The Yale University women's basketball team is looking to improve its 2011-12 record to 2-0 when it travels to Hackensack, N.J., to meet Fairleigh Dickinson. It is the second straight season that the two teams have squared off against each other, but it is the first time since Dec. 30, 2002, that the two teams have met at Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Bulldogs opened their season against Holy Cross for the fourth straight season and the fifth time in the last six seasons. Led by 23 points from Megan Vasquez and 15 points apiece from Michelle Cashen and Janna Graf, Yale won its fourth straight game over Holy Cross, 76-71, inside John J. Lee Amphitheater. The game was also a showcase for the Bulldogs' fresh faces. Freshmen Hayden Latham (8 points, 10 assists), Sarah Halejian (6 steals), and Arrice Bryant (5 points, 5 rebounds) all played well in their collegiate debuts.
Scouting Fairleigh Dickinson
Coming off of a 14-16 season, in which they finished eighth in the Northeast Conference, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights have been picked to finish in seventh place among the 12 teams in the NEC in the 2011-12 preseason poll. FDU, which also opened its 2011-12 season on Friday, returns seven letterwinners, including three projected starters, from last season's squad. The Knights will need to fill the void left by the graduation of starters Jasmyra Saunders and Jordan Sykes. Combined, the pair accounted for 336 points, 196 rebounds and 94 assists. Saunders (fourth in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and third in assists) and Sykes (sixth in scoring, third in rebounding, and the team leader in assists) will be missed. However, the Knights bolstered their lineup with the addition of five freshmen this season, including guards Amanda Andrades, Stephanie Isaacs and Tiffany Grant and post players Mariah Nunes and Erika Livermore.
Monday's game between the two teams marks the third overall meeting between Fairleigh Dickinson. The Bulldogs have never beaten the Knights. The three losses include two inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, including last season's 59-57 loss on Dec. 6, 2010. That loss was the sixth loss for the Bulldogs in the seven-game slide that ended with the historic win over Florida State. Yale also fell to FDU at home on Dec. 31, 2003, in a 78-69 defeat. The only meeting at FDU was the game that started the series, a 71-67 Yale loss on Dec. 30, 2002.
FDU Assistant Coach Mercedez Walker also played for Cinella at Fairleigh Dickinson. Walker, a Stratford native, finished her college career as the Knights' all-time blocks leader (180) and finished with 477 points (4.2 ppg) and 433 rebounds (3.8 rpg). She was a senior during head coach Peter Cinella's first year at Fairleigh Dickinson.
Tripped Up By B.C.
The Knights opened their season on the road at Boston College on Friday, falling in a valiant 68-57 defeat at the hands of the Eagles. The Bulldogs are no strangers to Boston College, which was the opponent in Yale's first-round defeat in the WNIT last season. B.C. opened their victory over FDU with a 9-0 run and led by as many as 19 points late in the second half, but the Knights charged back to make a game of it in the end. However, the late rally was not enough to overcome the Eagles. Mariyah Laury led the Knights with 19 points and Danielle Pankey added 13 points and five rebounds in the loss.
The schedules for both Yale and Fairleigh Dickinson may look fairly similar this season. The two teams share a handful of common opponents. Yale will face two more Northeast Conference opponents in Quinnipiac and St. Francis (N.Y.), while FDU is slated to meet Ivy League foe Columbia. The two teams will also both meet Army this season.
Yale hits the road today for the first of six straight games away from the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater. The rules of the road will quickly become routine for the Bulldogs, with 14 of the next 19 games on the road. The Bulldogs can find comfort in the fact that six of the final eight games will be played inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, at about the same time that the Bulldogs hope to be making a run at the Ivy League championship.
On The Road To 500
Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale, currently holds a 488-416 career coaching record following the season-opening win over Holy Cross. She needs just 12 wins to reach 500 career coaching victories, all at the Division I level. She currently ranks 21st among active coaches for Division I coaching wins. Gobrecht is among six coaches who could reach the 500-win milestone this season. Here is the list of the coaches vying for their 500th win this season, with their win totals are updated through games played on Nov. 13:
Coach School Wins
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Following Friday's season-opening win over Holy Cross, in which she scored a game-high 23 points, junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 711 career points. She needs just 289 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 per season, she would finish in sixth place on Yale's all-time list with 1,376 career points.
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.
No Stranger to the NEC
In addition to today's game at Fairleigh Dickinson, Yale will face two more opponents from the Northeast Conference in 2011-12. On Dec. 18, the Bulldogs will host St. Francis (N.Y) before making the short trek to Hamden, Conn., to visit in-state rival Quinnipiac. Yale is 3-9 against the NEC under Chris Gobrecht, with all three wins coming against Quinnipiac. This is the third straight season that Yale will face three NEC teams.
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 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.
Making the Rounds
The Bulldogs' 14 non-conference games feature opponents from 10 different conferences, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Great West Conference, Northeast Conference, Colonial Athletic Association, the Patriot League, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Conference USA, America East, and the CUNY Athletic Conference.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
Yale Tales and Tidbits