The Yale University women's basketball team tips off the 39th season in the program's history Friday night against Holy Cross. The Bulldogs closed the 2010-11 season with a 14-15 overall record and a second-place 10-4 finish in the Ivy League. Last season culminated with the first-ever berth in the WNIT, the first postseason appearance since 1979. Friday's game is the first of 14 non-league games for the Bulldogs. It is the fourth straight season, and fifth time in the last six seasons, that Yale has opened its season against Holy Cross.
Scouting Holy Cross
Coming off of a 10-20 season, in which they finished sixth in the Patriot League, the Holy Cross Crusaders have been picked to finish in fifth place in the 2010-11 Patriot League Preseason Coaches' Poll. Holy Cross, which is also opening its 2011-12 season on Friday, returns eight letterwinners, including three projected starters, from last season's squad. The Crusaders will need to fill the void left by the graduation of starters Whitney Fremeau and Alyssa May. Combined, the pair averaged 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Fremeau scored 1,093 career points and led the Crusaders in scoring (14.3 ppg.), shooting percentage (41.7 percent), and was second in rebounding (4.3 rpg.) and assists (69). Three freshmen join the squad this season, including guard Ashley Cooper and forwards Clare Sullivan and Emily Parker.
The 2011-12 season opener marks the 13th overall meeting between Yale and Holy Cross. Yale downed Holy Cross, 74-71, in the season opener last season to even the overall series at 6-6. Yale has won the last three meetings, all coming in season-opening contests. The Bulldogs own a 3-2 record over the Crusaders under Chris Gobrecht. Yale is also 3-2 over Holy Cross in games played inside the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater. Yale's last loss to Holy Cross, a 66-59 defeat, came in New Haven on Jan. 6, 2008. The two teams have met in season-opening games in each of the last four seasons and in five of the last six seasons.
Piling Up Victories
With 496 career wins, Holy Cross Head Coach Bill Gibbons is the lone coach on the Bulldogs' schedule with more career Division I victories entering 2011-12 than Chris Gobrecht, who has 487 career victories. Gibbons ranks 24th on the active Division I win leaders list. He is 496-286 in 27 seasons, all at Holy Cross.
The lone senior on the Crusaders' roster, Meredith Ward, was named captain for the 2011- 2012 season. Ward was also named a tri-captain for the 2010-2011 season. She is the veteran leader in the backcourt and returns as one of the team's three starting guards. Ward saw action in all 30 games last season while starting 13. She averaged 23.2 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Sophomore guard Alex Smith was selected to the preseason All-Patriot League Team after being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season. Last season, Smith ranked second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 points per game. She also ranked first on the team in minutes played per game (32.0) and total assists (98). She finished the season with 82 3-pointers made, which placed her in second place on the Holy Cross single-season record books.
Yale's Historic WNIT Run
Yale (14-15, 10-4 Ivy League) made its first-ever appearance in the Women's National Invitational Tournament last season. It was just the fourth overall postseason appearance for Yale in its 38-year history and the first postseason tournament since 1979. Yale had played in a postseason tournament only three previous times, in 1977, 1978 and 1979, all under the guidance of former Head Coach Louise O'Neal. Yale was one of 31 teams to earn an automatic berth in the WNIT. Yale earned the Ivy League's automatic berth after finishing the regular season tied with Harvard in the League standings with a 10-4 record. The Bulldogs won the tiebreaker by virtue of sweeping the Crimson in the season series for the first time since the 1993-94 season. The Bulldogs finished 10-4 in Ivy League play for only the second time in their history, matching their Ivy League finish in 1988-89.
The 2010-11 season ended with a magical run that produced not only the first WNIT appearance in program history, but also an abundance of awards for the Bulldogs. Guard Megan Vasquez, and forwards Mady Gobrecht, Michelle Cashen and Janna Graf all earned places on the 2010-11 All-Ivy Team. Vasquez was named to the All-Ivy First Team. She finished the season as the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. It is the 17th time that a Yale player earned a spot on the All-Ivy First Team. Vasquez was the third player to earn First-Team honors during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach and the first since Erica Davis (2006-07). Mady Gobrecht earned a spot on the All-Ivy Second Team, the first All-Ivy honor of her college career. She was second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.). Graf was named to the All-Ivy Rookie Team. She was third on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg.). She was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Week four times this season and was a Player of the Week once. Cashen earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention after finishing fourth on the Bulldogs in scoring (8.2 ppg.). She also led the Bulldogs in rebounding (6.6 rpg.).
Senior forward Michelle Cashen takes over for Yoyo Greenfield '11 as Yale's captain for the 2011-12 season. Cashen was All-Ivy Honorable Mention last season after averaging 8.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Cashen has averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game through 82 career games, including 55 starts.
On The Road To 500
Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale enters the 2011-12 season with a 487-416 career coaching record. She needs just 13 wins to reach 500 career coaching victories, all at the Division I level. She currently ranks 25th place among active coaches for Division I coaching victories, behind Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons, who has 496 victories. Gobrecht is among six coaches who could reach the 500-win milestone this season.
Coach School Wins
Welcome to Yale
Yale welcomes five new faces to the roster in 2011-12. Joining the coaching staff are Jarietta Benton and Kelly Rotan. Benton comes to Yale after after one year as an assistant coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a four-year stint with the Saint Louis University women's basketball program. Rotan is beginning her coaching career after a four-year standout career at Juniata. Three players also join the Bulldogs' roster as freshman for the 2011-12 season. Guards Sarah Halejian and Hayden Latham and center Arrice Bryant are all expected to play a big part in the Bulldogs' plans this season. Halejian, a 5-9 guard from Wyckoff, N.J., is a two-time North Jersey Player of the Year and closed her high school career atop Ramapo High's all-time scoring list (1,839 points). Latham, a 5-9 guard from Greenville, S.C., was a three-time South Carolina Coaches Association Women's Sports Player of the Year and was the first player at Christ Church Episcopal School to record more than 2,000 points. Bryant, a 6-2 center from Detroit, brings size and power to the roster. She was ranked as the No. 39 center in the Class of 2015 by ESPN. She led Renaissance High to three DPSL City championships, three MHSAA District titles and two appearances in the state finals.
Strength of Schedule
The non-league schedule in 2011-12 is Yale's toughest non-league slate during Gobrecht's tenure as head coach. It features four teams that received votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Preseason Poll, including Baylor. Yale will meet the Bears on Nov. 22 in Waco, Texas, for what will likely be the Bulldogs' first-ever game against the nation's No. 1 team. The Bulldogs are also slated to meet No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. Yale will also meet Marist and Houston during the non-league portion of the schedule, both of which didn't make the Top 25 but received votes in the poll. The schedule also includes matchups against Boston University, Fairleigh Dickinson and Delaware, all of which defeated the Bulldogs during last season's seven-game losing streak. The Bulldogs will visit Texas during Thanksgiving week, beginning with the highly anticipated game at No. 1 Baylor and ending with the David Jones Classic at the University of Houston. The holiday tournament will also see the Bulldogs take on Texas-Pan American. Yale will see rematches with Quinnipiac, Army, Holy Cross, and Bucknell, as well as games against St. Francis (N.Y.) and Baruch, the only opponent on the schedule that Yale has never faced in its history.
Picking on the Patriot
For the fourth straight season, Yale will face Holy Cross, Army and Bucknell. All three teams play in the Patriot League. In the previous three seasons, Yale is 6-3 against the Patriot trio. Yale went 2-1 last season against the three teams, beating Holy Cross on the road and Bucknell at home, but falling at Army. The Bulldogs swept the three teams two years ago, but dropped two of the three games in 2008-09, gaining the lone win against Holy Cross.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Junior guard Megan Vasquez enters the 2011-12 season needing just 312 points to reach 1,000 career points. 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 average, she would finish in sixth place on Yale's all-time list with 1,376 career points.
Yale Third in Ivy Preseason Poll
The Ivy League preseason poll shows Yale predicted to finish third in the Ivy League standings following a second-place 10-4 finish last season. The Bulldogs received 103 points from a panel of Ivy League media and women's basketball sports information directors. The top three picks in the poll were separated by just 30 points. With 133 points and 14 first-place votes, Princeton was selected to finish first in the standings for the third straight season. Harvard was second with 117 points and three first-place votes. Penn (68), Brown (66), Columbia (52), Dartmouth (52), and Cornell (21) round out the final five spots in the preseason poll.
ESPN Shines Spotlight on Lee Amphitheater
The John J. Lee Amphitheater, the home of Yale Basketball, was featured in ESPN The Magazine's College Basketball preview issue. The title of the feature is Grand Stands, the game marches on, but a dwindling number of college basketball cathedrals can still take us back to when it all began. The Palestra in Philadelphia, Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse and Ford- ham's Rose Hill Gymnasium were the only other venues selected. "To walk through these gates and settle into these seats is to remember the game's roots," wrote LaRue Cook. "Because sometimes sports aren't about results — they're about beauty and style and being connected to something bigger than the game." Lee Amphitheater sits inside historic Payne Whitney Gym, which was constructed in 1931 under the direction of John Russell Pope. Yale's first basketball game was played there on Dec. 18, 1932, and it has been the home of the Bulldogs ever since.
College Sports Madness named Megan Vasquez to its Preseason All-Ivy First Team in its Ivy League preseason preview last month. The Internet publication also named Michelle Cashen to its Preseason All-Ivy Second Team.
Yale Tales and Tidbits
Next in Line
The Bulldogs return to the court on Monday, Nov. 14, when they visit Fairleigh Dickinson for a 5 p.m. contest. It is the first of six games that the Bulldogs will play outside of the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity