Bulldogs to Pay Tribute to Senior Captain Before Taking on Penn in Season Finale
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — When Michelle Cashen was sifting through the letters and offers from colleges during the recruiting process five years ago, she only needed one visit to Yale to know that she could not resist the academic prestige of the university and the fact that she could continue her playing career under the tutelage of Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale.
"I'd call her a Yale kid through and through. She is a person that came to Yale and fully embraced everything that the university had to offer," Gobrecht said. "She loves to play basketball and she loves to play because she loves the game. She is one of those people that remind you that this game is fun, and she plays the game with a lot of heart. Those are the things that she has added to this program ever since she has gotten here."
Four years have passed since Cashen first stepped onto the court inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, and her final appearance inside the gym that she has called home since 2008 is tonight when Yale plays host to Penn.
It is hard to say where Cashen would be today had she chosen to go to Brown, Cornell, Stony Brook or even some of the Division II and III schools that tried in vain to secure her basketball services. And it is hard to say where the Yale women's basketball team would be today had Cashen gone elsewhere. One thing is certain, Cashen's decision to come to Yale turned out to be beneficial for both her and the Bulldogs.
"We have asked a lot of Michelle ever since she came to Yale. We have asked this skinny kid, who is 6 feet tall on a good day, to get in there and do battle night after night after night with these big kids. Michelle has rebounded for us. She has defended for us. She has hung in there and fought, and that is what I mean about the heart that she has given to this program. It has been considerable."
The 34th captain in the history of the Yale women's basketball team and the Bulldogs' only senior, Cashen became one of Yale's building blocks for the team's rise in the Ivy League ranks, with the Bulldogs going from seventh place in her freshman season in 2008-09 to the potential for back-to-back second place finishes in her final two seasons. Yale (16-11, 8-5 Ivy League) enters tonight's game with a chance to secure its second consecutive second-place finish and its second straight WNIT bid. She was a major contributor in last season's run to Yale's first postseason game in 32 years and its first-ever appearance in the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).
Tonight, we will honor Cashen not only for her play on the court, but her leadership abilities as the team's captain and the lasting impression she made off the court as well.
"Michelle's unique gift is she is a very empathetic person. Whenever anybody was hurting, she felt it. She was the kind of leader that always wanted to cheer you up and make you feel better. That's a special kind of leadership. It's different than what we had last year, but there were times where I think her teammates really appreciated it."
Cashen made her mark off the court in different ways. This past summer, she spent six weeks at Oxford University as a Sustainability Intern in the university's Estates Directorate. During her time at Oxford, she created and administered a business travel survey in order to assess the potential of video conferencing within the university. This year, Cashen worked with Bulldog Sustainability, the Yale Athletic Department's commitment to environmental sustainability. Her projects include green event certification for the department's major events, building operations and efficiency, and implementation of recycling strategy in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. She also led the charge to help the women's basketball team obtain "green team" status.
Cashen, a Belle Harbor, N.Y., native, has appeared in 109 games entering tonight's game against Penn, with 82 starts. She has missed only three games in her entire Yale career. During her four years in a Yale uniform, Cashen has recorded a total of 819 points, 635 rebounds, 206 assists, 131 steals and 66 blocks. Cashen currently ranks ninth among Yale's career rebounding leaders.
Overall in her final season in a Yale uniform, Cashen entered the final weekend ranked among the Ivy League leaders in the following eight categories: scoring (8.2 ppg., 23rd), rebounding (5.6 rpg., 13th), assists (2.3 apg., 13th), blocks (0.6 bpg., 13th), defensive rebounds (3.7 drpg., 14th), offensive rebounds (1.9 orpg., 12th), field goal percentage (42.6 percent, 11th), and free throw percentage (62.7 percent, 14th). In Ivy League competition, she has been even more impressive, joining the top 10 in rebounding (6.2 rpg., 8th), assists (3.1 apg., 5th), blocks (0.8 bpg., 10th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3, 3rd), and defensive rebounds (4.5 drpg., 7th). She is also 29th in scoring (8.1 ppg.) and 11th in field goal percentage (43.3 percent).
