The Yale women's basketball team (9-7, 1-1 Ivy League) returns to the road with visits to Ivy League rivals Harvard on Friday and Dartmouth on Sunday in hopes of erasing the memories of last week's heartbreaking home loss to Brown. The Bulldogs swept the season series from both teams last season. The win at Harvard last season was Yale's first win in Cambridge since the 2000-01 season, and the wins over Harvard last season were the first for the Bulldogs over the Crimson since the 2007-08 season. Against Dartmouth, Yale has won four straight games over the Big Green by an average margin of 14.5 points.
After starting the season with four losses in its first five games, Harvard (8-7, 1-0 Ivy League) has since won seven of its last 10 games, including wins over Big East power St. John's and a win over Dartmouth in its Ivy League opening game. The Crimson have suffered some tough losses this season, including losses at Providence (which lost to Brown), at Hartford (which lost to St. John's by 25), and at home to Holy Cross (which lost to Yale). However, the Crimson seem to be moving in the right direction. Since the season moved into 2012, Harvard is 3-1, with a loss in its last game to North Dakota. And in the standings that matter, only Harvard and Princeton (3-0) remain undefeated in Ivy League play. Three players are scoring in double figures this season for the Crimson, led by sophomore Christine Clark, who is leading the team in scoring (15.3 ppg.) and rebounds (6.1 rpg.). Senior Brogan Berry is second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and leads the team in assists (4.9 apg.). Junior Victoria Lippert is averaging 11.7 ppg. and 4.7 rpg. As a team, Harvard is leading the Ivy League in field-goal percentage (.416) and free-throw percentage (.787).
In a series that dates back to the 1974-75 season, the Ivy League's two fiercest rivals have 70 times prior to Friday's game. Harvard leads the all-time series by a 41-29 margin. However, prior to Yale's sweep of the season series last year, Harvard had won the previous four meetings, and 18 of the previous 22. Prior to last year's 78-64 win in Cambridge, Yale's last win at Harvard came on Feb. 17, 2001, 72-61. Yale is 4-8 against Harvard during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach.
Yale earned its first-ever trip to the WNIT and just its fourth-ever postseason appearance thanks to its first season sweep of Harvard since the 1993-94 season. Yale handed Harvard its first Ivy League loss of the season in the first meeting last year on Feb. 11, 2011. Janna Graf scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to help Yale pull out an 82-71 win at home. To close out the sweep, Megan Vasquez scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the second half to help Yale pull out a 78-64 win over Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion, the Bulldogs' first win at Harvard since Feb. 17, 2001. The win at Harvard gave Yale its ninth Ivy League win, the first time in 22 years that it had won more than eight games in Ivy play.
Berry's Mark on History
In her four seasons in a Harvard uniform, senior guard Brogan Berry has been the Crimson's most reliable player, and she has already cemented her place in Harvard's history, even if she doesn't play another game in her career. Entering the weekend, Berry ranked seventh in Ivy League history and fourth in Harvard's record books with 471 career assists. She is the 10th all-time leading scorer in Harvard's history with 1,262 career points. She needs just 118 more points to break into the Ivy League's all-time top 30, and she is on pace to join Emily Tay '09 (1,263 points, 514 assists) as one of only two players in Harvard's history to surpass 1,200 points and 500 assists.
Harvard holds a significant advantage on its home court at Lavietes Pavilion. Since the 2008-09 season, the Crimson have tallied a 33-8 record at Lavietes Pavilion, which includes a 17-4 mark in Ivy League play. Harvard had also won seven of its last eight Ivy League contests at home, with Yale handing Harvard its only loss in that span, a 78-64 decision last season.
Counting on Clark
Entering the weekend Christine Clark had scored in double-digits each game this season and in 17 straight dating back to last year. In 43 career games, Clark has scored at least 10 points 36 times and has been limited to under five points only once.
Dartmouth started the 2011-12 season at 2-2, but the Big Green have not won a game since a 72-62 win at Vermont on Nov. 22. The 11-game losing streak is the longest in Dartmouth's history. The Big Green has been outscored by an average of 15.9 points per game this season, and it has averaged just 50.8 points per game, while allowing a League-high 66.7 points per game. Dartmouth ranks at the bottom of the Ivy League in several categories, including scoring margin, rebounding (34.5 rpg.), rebounding margin (-6.2), assists (9.7 apg.), steals (6.5 spg.), turnover margin (-7.8), and offensive rebounds per game (9.6). However, the Big Green currently leads the Ivy League in blocks (4.5 bpg.). Dartmouth is looking for its first win at home. Entering the weekend, the Big Green is 0-6 at home with a chance to snap that streak against Brown on Friday before meeting Yale. Junior Faziah Steen leads the Big Green in scoring (15.8 ppg.).
Dartmouth holds a 50-18 edge over the Bulldogs in a series that dates back to Yale's first season as a varsity program in 1973-74. While Dartmouth holds a 9-5 edge in the last 14 meetings, that run includes four straight Yale wins, including a pair of season sweeps in each of the last two seasons. Yale earned a 66-53 win in New Haven on Feb. 12, 2011, and a 70-45 victory at Dartmouth on Feb. 25, 2011. The Bulldogs started the win streak with a 70-66 double-overtime win at Dartmouth on Feb. 13, 2010, and a 58-42 win in New Haven on Feb. 26, 2010. Dartmouth swept the season series in 2008-09, which includes Yale's last loss in Hanover, a 61-51 defeat on March 6, 2009. The Bulldogs are 5-7 against the Big Green during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach at Yale.
Yale swept the series from Dartmouth last season thanks to a pair of impressive displays by the Bulldog offense. In the opening game of the series, Megan Vasquez scored a game-high 21 points, while Janna Graf added 15 points and eight rebounds to lift Yale to a 66-53 win over Dartmouth in New Haven. Mady Gobrecht added eight points, 11 rebounds and a game-high seven assists. To complete the sweep, seven of the eight players who scored in the rematch scored at least eight points to lead Yale to a 70-45 Ivy League win over Dartmouth at Leede Arena. Gobrecht led the starters with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.
A Legend Joins Big Green
Yolanda Griffith, a women's basketball legend and likely a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, joined the Dartmouth women's basketball team this season as an assistant coach. Griffith, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, led the Sacramento Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA championship. She is the WNBA's all-time leader in offensive rebounds with 1,049, and is the only player with over 1,000 offensive rebounds. With 2,444 total rebounds, Griffith ranks fourth on the league's all-time list, eighth in career steals with 529 and ninth in career blocks with 323. Griffith was named to the WNBA's 10th Anniversary All-Decade Team. Griffith played professionally for 16 years on three continents and for five different leagues. Not only did she compete in the WNBA, but also the Euroleague, the American Basketball League (ABL), the Women's Chinese Basketball League and the Women's Korean Basketball League.
Every Dartmouth class but one since 1980 has graduated with at least one Ivy League Championship ring. This trend will hold through at least this season. The Big Green will need to win the Ivy League title next season to avoid seeing a second class not win a ring. With only one senior, Sasha Dosenko, who was on that 2009 championship team, and one junior, Faziah Steen, who has yet to win a ring, the Big Green has five freshman and three sophomores who have some time to bring the title back to Hanover.
The Quest for Ivy Glory
The quest for the Ivy League championship is now under way. As the only Division I conference without a postseason tournament, the League's 14-game conference slate becomes the "tournament" to determine which Ivy team wins the title and earns an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. The team that finishes the season in second place earns the Ivy League's automatic bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Yale earned its first-ever WNIT bid last season after finishing a program-best 10-4 in league play. The Bulldogs begin Ivy League play at Brown on Friday. Princeton is the two-time defending Ivy League champion. Yale is pursuing its first Ivy League championship since the 1978-79 season, when the league champion was determined in a mid-season tournament.
Last Time Out
Lauren Clarke led all scorers with 15 points and added five rebounds to help Brown take a 60-55 victory and spoil Yale's Ivy League home opener at John J. Lee Amphitheater. It was Brown's first win at Yale since a 64-62 win on Jan. 16, 2009, in the first meeting of the 2008-09 season. Trailing 54-50 in the final minute, the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to climb back into contention when Janna Graf's 3-point attempt rattled in and out of the basket with 49 seconds left on the clock. That forced the Bulldogs to foul every time Brown gained possession to slow the clock and Brown took advantage. The Bears went 6-for-6 from the line in the final 28 seconds to secure their first Ivy League win. Megan Vasquez led Yale with 14 points, while senior captain Michelle Cashen scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out five assists. She scored 11 of her points in the second half to help the Bulldogs stay within striking distance. However, the Bulldogs made only 19 of their 52 shots (36.5 percent) and they were just 5-for-18 from 3-point range (27.8 percent).
Reaping the Awards
Freshman guard Sarah Halejian scored 13 points to go with three rebounds in a 60-55 loss to Brown last week. On Monday, the Ivy League recognized Halejian's efforts by naming her the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week. It is the third consecutive week that Halejian has been named the Rookie of the Week and the fourth time this season. Her 13-point performance was the fourth straight double-digit scoring effort for Halejian and sixth of the season. In the last four games, Halejian has averaged 14.5 points per game.
A Great Ivy Start
Four players scored in double figures to lead Yale to a 75-65 win over Brown in the Ivy League opener for both teams in Providence on Jan. 13. Megan Vasquez scored 23 points to lead the Bulldogs. Sarah Halejian added 18 points. Amanda Tyson came off the bench to record 10 of her 12 points and seven of her eight rebounds in the second half to spark a late rally that lifted Yale to the win. The 12 points, eight rebounds and seven offensive rebounds are all new career-high marks for Tyson. Brown outscored Yale 21-9 over the final 11:21 of the first half to go into the locker room with a 32-31 halftime lead. It was the sixth time this season that Yale had trailed at halftime, but it was only the first time that Yale had won a game when trailing at the half. The Bulldogs used a 10-4 run to open up a 68-61 lead with 1:16 left that secured Yale's first win of the Ivy League season.
Introducing the Class of 2016
Four players will join the Bulldogs' roster as incoming freshman for the 2012-13 season. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Bulldogs announced the additions of guards Whitney Wyckoff and Nyasha Sarju, forward Meredith Boardman, and center Elizabeth "Emmy" Allen, who will all join the Bulldogs' roster as freshmen this fall. Allen is a 6-foot-3 center from Overland Park, Kan., who is rated as the 27th top post player in the country by ESPN. Boardman, a 6-foot-1 forward from Oak Park, Ill., who was listed among the Chicago area's top 50 players by both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Sarju, a 6-foot-tall shooting guard from Seattle, Wash., who was listed as the 56th best wing player in the country by ESPN. Wyckoff, a 5-foot-9 guard from West Chester, Ohio, was averaging 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks per game through the first four games of the season at Lakota East high School before suffering a season-ending knee injury. She is expected to return to the court before her arrival at Yale. She was listed as the 77th-ranked off-guard in the country by the College Girls Basketball Report. Wyckoff's sister, Brooke, played nine seasons in the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky and Orlando Miracle and is currently an assistant coach at Florida State.
Yale on YES
The YES Network, the broadcast home of the 27-time World Series Champion New York Yankees, will feature Yale's men's and women's basketball teams in a two-game, winter television package. The Yale women's basketball team tips off the Yale on YES package with its Ivy League contest against Dartmouth at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Friday, Feb. 17. The Yale men's basketball team will close out the package with its home game against Columbia on Friday, Feb, 24. Both games will air live on YES beginning at 7 p.m.
Pair of Awards
After scoring a career-high 18 points to go with three steals in Yale's 75-65 win at Brown on Friday, freshman guard Sarah Halejian was recognized by the Ivy League as its Co-Rookie of the Week. Halejian scored 13 of her 18 points to help lead Yale's second-half comeback in the victory. In addition to Halejian's League honor, junior guard Vasquez was named the Ivy League's Player of the Week by CollegeSportsMadness.com. Vasquez scored a game-high 23 points in the win. Vasquez scored 20 points for the fifth time this season.
Yale Athletics Pink Zones
Yale's game against Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 11 is the main event of Yale's two-day event that is now called "Yale Athletics Pink Zones." The annual fund-raiser, in conjunction with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's "Play 4Kay" initiative, is dedicated to raising awareness and donations for breast cancer research, with Yale's proceeds once again being donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital. Last year, Yale hosted the most successful Pink Zone weekend since Yale started participating five years ago. The festivities, which will take place throughout Payne Whitney Gymnasium, will once again include a "Battle of the Badges" competition featuring the Yale and New Haven police and fire departments. The Yale gymnastics team will host the Bulldog Invitational, while the women's and men's squash teams will compete against Ivy League rival Harvard on Sunday, Feb. 12. Check YaleBulldogs.com for the full schedule.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 915 career points. She needs just 85 points to reach 1,000 career points. She has now had five 20-point outings this season, including Holy Cross (23), Marist (21), Houston (22), Boston University (22) and Brown (23). She scored 20 or more points five times previously in her career, all coming last season. Vasquez scored 322 points in her freshman season and 366 points last season. If she approaches her average of 344 points from her first two seasons, she should reach the 1,000-point milestone at some point during the Ivy League season. In doing so, Vasquez will become the 17th player in Yale's history to reach 1,000 career points. The last Bulldog to reach the milestone was Melissa Colborne, who closed out her career with 1,418 points, fifth on Yale's all-time scoring list. If Vasquez continues to maintain her 344-point pace, she would finish in sixth place on Yale's all-time list with 1,376 career points.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity