After a season of milestones, the women’s basketball team enters the final weekend of the season on the verge of breaking one most important records in team history.
Yale’s win at Cornell last Saturday gave the Elis (16–10, 8–4 Ivy) its 16th win of the season, tying the University’s record for most wins in a season for women’s basketball. With a victory Friday against Princeton or Saturday against Penn, the 2011-’12 Bulldogs will move into sole possession of the single-season wins record.
“We have the opportunity to break the wins record for the season and we’re excited about that,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said.
The last time Yale finished the season with 16 wins was in 1994, when the Elis finished 16–10. This year’s team has already matched one of the 1993-’94 squad’s feats when it finished its nonconference schedule with eight wins, the most in 18 years for the Bulldogs.
The wins record is not the team’s only goal. Yale currently sits in second place in the Ivy League, a half-game ahead of Harvard. First-place Princeton (21–4, 11–0 Ivy), has clinched the Ivy League title for the third-straight season, but the second place finisher is awarded a bid to play in the postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Bulldogs earned their first bid to the WNIT last year and are looking for a repeat trip.
To get there, the Elis may have to beat the Tigers, who lost only one conference game in the past three seasons. Although the Elis lead the Crimson by a half-game, the Cantabs face Cornell, Columbia and Dartmouth, three teams with losing records, in the coming week, while the Bulldogs face off against the defending champs.
“Harvard is more in the driver’s seat than we are,” Gobrecht said. “But I think our team’s top priority for the final weekend is to continue to demonstrate the excellence that has marked our whole season.”
Last time Yale played Princeton, the Bulldogs fell to the Tigers, 72–47. Princeton, with its players’ superior height, controlled the game from the opening whistle, and the Elis face a stiff challenge in the rematch. The Tigers have played only one game this conference season that was decided by less than 25 points, a 57–45 win against Brown at the beginning of February.
Yale has had better luck against Penn (11–14, 4–7 Ivy) this season. In the teams’ earlier matchup, the Bulldogs came back from a halftime deficit to win by 12 points at Penn’s Palestra. Guard Megan Vasquez ’13 scored 17 points in the second half to lead the Bulldogs back to victory. Vasquez has led the Elis in scoring this year with an average of 15.3 points per game, and she currently sits in fourth place among Ivy scoring leaders, only 0.2 points behind Dartmouth guard Faziah Steen.
Captain Michelle Cashen ’12 will play her final home games this weekend. The senior has won All-Ivy honors in each of her three full seasons at Yale and is averaging 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs in her final season.
Going into the last pair of games in the regular season, guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said the Bulldogs will give everything they’ve got.
“We want to leave it all out on the court,” she said. “We want to walk out of there with no regrets.”
Tipoff for Friday’s and Saturday’s games is scheduled for 7:00 p.m at the Lee Amphitheater.
It was a weekend of ups and downs for the women’s basketball team, which suffered a heartbreaking loss to Columbia on Friday but responded emphatically with a 69-58 victory at Cornell the next night.
Through it all, the Elis (16-10, 8-4 Ivy) remained a half-game ahead of Harvard for second place in the Ivy League after the Crimson lost to Princeton Friday night but beat Penn the following evening. The team that finishes the season in second place in the Ivy League receives an automatic spot in the post-season Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Yale has two games remaining on its schedule while the Crimson has three, though the Bulldogs face the first-place Tigers, who have now clinched the Ivy League title and an NCAA Tournament bid, next weekend. Harvard, meanwhile, will face Columbia and Cornell next weekend. The Lions will be looking to play the same spoiler role that they did against Yale on Friday.
Columbia (3-22, 1-10 Ivy) had not won a game since Dec. 30 of last year but played with a surprising confidence and energy against the Bulldogs. The Lions could have rolled over after the Elis scored the first seven points of the game, but they battled back to take a 17-16 lead with six minutes remaining in the first half.
“A lot of things went wrong [Friday night],” guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said. “Our shots weren’t dropping, and coach was pretty upset with our lack of communication on both sides of the ball.”
The Lions aggressively trapped the Bulldogs’ ball handlers as they crossed midcourt, and while the Elis retained their composure and committed few turnovers against the trap, they were unable to capitalize on Columbia’s aggressive defense. Yale passed the ball well and was able to generate open shots, but shot a season-low 23.9 percent from the field, including a 4-22 mark from beyond the arc.
“It was just one of those things that happens sometimes,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “We could not hit the broad side of a barn. We just could not find the basket, and it was hard to overcome that Friday night.”
The Lions took a six-point lead, their largest of the game, with just under a minute remaining in the first half on guard Taylor Ball’s two free throws, but guard Allie Messimer ’13 cut the deficit to three with a three-pointer 30 seconds later, and the teams went into halftime with Columbia up 28-25.
The two teams battled for the entire second half, but the Lions always had an answer for any challenge from the Bulldogs. The Elis came out of halftime with a 6-2 run to take a 31-30 lead with 17:28 remaining in the game, but Columbia quickly called a timeout, and after the restart Lions’ forward Agata Jankova made a quick jump-shot to put the Lions back on top.
Guard Megan Vasquez ’13 stole the ball and was fouled going for a layup with 15 minutes to play in the game. Her two free throws tied the game up at 35, and a minute and a half later, Halejian twisted into the lane and made a spectacular diving layup to tie the game again at 37. Halejian led the team with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, but was the only Bulldog to make more than two shots from the field.
The two teams traded blows for the next 10 minutes, with Yale briefly taking the lead on three straight free throws from forward Alexandra Osborn-Jones ’14, but the Lions quickly answered. Vasquez pulled the Elis to within one with two free throws with 1:40 remaining, but Columbia’s Tyler Simpson sprinted right back down the court for a layup and the Lions lead was back to three.
The Bulldogs had several opportunities to tie the game up from the three-point line and the free throw line, but could not convert them. Yale was eventually forced to foul, and the Lions made one out of two free throws to extend the lead to four and put the game away.
Determined to put Friday’s loss behind them, the Bulldogs dominated Cornell (11-14, 5-6 Ivy) the next night. The Bulldogs scored the first six points of the game, forcing Cornell to call a timeout only three and a half minutes into the game. But the Big Red could not stop the Elis’ momentum, and Yale scored the next five points to go up 11-0 and force the Cornell coach, Dayna Smith, to use another timeout. Captain Michelle Cashen ’12 picked up four points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal in the first five minutes of the game to get her team going. She finished with 12 points and team highs of eight rebounds and five assists.
“We knew as a team that we needed to set the tone early,” Gobrecht said. “Michelle took that to heart and stepped up for us. She showed the kind of leadership that we’ve come to expect from her.”
The Bulldogs coasted to a 34-24 halftime lead and never looked back. The Big Red tried to mount a challenge and pulled within six after guard Taylor Flynn ran off five points in a row, but that was as close as it was going to get.
The Elis close out their season at home next weekend with games against Princeton and Penn.
As the weather finally heats up in New Haven this week, so does the Ivy League race for the women’s basketball team.
The Bulldogs go into this weekend’s games at Columbia and Cornell in virtually a dead heat with Harvard for second place in the league, with only four games remaining on their schedule. While Princeton seems to have run away with the conference title for the third straight year, the second-place finisher will get a bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and the chance for post-season glory.
The Elis (15–9, 7–3 Ivy) are currently a half-game ahead of Harvard (13–10, 6–3 Ivy) in the conference standings, though the Crimson has an extra game remaining. Last weekend at home the Bulldogs had a chance to beat Harvard for the second time this season, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. A win would have pushed Harvard back to two and a half games out of second place and put the Elis in the driver’s seat going forward, but the Crimson played as if it knew its season was on the line, and won decisively 71–51. Head coach Chris Gobrecht said she was upset with her team’s performance, but acknowledged the excitement that the next two weeks will hold.
“We do like to make it interesting,” Gobrecht said.
The Bulldogs hope to replicate last year’s finish when they stole the No. 2 spot in the conference from the Cantabs in the final two weeks of the season and earned their first-ever bid to the NIT. Both teams finished with 10–4 records in the conference, but Yale’s 78–64 win over Harvard on the penultimate Saturday of the season proved decisive. The victory gave Yale a 2–0 advantage in the season series and the tiebreaker that awarded the Elis a National Invitational bid.
But the Bulldogs and Crimson still have four and five games left to play, respectively, and it is too early to talk about tiebreakers. Yale plays Columbia and Cornell tonight and tomorrow, and Princeton and Penn next weekend. Harvard plays all four of these teams with the addition of Dartmouth. Both the Bulldogs and the Crimson lost to Princeton in the teams’ first meetings, but neither has lost to any of the other teams they have left to play.
Guard Aarica West ’13 said that last week’s loss to Harvard will motivate the team to avenge itself against Princeton and finish off the rest of its remaining opponents a second time.
“Coach told us to focus on the emotions after [the Harvard game] and remember how bad that felt,” West said. “I think those memories are definitely going to give us an edge in the games we have left.”
Columbia (2–21, 0–9 Ivy) is sitting in last place in the Ivy League and has not won a game since Dec. 30, but the Lions showed the Elis they still had some roar left in them when the teams first met. Columbia jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half before guard Megan Vasquez ’13 set a career-high mark with 28 points and led the Bulldogs back for a 73–59 win. The Lions are last or second-to-last in the Ivy League in nearly every statistical category, and the Elis should take advantage of Columbia’s poor shooting and anemic defense.
