WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Big shoes to fill: Yale gears up for season without star player￼
With Camilla Emsbo ’23 sitting out for the year, the women's basketball team looks to build on results from last season.
The Yale women’s basketball team has seen major changes since the end of last season.
While the team welcomed a new head coach — former WNBA player Dalila Eshe — leading player Camilla Emsbo ’23 was ruled out for the year due to an ACL injury. Amid the changes, the Bulldogs remain focused on one goal: improving from last year.
The Blue and White finished last season third in the Ivy League with an overall record of 16–11 and a conference record of 9–5.
“Overall [last season] was fine,” said Jenna Clark ’24. “We knew we could have done a lot better, we lost some games we shouldn’t have.”
The Bulldogs will travel near and far for their non-conference schedule this season. Most of their games will be against teams from around the Northeast, but two will take place in Denver, Colorado, where the Blue and White will compete in the University of Denver Classic from Nov 25-26.
Success in the non-conference schedule will impact the team’s overall record, which holds sway over the Bulldogs’ ultimate goal: placement into a postseason tournament at the end of the year.
“Obviously [the goal] is making the [Ivy League] tournament but then once we get there going to a postseason tournament,” Clark said.
The team is focused on preparing for their non-conference schedule, which slates them against teams such as Army, the University Of Massachusetts and Syracuse University.
“We’re playing better [non-conference] teams this year,” Mackenzie Egger ’25 said. “This year we should do a better job of focusing on our non conference games … I think a big emphasis to prepare for the Ivy League and those postseason tournaments is to do well in non-conference games.”
Last year, the Bulldogs scored 58.5 points per game, the fifth best in the Ivy League. Captain Camilla Emsbo ’23 led the team in terms of scoring by averaging 14.1 points per game. Clark orchestrated the offense at point guard with her team-leading 5.8 assists per game.
The Bulldogs’ strong suit was their defense. They allowed 56.8 points per game, the second best mark in the Ivy League. Emsbo led the team in blocks and rebounds.
Five players contributed over 25 minutes per game. Only one, Alex Cade ’22, graduated after the season ended, so going into the summer the Bulldogs expected to return this year with much of their core still intact.
The returning core took a major hit, however, when Emsbo suffered an ACL injury at the beginning of the summer which ruled her out for the entire season.
“Our captain Camilla tore her ACL” said Grace Thybulle ’25. “She was our best player. She will be missed, the lack of her presence is very clear, but we’re all kind of filling in in different ways.”
Eshe noted that Emsbo’s injury forces the team to reshape their playstyle in order to make up for her absence. However, this has not discouraged the Bulldogs as they prepare for the upcoming season.
Many players now face an opportunity to fill Emsbo’s role, much of which entailed rebounding and holding down the paint. This has encouraged a healthy dose of intrasquad competition.
“It’s going to be a collective effort to fill those shoes.” said Eshe at this year’s Ivy League Media Day. “We’re still not at the point where we know who’s going to fill those shoes, but having that constant question makes us come in and be more competitive in practice.”
In addition to the rest of the returning core contributors, more players will be able to see more floor time in the wake of Emsbo’s absence such as Elles van der Maas ’24, Haley Sabol ’24 and Thybulle.
At large, the Bulldogs have been practicing hard and building their team chemistry, which the players noted in interviews with the News.
“We spend far too much time together,” joked Clark.
Egger noted that the team “somehow” doesn’t “get sick of each other.”
This team culture, according to the players, will play a key part in their success throughout the year. Playing under a new coach and seeking quality play from new players, the Yale women’s basketball team heads into an exciting season.
Their first game is on the road against Fordham at 5:30 PM on Nov 7.