Streaking Bulldogs Headed for Pivotal Ivy Road Weekend

Ericka von Kaeppler (photo by Don Clark,  Yale Sports Publicity)
Ericka von Kaeppler (photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Coming off of its first Ivy League weekend sweep in three seasons, the Yale women’s basketball team enters a pivotal Ivy League road weekend as winners of four of its last five games and sitting in second place in the Ancient Eight at 4-2. The Bulldogs (9-11 overall) will look to separate themselves from the pack as they hit the road to challenge a pair of teams tied in the loss column with Yale: historic rival Harvard (12-7, 3-2 Ivy) and defending Ivy League Champion Dartmouth (8-11, 3-2 Ivy). The Bulldogs travel to Cambridge on Friday night, and Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. will host Yale and Big Green on Saturday. Both contests are slated for 7 p.m. starts.

Last Time Out
The Bulldogs earned their first Ivy League weekend sweep in three seasons with home victories over Cornell (74-50) and Columbia (81-74). Freshman Megan Vasquez earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors after averaging 13.5 points, 5.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds against Big Red and the Lions.

Scouting Harvard
The Harvard Crimson boast four players averaging double figures, including Emma Markley, who ranks third in the Ivy League in scoring with 14.5 points per game. Markley, a four-time Ivy League Player of the Week, also ranks fifth in the Ancient Eight in rebounding with 7.4 boards per contest. The Crimson, who are led in assists by former Ivy League Rookie of Year Brogan Berry (6.0 apg), has won three of its last four games. In the non-conference season, Yale and Harvard both won at NJIT, lost at Sacred Heart and hosted and defeated Holy Cross and Boston University. Both teams have had the same fate against four Ivy League teams as well, defeating Cornell and Columbia at home, besting Penn in Philadelphia and losing at first-place Princeton.

Series History
The Crimson swept the season series in 2008-09 to extend its lead in the all-time series to 39-30. Harvard has won four of the last five meetings in the series, which dates back to a Yale win over Radcliffe on Dec. 7, 1974.

Scouting Dartmouth
The defending Ivy League Champion Dartmouth Big Green has split its last two Ancient Eight weekends to move to 3-2 in league play and 8-11 overall. Big Green is led by 12.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game from Brittney Smith, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year. Both Yale and Dartmouth defeated Holy Cross in the non-conference season, while Big Green downed a Bryant team that knocked off Yale. Both teams have bested Ivy League foes Penn and Cornell, while Yale defeated Columbia, which beat Dartmouth the previous week. Both teams fell to first-place Princeton.

Series History
Big Green’s sweep of the Bulldogs in 2008-09 en route to an Ivy League Championship gave them a 49-15 lead the all-time series. Winners five straight and of the nine of the last 10 meetings in the series, Dartmouth won the first encounter between the two programs in Yale’s inaugural varsity season of 1974-75.

Bulldogs Being Offensive
Yale shot over 60% in the first half of last weekend’s wins over both Cornell and Columbia. The Bulldogs connected on their first 10 shots from the floor, with the first miss coming on a half-court heave as the shot clock expired, en route to tallying 40 first-half points in a 74-50 rout of Big Red on Feb. 5. The next night against Columbia, Yale scored a season-high 47 points in the opening frame on the heels of 69% (20-29) shooting the floor. The 81 points that the Bulldogs racked up against the Lions accounted for the most points scored in the Ivy League this season, as did the combined 155 points tallied by the two teams. Junior Yoyo Greenfield’s 20 points against Columbia marked a personal career-best as well as the first 20-point performance of the season for a Yale player.

Doing It with Defense
In eight of their nine victories this season, the Bulldogs have held their opponents to just 60 points or fewer. Yale surrendered less than 20 points in the first half of wins against Army (15) and Bucknell (19) and limited Brown to just 19 points in the second half of a 67-43 victory on Jan. 22. UC Davis and Brown (first meeting, Jan. 15 in Providence) also tallied just 60 points against Yale, though both squads managed to hold off the Bulldogs and claim victory.

