WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Blazing-hot Bulldogs look to dethrone top-ranked Princeton
The Yale women's basketball team, currently ranked third in the Ivy League and coming off five consecutive conference wins, aims to hand top-ranked Princeton its first loss of the season in a home match this Friday.
Courtesy of Yale Athletics
After a productive winter break and a successful start to Ivy League play, the Yale women’s basketball team (12–6, 5–1 Ivy) aims to change the conference narrative and topple rival Princeton (13–4, 5–0), who sits atop the rankings with an undefeated conference record.
The Bulldogs will face off against the Tigers in the John J. Lee Amphitheater this Friday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. The women’s team is going into the outing with momentum following an incredible five-game conference winning streak. Though Yale dropped the hard-fought Ivy opener against Columbia (14–3, 5–0 Ivy) earlier this month, the Blue and White have been outstanding in subsequent victories against Harvard (9–9, 3–3 Ivy), Cornell (6–10, 1–4 Ivy), Brown (5–12, 0–5 Ivy), Penn (7–10, 2–3 Ivy) and Dartmouth (1–16, 0–5 Ivy). However, Princeton is also on a hot streak of their own heading into this week’s match, especially with the squad’s most recent dominant 78–35 win against the Big Green.
“Princeton is one of the toughest teams we will play this year,” guard and captain Roxanne Nesbitt ’22 said. “They are historically a top team in the league. But … we’ve really shown how good we can be when we stick to our game plan and just lock in. I think it’ll be a fun game because they’re really good, but so are we.”
The Elis and Princeton have a heated history. The last time the two teams faced off was on Feb. 29, 2020, just a day after the Tigers had clinched that year’s Ivy League title. The Bulldogs put up a fight, but eventually dropped the game 64–49. It has been almost three years since Yale’s last victory over Princeton, a 96–86 overtime thriller that took place on Feb. 8, 2019. Despite this, Yale is confident in its ability to step up to the challenge and change history.
“Whenever there’s ups and downs, we always just come together,” guard Jenna Clark ’24 told the News. “We never blame anyone, but hold people accountable. And I think that’s a huge thing for our growth … and you can see it in our performance. It’s really exciting to go into the second half of the Ivy season with this [in] mind. Always being high energy and at a high level has just really helped with everything.”
Clark has been sensational this season, leading the league in minutes played and assists, while also being one of the team’s most consistent high scorers. Forward Camilla Emsbo ’23 has also been fantastic as both an offensive star and a defensive pillar. She currently tops the Ivy League in blocked shots, defensive rebounds and field goal percentage.
Yale’s roster has significant depth, featuring a skillful and experienced upperclassman core that is supplemented by young, explosive talent. The team has three rookies of the week in forward Grace Thybulle ’25, guard Elles van der Maas ’24 and guard Christen McCann ’25. The bench has also contributed meaningfully to team victories and maintaining point leads.
“I am proud of how much everyone has contributed, giving everything they can,” center Brenna McDonald ’24 said about Yale’s season so far. “It shows how our wins have truly been team wins. We’ve shown improvement over the course of the season.”
The Tigers also have a formidable, high-performing squad. The team is known for its offensive prowess and top-quality defense. The starters are led by 6-foot senior, captain and guard Abby Meyers, who has already been named Ivy League Player of the Week twice this season and leads the league in scoring. Sophomore forward Ellie Mitchell tops the conference in both total and offensive rebounds, while junior guard Julia Cunningham remains a reliable scorer with an average of 13.8 points a match. The sophomore-junior guard duo of Kaitlyn Chen and Grace Stone has also been outstanding, collecting a combined 18 points in Princeton’s most recent match against Dartmouth.
As Princeton seeks to defend its spot at the top and an ambitious Yale aims to show off its skill, this Friday’s match will undoubtedly be a thriller. Princeton’s roster will also add a special competitive edge to the match for Yale’s Emsbo, who could potentially face off against her twin sister Kira, a junior guard for the Tigers.
“This year feels like a year where we can make a big statement, get a big win against [Princeton] and just play a really great game,” Clark said. “Just proving to everyone and people who doubt us, people who didn’t really know where our team would be this year … that we’re up there with the best.”
This week’s match-up was originally set to take place on Saturday, but was rescheduled due to projected inclement weather and a weekend snow storm that is set to bring 5 to 10 inches of snow to the New Haven region.