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Several Scenarios Could Determine Yale’s Postseason Fate

The Yale women's basketball huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The Yale women's basketball huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

A Sweep Of Columbia And Cornell Could Clinch At Least WNIT Berth


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University women's basketball team has not played postseason basketball in 32 years, before the NCAA was formed and nearly 20 years before the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) came into existence. When the Bulldogs meet Columbia and Cornell this weekend, the possibility of earning a trip to the postseason could become a reality.

Yale has made only three postseason appearances in its 38-year history and last played in a postseason tournament in 1979, in the EAIAW tournament. The Bulldogs also appeared in the EAIAW tournament in 1978 and in the Connecticut Small College Tournament in 1977, which it won. All three postseason appearances happened under the guidance of Head Coach Louise O'Neal.

However, thanks to their first win at Harvard since 2001 last weekend, the Bulldogs (13-13, 9-3 Ivy League) now sit in second place in the Ivy League, a game and a half behind Princeton (21-4, 10-1 Ivy League) and a half-game ahead of Harvard (16-9, 8-3 Ivy League) in the race for the Ivy League championship.

The top two teams in the League qualify for postseason play, with the champion earning the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and the second-place finisher earning a spot in the WNIT.

"We have something to play for," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We have the possibility of postseason play. We have to take care of business (this) weekend."

There are plenty of scenarios that will give the Bulldogs their first-ever trip to either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT.

With three games remaining on their regular-season schedule, Princeton is in position to clinch at least a share of their second consecutive Ivy League title this weekend. If Princeton defeats visiting Dartmouth on Friday, it will secure at least a share of the crown.

Should the Tigers sweep their games Friday and Saturday, they will claim the title outright Saturday night, regardless of other results around the League.

However, if the Bulldogs win both games this weekend and should Princeton lose at least two of its final three games, then there would be a playoff for the Ivy League title. If Yale wins both games and Princeton loses all three of its remaining games, Yale would win the Ivy League title.

"I got a little bit down after our first loss to Princeton because I knew they were the team to beat if we wanted to win the Ivy League championship," senior forward Mady Gobrecht said. "The fact that we're actually in position to possibly go to a postseason tournament is something that we haven't fathomed. We haven't talked about it. We have been focused on what is ahead of us. It is so awesome to even consider it. It's exciting."

There is one scenario that would result in a three-team playoff. If Yale and Harvard win their remaining games and Princeton loses two of its final three games, there would be a three-team playoff. If that happens, there would be a single-elimination, neutral-site playoff.

If Princeton does clinch its second consecutive Ivy League title this weekend, then the race for second place becomes the focus.

Yale currently has the advantage with one more victory. On top of that, Yale plays its final games at home, while Harvard faces an uphill battle with all three of its remaining games on the road at Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth.

However, if the Bulldogs and Crimson end up tied in the standings by the time the season wraps up on Tuesday, then the Ivy League's tiebreaker formula would be utilized to determine the recipient of the WNIT bid. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head results. Thanks to its first season sweep of Harvard since the 1993-94 season, Yale would win the tiebreaker and would receive the automatic WNIT berth.

While the possibility of the first postseason game and perhaps the team's first Ivy League title since 1979 exists, the Bulldogs are not letting all the what-ifs become a distraction, instead focusing on the games that remain on the schedule because they realize that even one loss this weekend could end any hope of extending the season.

"I had high hopes for us," Greenfield said. "I'm not saying I expected us to be in this position, but I'm really proud of the girls. I'm a positive person so I was hoping for this. … Anything can happen in the Ivy League, which is why we can't be crazy now. You could very well beat Harvard and then lose to Cornell. Every game matters and every opponent matters. Upsets happen all the time in the Ivy League."

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity