Besides training to be prepared for basketball again and conditioning and lifting, I did a ton of physical therapy with a trainer that pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed before. It definitely made my knee stronger… but more importantly, it made me mentally tougher.”
In addition to this newly developed mental fortitude, Andrews cites a newfound appreciation of the game as one of the reasons for her success this season. Watching from the sidelines last year, Andrews realized just how badly she wished she could contribute.
Now, rather than putting undue pressure on herself, Andrews approaches each game with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Rather than setting strict expectations for herself, she focuses on playing freely and pressure-free.
“When I returned to school, I was mostly just happy that I could immediately start workouts with the team,” Andrews said. “I didn’t really have any expectations playing-wise… I think just embracing the chance to play again has made it easier to relax and play to my strengths.”
Andrews is making the most of being back on the court. With 15.6 points per game, she scores the second most on the team behind standout guard Roxy Barahman ’20.
Andrews’ game is characterized by an understated tenacity and aggressiveness, especially on the defensive end. Sound in her fundamentals, Andrews seems to know exactly what to do and where to be while on the hardwood.
“She is selfless on and off the basketball court,” forward Alex Cade ’21 said. “This year she has, numbers-wise, provided us with crucial points and rebounds in order to secure games, but she never brags. She’s so sneaky, you never realize she has almost 20 points until you look at the point distributions.”
Tomorrow’s rematch tips off at noon in Providence and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Drew Beckmen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophie Kane | email@example.com