In Yale’s last meeting with Cornell, two milestones were reached as Vasquez scored the 1,000th point of her collegiate career, and Gobrecht won the 500th game of her head coaching career. Vasquez scored 25 points that night, and Yale made an incredible 16 of 30 shots from beyond the arc in a 86–73 victory over the Big Red. The Bulldogs’ most dangerous opponent against Cornell may be fatigue, as several players acknowledged the challenges that the grueling, five-hour bus ride from New York City to Ithaca poses.
Tipoff tonight is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Columbia’s Levien Arena.
With a postseason bid hanging in the balance, the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to solidify their second-place position in the Ivy League on Saturday night.
After Yale (15–9, 7–3 Ivy) beat Dartmouth (4–19, 2–7 Ivy) 66–48 Friday night and Harvard lost to Brown, the Elis had a chance to hand the Crimson its fourth loss and go a long way towards securing their second-straight trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. But Harvard (13–10, 6–3 Ivy) won 71–51, snapping the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak against the Crimson.
“I know it’s cliché to say, but they wanted it more than we did,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said of the Cantabs. “Harvard played like a team that was pretty upset that it had lost to us three times in a row, and that was evident. They were throwing all the punches and we were just ducking them.”
After the Dartmouth win, Gobrecht told the News she was worried by the team’s sloppy play in the second half and feared it would carry over into the Harvard game. Sure enough, the Crimson jumped out to an 11–2 lead in the first six minutes of the game the following night, as the Elis missed nine of their first 10 shots.
Harvard’s lead grew to 24–10 with eight minutes remaining in the half, but Yale battled back. Janna Graf ’14, who led Yale in scoring with 15 points for the game, scored six of the Elis’ 12 points to close out the half, and the Bulldogs held the Crimson without a field goal for over eight minutes. Yale had a chance to tie it up on Hayden Latham’s ’15 three-point attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the half, but the shot fell short, and Harvard’s Emma Golen made a jump shot with one second on the clock to give the Crimson a five-point lead at the break.
The Elis cut the lead to four on guard Megan Vasquez’s ’13 three-pointer one minute into the second half, but that was as close the Elis got for the rest of the game. The Crimson slowly started taking over and broke the game open with about seven minutes remaining. Vasquez fouled Harvard forward Victoria Lippert, who went to the line for two free throw attempts, and a technical foul called on West gave Harvard two more shots from the charity stripe. Lippert converted all four chances to increase the Crimson lead to 16, and the Elis never could recover.
While they did not say poor referee calls could account for the outcome of the match, both Gobrecth and West said the officiating helped rank up the score in Harvard’s favor. Harvard shot 25 free throws and made 17 of them, while Yale was awarded only 10.
“The officiating was a really big factor in the game,” West said. “The officials messed with our heads and took us out of our game. It seemed like no matter what we did on defense we got called for fouls.”
Despite the unfocused play Gobrecht said categorized the first game of the weekend, the Bulldogs came out on top against Dartmouth.
The Big Green came in with only one Ivy League win under its belt, and the Bulldogs dominated the opening half. Yale’s defense was stifling and held Dartmouth to only 16 points while forcing 16 turnovers. With the Bulldogs’ offense clicking as well, the team assisted 11 of its 14 baskets in the first half and went into the break up by 22.
“In the first half we were shooting well, and we went with the game plan we set out with,” guard Aarica West ’13 said. “We let up in the second half though, and I think we were just riding the waves of that first-half performance.”
In the second half, the Big Green outscored the Elis 32–28, and while Yale still won by double digits, Gobrecht said she was less than thrilled with the team’s performance.
The weekend leaves rivals Yale and Harvard battling for second after Princeton pulled wins over Cornell and Columbia this weekend and effectively locked up its third consecutive Ivy League title. The Tigers (19–4, 9–0 Ivy) would have to lose three out of their final five games to allow the Bulldogs or the Crimson to steal the title — a monumental collapse for a team that has lost only one conference game in the past three seasons.
A first-place finish in the Ivy League grants the victor an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the second-place team still gets a postseason berth in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs are currently in second at 7–3, a half-game ahead of Harvard. Yale has four games remaining on its schedule, and the Cantabs have five. Both teams must still face Princeton once more.
Guard Allie Messimer ’13 said the weekend’s loss to Harvard boosted the team’s determination to finish strong in the games remaining this season.
“This loss will be a huge motivation for the team, and hopefully will give us the edge to finish off the next four games.”
The Bulldogs go on the road next week to face Columbia and Cornell before returning home for the final weekend of the season.
As the race for the Ivy League title heats up, the Bulldogs are preparing to face Harvard for the second time this season.
The Elis will first face off against Dartmouth tonight at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Then, on Saturday night against Harvard, they will try to channel the same energy that led them to a 68–63 victory over the Crimson earlier this season.
The Bulldogs (14–8, 6–2 Ivy) completed the road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth three weeks ago, and now will try to match that feat at home. The team is currently in second place in the Ivy League to Princeton, and will try to hold onto that star this weekend against the third-place Crimson.
The Bulldogs will look for leadership from the brightest spot on their team right now, guard Megan Vasquez ’13. Last week the junior, who leads the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game, entered the Yale record books as she became the 17th player in Yale women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points for her career in Yale’s 86–73 victory over Cornell. And Vasquez did not simply back into her milestone; she stormed into the accomplishment with 25 points as she led the Elis to victory. The next night, against a visiting Columbia team, Vasquez set a new career high with 28 points as the Bulldogs roared back from a 12-point first-half deficit to beat the Lions, 73–59.
“She looks really comfortable and knows exactly what she wants out there on the floor,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said of her leading scorer. “She’s just hitting her stride right now, and it’s a good time for it.”
While a Harvard victory would be the real prize this weekend, the Bulldogs will have to get past the Big Green on Friday first. Dartmouth (3–18, 1–6 Ivy) has struggled to find success on the court this season, and the team’s only win in the last 17 games came against bottom-dwelling Columbia. The Big Green rank last in the Ivy League in both scoring offense and scoring defense, but they did push Penn into overtime last weekend and came within four points of victory at Cornell the week prior. The Bulldogs cannot take Dartmouth too lightly, but if they jump out to an early lead and put the game away quickly, they will get a valuable chance to rest their starters in preparation for tomorrow’s contest against Harvard.
The Crimson (12–9, 5–2 Ivy) do not share the Bulldogs’ good fortune, as they must contend with a tough Brown team before having to make the two-hour drive from Providence to New Haven for tomorrow night’s game. The Bears threw a wrench in Yale’s season earlier this year when they handed the Elis their first loss in only their second conference game, and the Crimson will have to work hard to avoid the same fate.
What Harvard does have going for it, however, is revenge. While Harvard leads the all-time series 41–30, the Bulldogs have won the two teams’ last three meetings, including the first contest of this year.
But guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said there is little reason to worry about the Elis getting overconfident.
“We’re not concerned with [the result of the previous game],” Halejian said. “We’re just focusing on Saturday going forward. We’re obviously pumped up because it’s Harvard, and we’ll be ready.”
Friday’s game is set to start at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised live on the YES Network. Tipoff Saturday is set for 6:00 p.m. at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
As the buzzer rang out last Friday night, the red lights on the wall of the John J. Lee Amphitheater — Yale 86, Cornell 73 — wrote the latest chapter in a 32-year story: Head coach Chris Gobrecht had won the 500th game of her career.
Yale players rushed off the bench and doused their coach with water, in earnest imitation of the ice baths that football players honor their coaches with after big wins. One of these players, guard Megan Vasquez ’13, shared in this historic night, as she became the 17th player in Yale women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points in her career, but Vasquez did not have the pleasure of partaking in the ice bath.
“It was an unforgettable moment, and I’m glad I was there to share her career milestone with her,” Vasquez said of her coach. “My teammates kept predicting that we would reach both milestones on the same night and it’s crazy that it actually happened. I think it makes it that much more meaningful for both of us.”
Gobrecht became the 22nd active women’s basketball coach to reach the milestone, but the coach seemed less impressed with her accomplishment than her players were. In 2009, she told the News she thought that coaches’ win-loss records were the most overrated statistic in sports and she reiterated that sentiment after Friday’s game.
“It’s not really that big a deal, just because I’ve been coaching for so long,” Gobrecht, who is in her 32nd season as a Division I head coach, said of her milestone victory. “What means a lot is that there have been a lot of challenges along the way and that so many of these wins have been hard-fought battles.”
College basketball coaches decide whom they play against for the entire first half of the season, so they are free to fill their schedules with mid-major pushovers that will pad their win totals, or they can choose to take on national powers that will push their players to the limits of their abilities. Gobrecht said she counts herself in the latter camp. She has always been proud of her tough scheduling and refusal to back down from a challenge, she added.
Gobrecht’s journey began at California State University, Fullerton in 1979, long before any of her players were born. At age 24 the university hired her after she finished a distinguished playing career at the University of Southern California and two years of coaching at the high school and community college level. She turned the struggling program around and led the Titans to an 18–12 record in only her third year on the job. In the 1984-’85 season, Gobrecht’s last with Cal State Fullerton, the Titans went 19-11 and claimed their first ever bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The bid earned Gobrecht recognition as a finalist for national Coach of the Year.
From Cal State Fullerton Gobrecht moved on to the University of Washington, where she remained for 11 years. It was with the Huskies that she enjoyed her greatest success as a coach and where she caught the eye of Yale athletic director Tom Beckett, who was associate director of athletics for Stanford at the time.