Freshman Phenom
Freshman Megan Vasquez, who leads Yale with 11.4 points per game in 2009-10, earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season after posting 13.5 points and 5.5 assists per game in the sweep of Cornell and Columbia on the weekend of Feb. 5. Thus far in 2009-10, Vasquez has made eight starts in 20 games and averages 26.5 minutes of action per contest. In addition to her team-best scoring output, which ranks her second among Ivy League freshmen and 10th in the Ancient Eight overall, she ranks sixth in the league in free throw percentage (.778), ninth in steals (1.5 spg) and 10th in assists (2.5 apg). Vasquez has scored in double figures 13 times this season, including a string of nine straight games from Dec. 9 to Jan. 18.

Climbing the Ladder
Two-time All-Ivy honoree Melissa Colborne is once again one of Yale’s offensive pacesetters in 2009-10 with 8.7 points per game. The senior, who ranked second in the Ivy League in scoring in each of the last two seasons, currently ranks sixth in Yale history with 1,344 career points. The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year has already eclipsed the Yale program records for free throws made in a game (14), a season (156), a career (462) and in a game without a miss (12-for-12), as well as for free throw attempts in a career (611). Colborne’s career free throw percentage of .756 is among the best in Yale history.

Doing It All
Junior Mady Gobrecht is the lone Ivy Leaguer to rank in the league top 10 in field goal percentage (fifth, .453), rebounds (eighth, 6.5 rpg), assists (eighth, 2.8 apg) and blocked shots (seventh, 1.3 bpg). Gobrecht, the only Bulldog to start all 20 games in 2009-10, also ranks 17th in the Ancient Eight in scoring with 9.5 points per contest. She has tallied three double-doubles this season.

No Sophomore Slump
Sophomore Michelle Cashen, a 2008-09 All-Ivy Rookie Team selection, has been one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent players this season. Cashen is currently one of five Yale players averaging over 8.0 points per game and is the Bulldogs’ top rebounder with 7.4 boards per contest, slotting her at fifth in the Ivy League on the glass. The sophomore, who is also among the Ancient Eight’s best at the free throw line with a .800 shooting percentage, has tallied four double-doubles in 2009-10.

Block Parties
Junior Mady Gobrecht blocked a career-best six shots in the Bulldogs’ 68-58 win at NJIT on Jan. 9. Gobrecht, who ranks seventh in the Ivy League with 1.3 blocked shots per game, accounted for the most blocks by a Yale player since Erica Davis ’07 turned back seven Sacred Heart offerings on Nov. 25, 2006. Senior Haywood Wright, the third-most prolific shot blocker in Yale history with 104 rejections in her career, swatted five shots in the Bulldogs’ next contest at Brown on Jan. 15.

Spreading the Wealth
Though only one Yale player ranks among the top 10 scorers in the Ivy League (Vasquez, 10th), the Bulldogs boast the only roster in the Ancient Eight with five active players averaging over 8.5 points per game. The Bulldogs, who have eight players contributing at least 18 minutes per game, have had five different players lead them in scoring and six different players lead the way in rebounding this season.

Swept Away
Last weekend’s victories over Cornell and Columbia marked the first Ivy League weekend sweep for the Bulldogs since downing Harvard and Dartmouth on Jan. 26-27, 2007. Yale has now swept Cornell and Columbia in New Haven on back-to-back days on 13 occasions, while Big Red and the Lions have never knocked off the Bulldogs in consecutive games at Lee Amphitheater.

New Haven? Where’s That?
The Bulldogs ushered out 2009 and welcomed in 2010 with seven consecutive games away from the familiar confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Yale’s 33-day hiatus from action in the Elm City, which started in nearby Hamden, Conn. at Quinnipiac and ranged as far west as Boulder, Colo., spanned five states and three time zones. The Bulldogs also went 33 days without a home game last season, a stretch spanning six games from Nov. 18 to Dec. 21, 2008.

Schedule Strength
The 2009-10 Yale squad has challenged 2008-09 NCAA Regional Finalist Arizona State (L, 82-46) and NCAA Second Round participant Kansas State (L, 78-59) as well as 2008-09 conference champions Sacred Heart (L, 76-67) and North Carolina A&T (L, 80-79), which needed a buzzer beater to sneak past the Bulldogs on Nov. 28. Ivy League rival Dartmouth, last season’s Ancient Eight champion, will host Yale on Feb. 13 and will visit the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Feb. 26.

