The Yale women’s basketball team (12–6, 5–1 Ivy) kicked off its seven game winter break schedule with its final nonconference win against Army (8-8, 3-4 Patriot). The squad then opened conference play with a loss at Columbia (13-3, 4-0 Ivy), but recovered with a stretch of five consecutive victories in the games since.

The Bulldogs currently sit in third place in the Ivy League, just one loss behind Columbia and Princeton (13–4, 5–0). Over the break, the Blue and White found different ways to win. In comfortable double-digit victories against Army, Cornell (6–10, 1–4), Penn (7–9, 2–2) and Dartmouth (1–16, 0–5), defense was the key as the Bulldogs held their opponents to 53 points or less in each of these games. 

A rivalry game against Harvard (9–9, 3–3) on Jan. 8 turned into an offensive showcase as the Eli offense erupted for its highest output of the season in an 80–73 victory. Elles van der Maas ’24 came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points. 

“Elles consistently comes off the bench ready to shoot the ball,” teammate Camilla Emsbo ’23 said. “And she knows that she’s an incredible shooter and she’s ready to pull at any time. And that was massive against Harvard. She came in and she took pride in her abilities and she did what she had to do.”

Nine days later, the team found itself in a tied game late against Brown (5–12, 0–5). To make matters worse, Emsbo, the Elis’ leading scorer and rebounder, was out due to injury. With four seconds remaining, the Bulldogs called a timeout with possession to draw up a play. Christen McCann ’25 caught the inbound pass at the top of the key, driving to her right and hitting a game-winning layup in heavy traffic to seal the victory for Yale.

McCann tallied 19 points on the day. Head coach Allison Guth praised her performance and growth over the course of the season, referring to her by the nickname “Consistent Chris.”

“She is someone we can count on, not just in the game-winner against Brown, but taking the toughest defensive assignment every game,” Guth said.

In league play, Yale’s offense has come to life. Against non-conference foes, the Bulldogs averaged just under 60 points per game. Against Ancient Eight opposition, that number has increased by five points per game. 

One of the key factors to the team’s improvement in conference play has been due to the performances of point guard Jenna Clark ’24. Clark is averaging 36.5 minutes per game and has taken the reins on offense. She averaged over eight assists per game over the break, consistently feeding Emsbo and Alex Cade ’22 inside and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Clark currently ranks sixth in the country in assists. 

“It’s super rewarding to be up there with some of the best players in the country,” Clark said. “It’s all because my teammates are hitting shots and they’re awesome and they’re really helping me. It’s cool for me, but they’re making the shots, so it’s everyone together.”

The frontcourt duo of Emsbo and Cade have been the recipients of many of Clark’s assists. The two forwards average a combined 25 points and 17 rebounds a game, while also ensuring that Yale almost always has an advantage with their physicality inside.

While Emsbo has been playing through a nagging injury of late, she has barely missed a beat, shooting 52 percent from the field in league play and nearly averaging a double-double over the course of the season. During Emsbo’s one-game absence against Brown, Cade scored 18 points and made 11 rebounds. She has also thrived in a complementary role alongside Emsbo, scoring with great efficiency while providing tough defense on the other end of the floor.

“[Emsbo and I have] played together for two years. I think we work really well together. I trust her on the inside like no other,” Cade said.

Nearly halfway through league play, the Bulldogs find themselves in a good spot. The team is two wins above fourth-placed Harvard, and will look to preserve that lead in the standings while trying to surpass Princeton and Columbia during the second half of the season.

The Bulldogs’ youthful squad has not held them back, as six of their eight leading scorers are underclassmen. While the team’s performances have improved dramatically over the first half of the season, some members of the squad believe they have barely scratched the surface of their potential. 

“It’s about keeping the momentum and not ever flatlining,” Clark said, talking about the team’s mentality going forward. “We’ve got a chip on our shoulders. We think we can be the best team in the league, and we just have to go out and prove that every game.”

The Yale women’s basketball team last won the Ivy League in 1979.

Andrew Cramer is a former sports editor, women's basketball beat reporter, and WKND personal columnist at the YDN. He still writes for the WKND and Sports sections. He is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College and is majoring in Ethics, Politics & Economics.