Yale Women's Basketball Edges Holy Cross, 74-71

Verena Lehner. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Verena Lehner. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Vasquez Leads The Way With 17 Points, 7 Assists

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WORCESTER, Mass. — Despite taking on Holy Cross with a shorthanded lineup, the Yale University women's basketball team still managed to find a way to escape its season opener with a road win.

Sophomore guard Megan Vasquez, an All-Ivy Rookie Team selection last season, scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and dished out seven assists to help Yale tip off the 2010-11 season with a 74-71 victory over Holy Cross in non-conference action at the Hart Center Friday night.

"Considering we were down two starters, for us to get the road win, all those young kids had to play and I thought they did a great job," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "I thought we kept our poise. We knew they would wear down in the end. That's what we do to people. We felt pretty good after they put the run on us and caught us. We still knew that we had a lot of basketball in us. We were very strong down the stretch."

Called into the starting lineup because of an injury that kept junior forward Michelle Cashen out of action, junior forward Verena Lehner poured in 15 points, while sophomore guard Allie Messimer and senior forward Mady Gobrecht each added 10 points. Gobrecht scored all of her points in the second half and also grabbed eight rebounds. Freshman Janna Graf also missed the game due to illness.

"We know Verena can score the ball," Coach Gobrecht said. "If she can get a little better defensively, she's going to be tough because we know she can score. I thought she did a really good job of attacking the basket and not letting the defense phase her."

Sophomore forward Amy Lepley led Holy Cross (0-1, 0-0) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Whitney Fremeau added 13 points and seven assists.

Holy Cross took an early 4-0 lead behind a pair of quick baskets by freshman guard Brisje Malone and Fremeau. The Bulldogs responded with some bite thanks to an 11-0 run that was fueled by the sophomore class. Ericka von Kaeppler started the run with a 3-pointer. Aarica West followed with a pair of jump shots. Freshman guard Amanda Tyson snuck in a layup and then sophomore forward Alicia Seelaus closed the run with another layup.

Once the Bulldogs grabbed the lead, they maintained it throughout the rest of the half. Vasquez carried most of the offensive load, scoring 11 of her points in the half. including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. Lehner had eight of her points in the half, while West scored all seven of her points to help the Bulldogs go into the locker room with a 40-31 halftime lead.

However, the Crusaders came out firing to start the second half, kicking off the final 20 minutes with a 13-3 run that tied the score at 43-43 with 14:01 to play. Lehner stopped the bleeding with a layup and a 3-pointer sandwiched around a Fremeau jumper to give Yale a 48-45 lead with 12:57 left.

The two teams exchanged scores until Kelly Hamner's layup made the score 52-51 in Yale's favor. The Bulldogs then put together a short 10-4 burst to go ahead 62-55 with 6:21 remaining thanks to Mady Gobrecht's first six points of the contest.

"I was a little frustrated in the first half obviously, but Coach (Allison) Guth told me to keep posting up inside and taking it to them because I had a size advantage," Mady Gobrecht said. "I didn't let it get to me and I came out in the second half motivated to help this team any way I could and I started to demand the ball more. I wasn't posting up very much in the first half."

The Crusaders had one more run in them and they used it to briefly take control of the game. The 8-0 run behind baskets from Lepley, Hamner, and Fremeau put the Crusaders ahead 63-62 with 4:45 remaining.

"That was their best run, and it took that for them to catch us," Coach Gobrecht said. "We still had another run in us. Basketball is a game of runs and we still had one in us. I thought the seniors really came through and didn't let the run from Holy Cross get to anybody and we settled down. Mady was very good down the stretch. Megan was very good. Allie hit some big shots. A lot of people just stepped up and did some good things down the stretch."

Both teams struggled to seize control, but the Bulldogs' quick pace kept the tempo in their favor and it allowed them to stay even with the Crusaders on the scoreboard thanks to two more baskets from Gobrecht. The Bulldogs finally jumped on top for good when senior captain Yoyo Greenfield sank a pair of free throws — her only points of the game — with 1:02 left and Vasquez converted on a layup with 18 seconds remaining and a free throw with 5 seconds left to close out the Yale scoring. The Crusaders finally ran out of steam and could not answer back, handing Yale its first victory of the new season.

"We run our butts off throughout preseason just so we can wear a team down like that, and we can keep going after they get tired, which is what I think happened," Mady Gobrecht said. "They made that final push but we still found a way to stay ahead at the end. We've also been trained to stay poised even after we get tired, and I think that played a big part in the win tonight."

Yale returns to action on Wednesday, Nov. 17, in a non-conference contest at Boston University.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity