2010-11 Season Preview: On the Move - Bulldogs Ready to Climb the Ivy Ranks

Yoyo Greenfield. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Women's Basketball Kicks Off 38th Season On Friday At Holy Cross

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With nine returning players, including four starters from last season, along with a heralded freshman class, the Yale women's basketball team appears poised to challenge Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth for Ivy League supremacy.

"Our goal is to be in the hunt for the Ivy Championship. That is the way we see it. We don't think that it is a long shot," said Chris Gobrecht, who is entering her sixth season as the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "This team feels like we are going out there every night to make a run at the Ivy League championship. It's not just talk, these players really feel that."

Yale tips off the 38th season in its history on Friday, Nov. 12, at Holy Cross, and while the focus is on getting off to a strong start to the season, the Bulldogs are determined to find success against their Ivy League counterparts.

With only one Ivy League championship in its 37-year history, the Bulldogs spent many seasons looking up in the standings while the likes of Dartmouth, Brown, Princeton and Harvard have secured more than their fair share of Ivy League gold.

The Bulldogs won their only Ivy League championship in 1979, and they haven't contended for the Ivy crown since 1989 when they finished 10-4 in Ivy play, two games behind Ivy champion Dartmouth, but there is a feeling in the locker room that this may finally be the year that the championship drought ends.

"It has been a little while," Gobrecht said. "It would be pretty monumental. Everybody in front of us in the Ivy League has won it a few times, and some people behind us have won it too. It certainly has been a very long dry spell for Yale. It would be a huge accomplishment. There is nothing that we would love more."

Led by the senior duo of Yoyo Greenfield and Mady Gobrecht, junior starting forward Michelle Cashen, and nine underclassmen who are all expected to deliver big contributions this season, the 2010-11 squad carries a great deal of potential that has not been seen from the women's basketball program in more than 20 years. If this squad can deliver on that promise, the 2010-11 season could be one to remember.

Yale's 38th season begins Friday, Nov. 12, in Worcester, Mass., at Holy Cross. Here is a breakdown of the 2010-11 Bulldogs:

The Captain

Yoyo Greenfield, one of two seniors on the 2010-11 squad, earned the honor of serving as the captain of the Bulldogs for her senior season. The three-year veteran has played in 73 games in her Yale career, starting in 54 of them in the last two seasons. She was second on the team in scoring last season, averaging 9.6 points per game. She scored a career-high 20 points to go along with a season-best four assists in an 81-74 win over Columbia on Feb. 6. A talented guard known for her toughness, determination and hustle, Greenfield will lead the 2010-11 Bulldogs as much by her effort and example as she will with the guidance and command that are expected from the captain's position.

"Yoyo knows there is a tradition here at Yale of having to deliver on that vote of confidence that your teammates give you," Gobrecht said. "She has taken it very seriously. She works extremely hard and she is a tough kid. She is a patient teacher. She has a quiet way about her. She is not a real loud person. I think she is really good for this team."

Backcourt

The key to the Bulldogs success in 2010-11 rests with the play of the guards. The Bulldogs will use their speed and passing ability to fuel the transition game. Although all but one of the guards is an underclassmen, the talent is there to keep the Bulldogs running long after opposing defenses run out of steam.

Greenfield is the lone upperclassman and she will be relied on to lead the charge from the guards. She was the team's leading 3-point shooter and No. 2 leading scorer, and she will be counted on for much of the same in 2010-11. Her counterpart in the starting lineup is sophomore sensation Megan Vasquez. An All-Ivy Rookie selection, Vasquez led the Bulldogs in scoring (11.5 ppg), assists (2.3 apg) and steals (41). She scored a season-high 19 points on three occasions and led the Bulldogs in scoring nine times in her freshman campaign. She leads a group of five sophomores that Gobrecht calls the foundation of the squad.

"Megan is very key to us. Megan and our three upperclassmen are very key," Gobrecht said. "And then you hope that the sophomores can step up right now. Megan has to show up every night. She is really important. The other four sophomores have to be the rocks for us and know that we are always going to count on them to be there and put in a good effort."

Allie Messimer made some key contributions in her freshman season and is expected to challenge for a spot in the starting lineup this season. She appeared in all 28 games last year, averaging 4.4 points per game. She was third on the team with 27 made 3-pointers.

Aarica West played in only one game in her freshman campaign due to injury, scoring five points with a rebound and a steal in 11 minutes against Holy Cross in the season opener. A Street and Smith All-American in high school, West will add depth to an already talented backcourt.

Frontcourt

All three graduating seniors from the Class of 2010 came from the front court. The Bulldogs will need to replace nearly 17 points and 12 rebounds per game, including former captain Ashley Carter, Melissa Colborne, who was an All-Ivy Second Team selection in 2008-09, and Haywood Wright.

"They each brought something special to us," Gobrecht said. "They were three wonderful seniors and they are certainly missed without question."

They will be tough to miss, but Gobrecht expects big things from her two upperclassmen post players and she sees a lot of promise in the underclassmen that could make up for the lost production on the floor. 

Michelle Cashen is one of the biggest keys to the Bulldogs' success under the basket. An All-Ivy Second Team selection in 2009-10, Cashen started 25 of the 27 games in which she appeared last season and led the team in rebounding (6.9 per game) and was second in shooting percentage (44.6 percent) and total steals (37). She tallied five double-doubles and scored in double figures in 11 games last season.

The lone senior post player, Mady Gobrecht has started all but three of the 83 games in her Yale career. She led the team in blocks in 2009-10 and finished in the Ivy League's top 10 in rebounds (6.1 rpg), offensive rebounds (2.2 rpg), defensive rebounds (3.9 rpg), assists (2.6 apg), blocks (1.2 bpg), and shooting percentage (43.0 percent).

"She has played like a coach's kid. She rebounds, plays defense and passes the ball. She does all the things that she is asked to do," Coach Gobrecht said.

Verena Lehner, with her shooting touch, Alicia Seelaus, with her versatility and toughness, and Ericka von Kaeppler, with her talent and improved scoring ability, all bring skill and promise to the Bulldogs' front court that Gobrecht will rely on this season.

"I think we have very good passing post players," Gobrecht said. "That is a strength for us offensively. It doesn't matter, our post players will handle the ball and pass as well as our guards will, if not better sometimes. That can be a lot to try to deal with when you are trying to defend us."

Class of 2014

The four players that make up the highly touted freshman class join the 2010-11 Bulldogs squad with high expectations. Janna Graf is the top talent in the class but by no means is she the only player in the group expected to deliver big contributions in their first season in a Yale uniform.

Graf was a two-time Sun County player of the year and closed out her high school career second in school history in career points (1,200) and rebounds (620) while starring for Shawnee Mission East High in Mission Wood, Kan. She averaged 21 ppg and 9.9 rpg in her senior season. A nominee for Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and the McDonald's All-American awards, she is expected to be an impact player this season.

Amanda Tyson brings a tenacious style of play to the backcourt. She was a 1,000-point scorer at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C. She led the Lady Knights in scoring in each of her four seasons there.

Alexandra Osborn-Jones and Zenab Keita will provide a strong presence under the basket in a deep frontcourt. Osborn-Jones was a three-time captain at Rye Country Day School in Rye, N.Y., where she tallied over 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocks in her career there. She led her team to state championships as a junior and senior. Keita averaged 16 rebounds and nine blocks in her senior season at Knightdale High School in Knightdale, N.C., where she was an all-conference player in her junior and senior seasons.

"Janna is a really versatile wing player who can play every position from point guard to the 4 (power forward)," Gobrecht said. "She is comfortable anywhere on the floor. She can hit the three. She is athletic and very savvy about the game. She is the total package. Amanda has been my best surprise of the preseason so far. She is a real tough-minded kid. I think she will be a very consistent contributor for us. Zenab gives us a nice athletic post presence for us. She runs the floor well. She has the quickness to defend for us. O.J. (Osborn-Jones) gives us a big presence in the middle. She is a strong power player, which we do not have at all. 

"If the freshmen can start hitting their stride by Ivy play, that will be pretty nice for us."

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity

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