Season Outlook: Re-Loaded Bulldogs Ready for 2009-10

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - After a promising 2008-09 season was derailed by a series of injuries, the Yale women’s basketball team returns seven letterwinners from that season, including four starters, for the 2009-10 campaign. Chris Gobrecht, entering her fifth year as the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women’s Basketball, has also added a nationally-recognized recruiting class to a team that knocked off North Carolina State and came within 15 seconds of defeating Kentucky one season ago.

“The returning players have a great foundation of experience, and know how to be successful playing Yale basketball,” said Gobrecht. “Combining the returning players with a strong recruiting class, we finally have the depth to make our system work.”

The Captain
Ashley Carter will serve as the captain of the Bulldogs for her senior campaign. The three-year veteran has played in 82 games in her Yale career, including 27 contests last season. A versatile player known for her determination and hustle, Carter had a career game at Brown on Jan. 23, netting 13 points and hauling in nine rebounds.

“Ashley will continue to serve this team as a great emotional leader and a tremendous role model,” said Gobrecht of her senior captain. “Her work ethic and commitment to the team will be integral to our success.”

Backcourt
All three graduating seniors from the class of 2009 came from the Yale backcourt. The Bulldogs will need to replace nearly 12 points per game due to graduation losses, including former captain Jamie Van Horne ‘09, who rewrote the three-point shooting record book in her four-year career. A pair of point guards returns to the Bulldogs’ backcourt for 2009-10, and Yale will also add a trio of newcomers into the mix.

Returning to run the point for Yale is junior guard Yoyo Greenfield. Playing in her first full season in 2008-09, and seeing her first Ivy League action, Greenfield was the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer with 9.7 points per contest. She was also a prominent threat from beyond the arc with 32 three-point field goals and was one of the Ancient Eight’s top free-throw shooters with a .791 percentage (87-110) at the charity stripe.

As one of five Bulldogs to average more than 25 minutes per contest last season, Coach Gobrecht predicts that Greenfield will benefit greatly from Yale’s depth at the guard position. “We will finally be able to run a two-guard system and take advantage of Yoyo’s scoring ability this season,” said the 30-year Division I coaching veteran. “Her speed is perfect for our style of play.”

Sophomore Brianna Segerson saw action in 25 games as a rookie in 2008-09, splitting time at both guard positions. One of Yale’s leaders in assists and steals as a freshman, Segerson missed three Ivy League contests due to injury.

“Brianna is our best passer and has exhibited tremendous court vision,” said Gobrecht. “She will be an integral part of our system, especially in the half-court game.”

Joining Yale’s backcourt will be Megan Vasquez, a 5’7” guard from Merrick, N.Y. The only player in Sanford H. Calhoun High School history to eclipse 2,000 career points, and the only athlete in the school’s history to have her uniform number retired, Vasquez averaged 24.2 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals per game as a senior. The 2008-09 Nassau County Player of the Year will help fill the void behind the arc left by Van Horne, and also adds tremendous athleticism and ball-handling skills to the shooting guard position.

“Megan has tremendous range and can flat-out score,” said Gobrecht. “Her size and athleticism at the guard spot will help us both offensively and defensively.”

Allie Messimer, a freshman guard from The Woodlands, Texas, also enters the fold after a four-year career at College Park High School. Messimer led the Cavaliers in scoring as a senior, and was also a starter for the nationally prominent club team Cy-Fair Shock Nike Elite.

Even as a guard, Coach Gobrecht will look to Messimer as an integral contributor to the Bulldogs’ rebounding effort: “Allie is a slashing guard who loves to crash the boards. We haven’t had a solid rebounder in our back court in my time at Yale.”

Another highly-touted recruit coming to New Haven is Aarica West, a guard from Buena Park, Calif. A 2008 graduate of Vista Murrieta High School, West was rated as one of the top 50 players in the class of 2008. She considered several top Division I programs before her heart fell for Yale after a visit. A First Team All-League selection and her team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior, West was also named her team MVP in a post-graduate year at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass.

“Aarica’s ability will add a number of new possibilities to our offense,” said Gobrecht. “She is a versatile player with the skills of a guard and the strength of a post player.”

Frontcourt
Just as it has been for the past three years, the frontcourt of the Bulldogs’ offense will be led by senior Melissa Colborne. Colborne was an All-Ivy Second Team selection in 2008-09 after leading the Bulldogs and finishing second in the Ivy League with 15.6 points per game. She also led the Ivy League in free throw percentage (.808, 156-for-193). Colborne cemented her place in Yale history last season, as she became the 16th Bulldog to score 1,000 career points. The 2006-07 Ivy League Rookie of the Year has climbed to ninth on the all-time list, entering her senior campaign with 1,171 career points. With one season left, the Calgary, Alta. native is already Yale’s all-time leader with 413 career free throws.

“The Ivy League has been unable to stop her for three years,” said Gobrecht of her premiere offensive weapon. “There’s something that clicks in senior players, especially when they have a great shot at winning, and I think Mel is hungry to finish her career right. A driven, determined Melissa Colborne is a scary thing for the rest of the Ivy League.”

After her All-Ivy caliber season was cut short due to injury in 2008-09, forward Haywood Wright returns to the lineup for her senior season. Wright averaged 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game through the Bulldogs first 21 games, and, despite missing seven contests with a knee injury, her 34 blocks were a team best and ranked her sixth in the Ivy League.

“Haywood is determined to be ready to go for her senior season,” said Gobrecht. “She was our Most Improved Player last season, and we are anxious to have her back in uniform.”

Junior Mady Gobrecht, a forward from Hamden, Conn., found herself as the only true post player in a Bulldogs’ frontline that was depleted by injuries last season. Gobrecht averaged 7.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2008-09 and finished in the top ten in the Ivy League in rebounds, assists (3.2 apg), steals (1.8 spg), blocked shots (0.8 bpg) and offensive rebounds (2.4 orpg). Coach Gobrecht predicts that Mady will flourish with the Yale roster at full strength in 2009-10.

“Mady was under a lot of pressure as our only healthy post player last season, and she will benefit greatly from our added depth,” said Gobrecht. “She is close to breakout year.”

Junior Lindsey Williams, who missed all of last season due to injury, will look to pick up where she left off in a freshman campaign that saw her land as a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy Rookie Team. Williams averaged 8.6 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds in 2007-08.

“Lindsey is a gifted player,” said Gobrecht. “We missed her last season after an outstanding freshman year, and she is anxious to get back on the court.”

The breakout player of the 2008-09 Bulldogs was sophomore Michelle Cashen. Cashen stepped up in the final seven games of her freshman campaign after Wright’s injury, averaging 6.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in that time. The Belle Harbor, N.Y. native was selected to the All-Ivy Rookie Team for her performance.

“Michelle is a skilled, intelligent player who I think is going to keep getting better,” said Gobrecht.

Another player who stepped up due to injuries in 2008-09 was junior Victoria Perez. Perez, who played just seven minutes as freshman, appeared in 10 contests last season, including the final six Ivy League games.

“Vicky is another physical presence for us under the basket,” said Gobrecht. “I will continue to expect her work ethic to push our other post players.”

The Bulldogs will get an offensive jumpstart in January 2010, when sophomore forward Verena Lehner becomes eligible. Lehner, who did not play as a freshman, is the first European player to suit up for the women’s basketball program. The native of Gmunden, Austria won a combined six national championships (high school and club) in her home country, and scored a game-high 24 points in an exhibition against Yale in the summer of 2007. Lehner was an all-league player as well as the team MVP in both basketball and volleyball in her senior year at the Pomfret (Conn.) School.

“Verena is the best shooting forward I’ve had at Yale,” said Gobrecht, “She will give us a great boost entering Ivy League play.”

A trio of freshmen rounds out the Yale frontcourt. Alicia Seelaus will join the Bulldogs out of River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md. A post player with the versatility to play outside as well, Seelaus was a member of a Maryland State Championship team as a freshman and earned a slot on the Baltimore Sun All-County First Team last season.

“Alicia’s best attribute is that she never backs down from any opponent,” said Gobrecht. “A tough, physical player who can also put points on the board is hard to find.”

Ericka von Kaeppler, a 6’0 forward from Palo Alto, Calif., was a three-time All-League selection and averaged a double-double in her senior season for the Castilleja High School Gators.

“Ericka has a tremendous upside,” said Gobrecht. “Her biggest challenge will be learning the college game, but she is a skilled, intelligent player who will continue to improve.”

A forward from Waban, Mass., Emily Wanger was a two-year team captain and four-year letterwinner at the Winsor School. She was three-time All-Eastern Independent League selection, including two MVP nods, and is the Winsor School’s all-time leading scorer.

“Emily can finish around the rim and finish with contact,” said Gobrecht. “Her toughness down low will be a great asset.”

Schedule
As is becoming tradition in the Elm City, Coach Gobrecht has lined up a gauntlet of formidable non-conference foes prior to the always grueling Ivy League slate. Five teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09, including Regional Finalist Arizona State, highlight the 28-game schedule.

The home- and season-opener against Holy Cross on Nov. 13 marks the fourth consecutive season in which the Bulldogs and Crusaders have met. Yale won the most recent meeting in Worcester to kick off the 2008-09 campaign. After hosting Army on Nov. 17, the busy opening week to the season concludes on Nov. 19 as Arizona State visits the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Sun Devils advanced to the Regional Finals (Elite Eight) of the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs will then spend Thanksgiving in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico Tournament. Yale will challenge Toledo on Nov. 27 and will meet either North Carolina A&T or the host Lobos on Nov. 28.

After a road jaunt at Bucknell and home contests against Boston University and UC Davis, Yale closes out 2009 at intra-state rivals Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart. The two Connecticut road contests kick off a seven-game road swing.

While thousands of Americans will begin 2010 in Manhattan, N.Y., the Bulldogs will ring in the New Year in Manhattan, Kansas, as the Wildcats from Kansas State host Yale on Jan. 2. After a Jan. 4 meeting at Colorado, a road contest at the New Jersey Institute of Technology brings the Bulldogs back to the East Coast.

The game at NJIT marks Yale’s final tune-up for the Ivy League slate, which begins at Brown on Jan. 15. A mid-week contest at Bryant closes out the non-conference schedule, and the Bulldogs will then wrap-up the home-and-home series with Brown on Jan. 22, as the Bears travel to the Elm City. A road weekend at Penn and Princeton on Jan. 29 and 30, home contests with Cornell and Columbia on Feb. 5 and 6 and another road swing to Harvard and Dartmouth on Feb. 12 and 13 bring Yale to its longest home stretch of the season: a four game stretch featuring a quartet of Ivy League foes. The Bulldogs will host Princeton and Penn on Feb. 19 and 20 before welcoming defending Ivy League Champion Dartmouth to New Haven on Feb. 26 and perennial rival Harvard for Senior Night on Feb. 27. The 2009-10 regular season concludes with a road weekend at Columbia and Cornell on March 5 and 6.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity

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