“I got to know Chris watching her teams play back when I was at Stanford,” Beckett said. “She had outstanding teams at Washington, and she took them all the way to the NCAA tournament many times. We always had tremendous games whenever Stanford played Washington, and I’ve been impressed with her coaching for a long time.”
Gobrecht’s finest season at Washington came in 1989-’90 when the Huskies won 28 games and finished with a No. 3 national ranking. They split the Pac-10 conference title with No. 2 Stanford and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Auburn University. Gobrecht’s was also the only team to beat Beckett’s NCAA Champion Cardinal that season.
Yale’s coach finished her tenure at Washington with 243 wins overall, eight NCAA Tournament bids, three conference championships and two Pac-10 Coach of the Year Awards. But after 11 years, she was ready to move on. In the 2009 interview Gobrecht told the News that although she could have stayed at Washington and built its program into a perennial national power, she wanted to explore other schools and continue to build up programs.
“It would’ve been fun,” Gobrecht said of the opportunity to stay at Washington, “but that’s just not me; I love the challenge of building a program.”
Gobrecht was finally lured away from Washington by the opportunity for a fresh start with a new program at Florida State University. The wealth of talent available for recruiting in the south, she said, was also a draw. But after only one season with the Seminoles, she was back in the Pac-10 at the helm of her alma mater, USC. Winning was more difficult for Gobrecht with the Trojans, and she was hurt by her penchant for scheduling the toughest opponents she could find for her team. In the 2002-’03 season, for example, the Trojans lost to three of the previous four national champions: Connecticut, Tennessee and Notre Dame, all during non-conference play. The program was developing, and Gobrecht’s teams did make two WNITs during her time there, but there were no NCAA Tournament berths and the wins simply were not coming fast enough for the school’s administration and Gobrecht was fired after seven seasons at USC.
In 2005, after a season away from coaching, Gobrecht made her fourth move, from Southern California all the way across the country to New Haven and Yale. Her former colleague Tom Beckett offered her the position after Amy Backus retired. Baited by a curiousity for the Ivy League, Gobrecht took the offer.
Beckett said he has noticed substantial differences in Yale’s style of play since Gobrecht arrived.
“She brought with her an up-tempo style of basketball,” he said. “It’s fun for the student-athletes, and it’s exciting for the fans. It was a thrill to see her get her 500th win Friday night.”
In 2008 Gobrecht led the team to its first ever victory against an ACC opponent in a 65–61 upset over North Carolina State and topped that achievement last year as Yale stunned No. 14 Florida State, 91–85 last year at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Last year’s team was also the first in Yale’s history to reach the WNIT. Vasquez said Coach Gobrecht played a large role in the team’s and her personal success, and the coach’s trust in her decisions on the court have helped her develop.
“Coach G has always been tough on me, but I know that it’s because she always wants me to perform at my best,” Vasquez said. “I thank her for that because it has made me a better player over the last three years. She has always counted on me to lead her team on the floor, and she calls me her floor general.”
This year’s team is 14–8 and currently sits in second place in the Ivy League, but has its sights set on a conference title and the automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It was very special that it happened here,” Gobrecht said of her historic victory. “Yale is in so many ways what I want right now, and this is where I feel that I’m meant to be.”
Gobrecht and her Bulldogs return to the court this Friday against Dartmouth in search of win 502. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Friday night was a historic one for the women’s basketball team.
Guard Megan Vasquez ’13 became the 17th player in Yale’s women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points in her career, and coach Chris Gobrecht picked up her 500th career victory in the team’s 86-73 win over Cornell at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
“It was a special thing that they happened on the same night,” Gobrecht said of her and Vasquez’s accomplishments. “Megan has had a lot to do with many of the wins that have come in recent years, and she has been one of the players that has brought Yale to a different level of competition, so I’m glad that [these achievements] happened together.”
Vasquez matched her career-high of 25 points in the Bulldogs’ (14-8, 6-2 Ivy) win, and Gobrecht added that she was glad that Vasquez’s contribution was so important on the night she reached this milestone. Vasquez and the team finished up the weekend in top form the next night, as the junior led the Elis to a 73-59 victory over visiting Columbia. Not content with her 25 points from the night before against Cornell, Vasquez set a new career-high with 28 points on Saturday.
The Bulldogs’ offense was firing on all cylinders Friday night, and the team jumped out to an early lead against the Big Red (9-12, 3-4 Ivy). Yale led by 12 seven minutes into the game and went on a 9-2 run in the last two minutes of the first half to go into the break up 41-25. This quick start was important for a team that had trailed at halftime in every Ivy League game up until that point. In three of the previous four contests the Elis had come out of halftime and gone on big runs to retake the lead, but against first-place Princeton last weekend the team could not get going in the second half and lost 72-47.
“We’ve played really well in the second half up to this point,” captain Michelle Cashen ’12 said. “But there’s no guarantee we’ll always be able to do that as the Princeton game showed. [Starting quickly] is something we’ve been focusing on recently and it was good to see in the game on Friday.”
The Bulldogs assisted 24 of their 30 made baskets on Friday and shot 48.4 percent from the floor, well above their season average. Ten of those assists came courtesy of guard Aarica West ’13, a career-high for the junior. Cornell actually outshot Yale, amassing a 53.1 percent mark from the field, but the Elis made up the difference with 12 offensive rebounds that they converted into a 19-9 edge in second-chance points. The team also capitalized well on Cornell’s mistakes and turned 17 Big Red turnovers into 21 points for Yale.
Coming into this weekend, the Columbia game on Saturday had all the makings of a one-sided rout, but the 73-59 final score belies a close game of which Yale was fortunate to come out on top. The Lions (2-19, 0-7 Ivy) still have yet to win a conference game but had forced a good Brown team to overtime the night before and were in no mood to lie over for the Bulldogs. Gobrecht said that she watched film of the Columbia-Brown game and knew that the Elis would not be facing the same team that was blown-out, 94-35, against Princeton earlier this year.
The Bulldogs started off well for the second night in a row and made four consecutive shots during a two-minute stretch in the opening minutes of the game. Around the 15-minute mark, however, the team went cold and allowed Columbia to go on a 12-2 run to take a 19-13 lead. The team spent the rest of the first half climbing back and, despite a 12-3 run to close out the period, went into halftime down 32-29. The Lions actually extended their lead once the game got underway, scoring five of the first seven points of the second half. From that point on though, the Bulldogs’ superior talent prevailed, and the Elis systematically disposed of their opponents. Yale outscored Columbia 44-27 in the second half as the Bulldogs forced 11 Columbia turnovers and shot a blistering 53.1 percent from the field.
Yale returned home this weekend after playing the previous two weekends on the road, and guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said that the familiar environs made a big difference.
“It was much nicer to be home this weekend,” the freshman said. “We were able to relax and not having to travel made a big difference. We definitely seemed more tired on Saturday last weekend after traveling the whole time.” Cashen added that the less rigid schedule and even being able to sleep in their own beds had an impact on the team.
The Bulldogs remain at home next weekend to face Dartmouth on Friday night and a rematch against Harvard at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Bulldogs return home this weekend looking to rebound from last Saturday’s defeat at Princeton and regain control of their conference season.
Yale (12-8, 4-2 Ivy) is currently sitting in third place in the Ivy League after last week’s loss to the first-place Tigers and is half a game behind second-place Harvard. The Elis take on Cornell tonight at the John J. Lee Amphitheater and will face off against Columbia tomorrow.
Cornell (9-10, 3-2 Ivy) trails the Bulldogs by a half-game in the Ivy League standings. While the Big Red should not pose too great a challenge, Cornell is one of the more accurate shooting teams in the league.
The Big Red leads the conference in assists with 13.8 per game, slightly ahead of the Bulldogs’ 13.7 assists per game. The Elis have also exhibited a tendency to start slowly in the past few games, which guard Aarica West ’13 attributed to unfocused, anxious play in an interview this week. Against Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn the Bulldogs were able to recover and go on big scoring runs in the second half, but the team cannot keep relying on late sparks of energy to save itself.
Nonetheless, Cornell has yet to collect a win against an Ivy League team with a winning record and will have to prove that it belongs in the top half of the standings with Princeton, Harvard and Yale. The Big Red lost badly to Princeton in its first conference game and lost to the Crimson by ten last week.
Columbia’s hopes for this season took a huge hit before the team even took the floor when sophomore Brianna Orlich, the team’s leading scorer last season, announced that she was ending her college basketball career early because of a knee injury. The Lions (2-17, 0-5 Ivy) have yet to come within ten points of winning an Ivy League game and were outscored 94-35 by the Tigers earlier this season. Saturday’s game should come as a welcome relief for the Bulldogs after what could be a close game Friday night.
This weekend, the Elis will play on back-to-back days for the second week in a row, and they will have to deal with the rigors of two games in two days for the remainder of the Ivy League season. The Bulldogs may have fared better against Princeton last weekend had they not played in Philadelphia the night before, but West said that the team will be making no excuses this weekend.
“We just have to get in the mode that this is the Ivy League, and we have to put ourselves in a position where we won’t let [the schedule] be the deciding factor,” the junior guard said.
The game against Columbia on Saturday is also the centerpiece of Yale’s fifth annual Pink Zones Weekend, a series of athletic events designed to raise awareness and funds for research into breast cancer treatment. The weekend includes a bench-pressing competition between the New Haven Police and Fire Departments, and the Bulldog Invitational hosted by the Yale gymnastics team on Saturday. On Sunday, the men’s and women’s squash teams will host Harvard. Last year’s Pink Zones weekend raised over $10,000 for the Smillow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
The Bulldogs started this weekend off on the right foot, extending their winning streak to three with a 72–60 win at Penn on Friday — only to run into a brick wall at Princeton the next day.
The Tigers proved too much for the Elis (12–8, 4–2 Ivy) to handle as they fell 72–47, dropping to third place in the Ivy League.
“We stayed pretty close to them for most of the game,” guard Aarica West ’13 said. “We fought hard in the beginning, but in the second half we just didn’t have enough in us to stay in the game. All we can do now is remember what this feels like and come back at them next time.”
In all four of their Ivy League wins this season, the Elis have trailed at halftime but come out strong in the second half to take the lead quickly. Friday’s game at Penn stuck to that model, as the Bulldogs went into the half down 27–25, but went on a 15–3 run to jump to a 10-point lead in the first six minutes after the break.
“Every time that we’ve been down in the first half and then come back it’s been because we were either too antsy or were playing hard but not with our heads,” West said. “Coach [Chris Gobrecht] has been telling us at halftime that we need to settle down and focus more on the game.”
Yale was lucky to be down by only two at halftime after Penn (8–11, 1–4 Ivy) outrebounded the Elis 30-17 in the first half. The Quakers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, but good defense from the Bulldogs prevented them from converting those extra opportunities into a bigger lead. The Elis held Penn to only 28.6 percent shooting in the first half, but were only able to make 10 of their own 31 attempts from the floor.
After halftime, though, the Bulldogs’ offense turned up the heat. Guard Megan Vasquez ’13 scored 17 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, and the Elis shot a blistering 51.7 percent from the field. The team made 14 of 15 free throws in the second period to complete the effort and prevent Penn from climbing back into the game.
Yale held its lead to around eight or nine points for most of the second half and never let the Quakers build any significant momentum to mount a comeback. With a minute left in the game, Penn pulled within six on a three-pointer by freshman Jackie Kates but was forced to foul to try to get the ball back. Vasquez made both of her free throws to push the lead back to eight. When the Quakers sent Janna Graf ’14 to the line first with 40 and then 26 seconds remaining, she made all four of her free throws to put the game out of reach.
The Penn victory gave head coach Chris Gobrecht her 499th career victory and set the stage for a battle for first place on Saturday with Princeton. Yale put up a good fight, but the Tigers (15–4, 5–0 Ivy) reminded everyone why they have only had one Ivy League loss in the past three seasons. Princeton jumped out to an 8–0 lead in the first two minutes, but the Bulldogs responded with two layups from Vasquez and two three-pointers from Graf to tie the game up at 10–10. From that point on, Princeton started to pull away, but Yale stuck with the Tigers for the rest of the first half, preventing the game from getting out of hand.
Once again, the Bulldogs went into halftime behind, only this time there was no big run to open up the second half and pull them back into the game. It was Princeton that scored four of the first five baskets of the second half, and the Bulldogs were never able to recover.
“We’re a team that can be slow out of the gates at times,” guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said, “and we never got that spark [Saturday] night. It just wasn’t there for us.”
Princeton, whose starters average just under 6’0” in height, dominated inside and outrebounded Yale 61–30. The Bulldogs also struggled to score against Princeton’s tight defense. They shot only 25 percent from the floor and made only one field goal during the last seven minutes.
One bright spot for the Elis, however, was the return of guard Hayden Latham ’15, who missed the last eight games with a concussion. Latham played 12 minutes in her first game back and finished with three points and three rebounds. Halejian said that Latham’s return gives the team a much-needed boost going forward.
“We’ve definitely been missing her a whole lot,” Halejian said. “It’s great to have more bodies, but she’s also a really good player, and we’ve really been lacking her presence. She looked good [Saturday] night too, so hopefully she’s able to continue to play well.”
The Bulldogs return home next weekend after playing their last four contests away from John J. Lee amphitheater. They face Cornell on Friday and then take on Columbia the following day. Tipoff Friday is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Two milestones are in sight as the women’s basketball team hits the road this weekend to take on Penn and Princeton. Head coach Chris Gobrecht is two wins away from her 500th career coaching victory, and guard Megan Vasquez ’13 needs only 47 more points to reach the 1,000-point mark for her career.
Gobrecht began her Division I coaching career over three decades ago when she took the helm of a struggling Cal State Fullerton program in 1979. She quickly turned the program around, compiling an 18–12 record in only her third season at the school. In her sixth and final season coaching the Titans, Gobrecht led them to a 19–11 record and their first-ever appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, earning her recognition as a finalist for national Coach of the Year honors. After Cal State Fullerton, Gobrecht coached at the University of Washington, Florida State and the University of Southern California before arriving at Yale. Gobrecht currently holds a 498–423 career coaching record, and recorded 73 of those wins as head coach of the Bulldogs (11–7, 3–1 Ivy).
Vasquez has been a major part of Gobrecht’s success at Yale since her arrival two years ago. She started 14 of her 28 games as a freshman and averaged a team-high 11.5 points per game. Vasquez continued to lead the team in scoring last year and increased her average to 13.6 points per game while earning All-Ivy First Team Honors. This season she has reached a season-high 23 points three different times, but she will have to eclipse that mark to take her career total from 953 to 1,000 points over the next two games.
The Bulldogs are coming off of a strong showing last weekend when they beat Harvard for the third time in a row on Friday in Cambridge and followed up that performance with a dominating 24-point victory at Dartmouth. But team captain Michelle Cashen ’12 said the team knows that the greater challenge lies ahead.
“It’s always great to get a sweep on the road,” Cashen said, “but we have a tough weekend coming up for us so we can’t let these games give us big heads.”
The Bulldogs will face the Quakers tonight at Penn followed by a critical matchup at Princeton the next day. Penn is 1–2 in the Ivy League, with its only victory coming over winless Columbia, and the Quakers (8–9, 1–2 Ivy) should not pose a serious threat to the Elis, but the real challenge will come on Saturday.
The Bulldogs will face the first-place Tigers (13–4, 3–0 Ivy) tomorrow in a game that will have serious implications for both teams’ Ivy League title hopes. Yale currently sits in second place after having unseated Harvard last Friday, and if the team wins both of its games this weekend it will emerge no worse than tied for first place with a 4–1 conference record. Harvard and Princeton could also be 4–1 after this weekend, but the Bulldogs would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against both teams and would be sitting in pole position in the Ivy League for the rest of the season. If they do not win, the Elis are likely to come out of the weekend in third place and will be forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
The women’s basketball team fared much better than the men’s team against its Harvard opponents this weekend.
The Bulldogs (11–7, 3–1 Ivy) beat the Crimson 68–63 on Friday and then dominated Dartmouth Sunday afternoon by a score of 89–65.
“[Beating Harvard] was an amazing feeling,” guard Megan Vasquez ’13 said. “We swept them last year, and Harvard and Dartmouth are the winningest programs in the Ivy League, so we’re very proud of our wins this weekend.”
The Elis fell behind early on Friday, but mounted a tremendous second-half comeback to pull out the victory. Harvard (9–8, 2–1) got out of the gate quickly, scoring the first eight points of the game before Janna Graf ’14 put Yale on the board with a three-pointer five minutes into the first half. The Bulldogs battled back to take a 16–15 lead with 5:17 remaining in the first period, but the Crimson answered with a 13–2 run and eventually went into halftime with a five-point lead.
Yale opened the second half the way Harvard had the first, scoring five times in a row to erase the deficit and take a seven-point lead before Harvard’s Christine Clark made a layup to stop the run four minutes into the half. Clark led the Crimson in scoring with 16 points and tied Graf, who also finished with 16, to lead all scorers. The teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the game; Harvard was able to take the lead for brief moments several times, but Yale always had an answer. The Crimson cut the lead to one with 1:24 remaining in the game, but a minute later guard Sarah Halejian ’15 made a layup and was fouled. Halejian completed the three-point play to put the Bulldogs up by three. Harvard was forced to foul and Vasquez made three of four free throws to close out the game. Vasquez said that the Bulldogs’ up-tempo play and tight defense gave them the advantage against the Crimson.
“We pushed the ball really well in transition,” Vasquez said. “I don’t think that they were really ready for it. We also locked down on their shooters and didn’t give them any open looks.”
On Sunday, the Elis were again outscored in the first half, but overwhelmed the Big Green in the second half en route to a 24-point win. This time the Bulldogs went on an even bigger run to open the second period, scoring 26 points to Dartmouth’s one point over the first nine minutes. They held the Big Green without a field goal until Tia Dawson ended the drought with a layup with 9:36 remaining in the game. Dartmouth was never able to recover, and the Elis coasted to an easy victory.
“Our coaches told us at halftime that we needed to step it up,” captain Michelle Cashen ’12 said. “We needed to get engaged in the game and just be more proactive, which we weren’t doing before.”
Vasquez, who led the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 points, added that the team knew that Dartmouth had scored too many points in the first half and that its defense had to be better.
The Elis outshot Dartmouth (2–15, 0–3) 44.1 percent to 30.0 percent in the second half and finished shooting 45.6 percent, a much better mark than they have averaged the last few games. “We were definitely getting better looks today than we have the past few games,” Vasquez said. “People seemed more composed and we had much better shot selection today.”
Next weekend the Bulldogs have their first back-to-back games of the conference season against Penn and Princeton. Graf said that the team must work hard to prepare for these upcoming challenges.
“Both games are going to be very tough competitions,” Graf said. “Princeton is the two-time defending champion and Penn’s program is getting better every year. We’re really going to have to come with our A-game and make sure that everyone is ready to play.”