Picking on the Patriot
The Bulldogs went 3-0 against Patriot League foes this season, besting Holy Cross, Army and Bucknell. Yale was 1-2 against the same trio of opponents last season, posting a win at Holy Cross while dropping one-possession decisions to both the Bison (73-70) and Black Knights (62-60).

Double Double-Doubles
Sophomore Michelle Cashen (13 pts., 15 rebs.) and junior Mady Gobrecht (12 pts., 10 rebs.) both posted double-doubles in the Bulldogs’ season-opening victory over Holy Cross on Nov. 13. The last time two Yale players had double-doubles in the same game was on Jan. 13, 2007, when Erica Davis ’07 (21 pts., 11 rebs.) and Chinenye Okafor ’07 (10 pts., 13 rebs.) each performed the feat against Brown.

A Sign of Things to Come
With 15 points in the season-opening win against Holy Cross on Nov. 13, Megan Vasquez became the first freshman to lead Yale in scoring in her collegiate debut since Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 scored a team-best 19 points against New Hampshire to open the 2005-06 season.

Branches on the Coaching Tree
Chris Gobrecht was very familiar with her counterparts on the Arizona State bench on Nov. 19. Charli Turner Thorne, the head coach of the Sun Devils, was an assistant on Gobrecht’s staff at the University of Washington. In addition, Arizona State Associate Head Coach Meg (Gallagher) Sanders played collegiately on Gobrecht’s Cal State Fullerton squad from 1982-85.

That’s a Lot of W’s
With 460 wins in her career entering 2009-10, Chris Gobrecht ranks 30th among active Division I coaches in all-time victories. Among coaches on Yale’s 2009-10 schedule, only Bill Gibbons of Holy Cross (476 wins) has more career victories than Gobrecht. Gobrecht and Gibbons are both topped, however, by another coach from the Yale sidelines: Associate Head Coach Dianne Nolan, who amassed 517 wins as head coach of St. Francis (N.Y.) and Fairfield.

Making the Rounds
The Bulldogs’ 14 non-conference games featured teams from nine different conferences: America East, Big 12, Big West, Great West, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Northeast, Pac-10 and Patriot. Additionally, Bryant is a Division I Independent in its probationary period (ineligible for postseason play) with the Northeast Conference.

Ivy Analysis
With the Ivy League season nearing its halfway point, Princeton sits in the driver’s seat with a perfect 5-0 record. Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth and Harvard are all tied in the loss column with two defeats apiece. Brown sits one game behind the pack at 3-3, while Cornell and Penn, who will play each other in Ithaca on Friday, remain winless in Ancient Eight play. Columbia’s Judie Lomax leads the Ivy League in scoring and rebounding with 19.1 points and a Division I-best 14.3 boards per game.

Every Day is Mother’s Day
Junior forward Mady Gobrecht is the daughter of head coach Chris Gobrecht. They are one of two active mother-daughter, coach-player tandems in Division I women’s basketball (Southern Mississippi: Coach Joye Lee-McNelis and Whitney McNelis). This is the sixth time in Yale’s 156-year athletic history that a head coach is mentoring his or her child in a varsity sport and the first where the combo is mother-daughter (men’s fencing: Robert & Maurice Grasson, 1936-38; baseball: Smoky Joe & Joseph Wood, 1939-41; men’s basketball: Howard & David Hobson, 1952-55; men’s squash: John & Jack Skillman, 1954-55; football: Jordan & Harry Olivar, 1957-59).

WBCA Pink Zone
The Feb. 20 game against Penn will be the main event of Yale’s all-day WBCA Pink Zone event. The annual fundraiser, formerly known as “Think Pink”, is dedicated to raising awareness and donations for breast cancer research, with this year’s proceeds being donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital. The festivities, which will take place throughout Payne Whitney Gymnasium, will begin at 10 a.m. on Feb. 20 with a “Battle of the Badges” bench press competition. The Yale gymnastics team will compete at Lee Amphitheater at 1 p.m. against Southern Connecticut and Bridgeport, while the basketball team takes the court against Penn at 7 p.m. The day will also consist of a health fair, a silent auction and many chances to win great prizes and support an important cause.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity