Yale Athletics

For the second time during their 2023–24 season, the Yale women’s basketball team (8–18, 5–8 Ivy) took on Cornell University (7–18, 1–12 Ivy) and Columbia University (21–5, 12–1 Ivy). Both games were held at home in New Haven this past weekend. 

The Bulldogs looked to pull off their second win of the season against Cornell. The last showdown between the two teams went down in Ithaca, with Yale coming out on top, 66–59. The second match against Columbia, however, would prove to be a much more difficult feat. The Lions, who earlier in the year took care of the Bulldogs handily, 52–88, currently sit atop the Ivy League rankings alongside Princeton University (22–4, 12–1 Ivy). 

The first half against Cornell on Friday began with a quick gain in momentum for the Bulldogs, who immediately broke away with the lead. Nyla McGill ’25 led the team’s scoring force in the first quarter, followed by Brenna McDonald ’24 and Mackenzie Egger ’25. The Blue and White offense accounted for eighteen points in the first, which was added onto in the second by Kiley Capstraw ’26 and Jenna Clark ’24. By the end of the first half, the Bulldogs had posted 40 points to the Big Red’s 34. 

After the half, Cornell drew within one point, catching the breath of every Yale fan in John J. Lee Amphitheater. However, the Bulldogs pressed on, persevering through the pressure and continually driving to the basket. Yale never lost their hard-earned lead, thanks to timely baskets by Clark and McGill. The final score was 79–72, in favor of the Bulldogs.

Head Coach Dalila Eshe told Yale Athletics that the team knew the game would be difficult, but they were ready to compete.

“The Cornell game is always going to be a tough, physical game,” she said. “When they got within one, we had to dial ourselves back in, and we did.”

Along with the team scoring a season-best 79 points, McGill and McDonald both had their own double-doubles, their fourth and third, respectively. In the fourth quarter, Yale shot .529 from the field. This is also the eighth game in a row won against Cornell.

With respect to McGill, Eshe told Yale Athletics that her defensive game impacted her offense.

“Nyla was a phenomenal rebounder today,” she said. “When she is a monster on the boards, it translates to her offense. Cornell could not figure out a way to box her out.”

After the Cornell game, the Bulldogs needed a huge win against the stampeding Columbia Lions to keep them in the race for the Ivy League tournament. 

Saturday’s game against the Lions celebrated seniors Clark, McDonald, Klara Aastroem ’24 and Haley Sabol ’24.

In the first quarter, the Lions jumped out quickly to a striking lead, one which the Bulldogs never quite seemed to catch up with. While Columbia reigned on offense, they also held the Blue and White on defense, as only three Bulldogs were able to score in the first quarter: McGill, Astrom and Grace Thybulle ’25. As the time melted into the second quarter, Yale cut the point deficit down to 15, going into halftime trailing, 44–29.

After the half, though the Bulldogs were able to sink more baskets than at the beginning of the game, it was not nearly enough to match the burning-hot Lions, who seemed unstoppable. Despite another double-double from McGill and 16 points from Clark, the Blue and White fell to Columbia, 76–50.

With this loss, Yale fell out of the race for the Ivy League tournament. 

The Yale women’s basketball team will travel to play their final game of the season in Providence against the Brown Bears (7–15, 1–9 Ivy) at 3 p.m. on March 9. 

Meredith Henderson covers women's basketball and field hockey. She is a first-year in Saybrook College from Keller, Texas. She plays varsity softball and is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.