Cashen was honored by the Ivy League with three season awards so far. She was a member of the 2009 All-Ivy Rookie Team, the All-Ivy Second Team as a sophomore, and she earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention recognition as a junior. She was named the Ivy League Player of the Week once in her career, following
Cashen will receive her diploma from Yale in May with a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Environmental Politics.
Please join us in congratulating Michelle Cashen, the Yale University women's basketball team's Class of 2012.
We would not let Michelle get away without recalling her favorite memories from her four years with the Bulldogs. Here is a short Q&A with Michelle to commemorate her four years at Yale.
What are some of your best basketball memories during your four seasons at Yale?
Cashen: Last year definitely takes the cake as far as our success throughout the season. Beating Florida State was amazing. Coming in second place and sweeping Harvard was definitely one of my most memorable moments in my career. My freshman year, we beat N.C. State in a tournament in Minnesota. That was my first time playing on a big stage with a huge crowd in a big arena where the floor was raised. That was really cool. The coaches doing silly things on Halloween, like dressing up as the "Golden Girls" this year. Silly things like that definitely stick out.
What are some of your favorite non-basketball memories during your time at Yale?
Cashen: I went to Italy over the summer after my freshman year, which was really cool. I traveled a lot all over Italy, and I also went and visited (former teammate) Verena Lehner in Austria, which was amazing. It's the most beautiful country. I also went to France and Germany and visited the capitals, which was great. And being at Oxford was a lot of fun. It was really cool.
In your four years in a Yale uniform, what win(s) stand out the most to you?
Cashen: Florida State. I may not have notched any career highs but I thought my effort in combination with my teammates' efforts made that game more memorable than any game where I was leading scorer or leading rebounder. The N.C. State win was big. Every time we beat Quinnipiac was always a big deal because of the rivalry. Every time we beat Harvard was a big deal because of the Ivy League rivalry.
What opponent do you feel like gave you the hardest time during your four years at Yale?
Cashen: That is definitely Princeton with their style of defense and their aggressiveness has always been hard for me. They are relentless. In past years, they played a sagging man defense, which is something that we are not used to. It has always been tough to get into a flow in the game because it always takes us out of what we are used to doing.
What was the best part about the privilege of being a captain of this team?
Cashen: Being there for the freshmen. I loved being able to talk to them and offer them advice, telling them the mistakes that I made and how not to make those same mistakes. I feel like a parent almost, which is really silly. It has been really nice to see them come along over the course of the season. It's tough when you are a freshman starting off and it is nice to see how far they have come this season. I hope I contributed to that somewhat.
Who are some of your favorite teammates and why?
Cashen: Ooh, I don't like to play favorites. Mady (Gobrecht) was always so much fun to play with. She was so energetic and lively. She was always a lot of fun. I really like playing with Aarica because she is such a great passer. Megan is always really great to play with because she is really steady and always brings a huge offensive threat. Everyone has been great to play with. I really cannot pick out any favorites because they have all been awesome. I have been really lucky in that respect.
You will close out your career with more than 800 points, 600 rebounds, and 200 assists. Outside of the numbers, what are some of the other contributions that you think you brought to the team during your four years?
Cashen: It's really nice to hear. I hope I didn't make a huge stink over the numbers over my four years. It's nice to look back on what you have done. It would have been nice to have reached 1,000 points. I like to think I have been a steady player throughout my four years. I definitely haven't been the leading scorer on the team, but I like to think that people could rely on me in games. There is obviously always more that you wish you could have done, but I like to think that I was consistent throughout my four years,
Looking back, what were some of the other schools that courted you during the recruiting process and what made Yale your top choice?
Cashen: I was recruited by Stony Brook, Brown, and Cornell. I only took official visits to Stony Brook and Yale, and I cancelled my official visit to Brown after my Yale visit. I was also recruited by a few other Division II and Division III schools. Yale stood out because of the people and the girls on the team. Everyone on the team was so friendly and fun, I just had to be a part of that group of girls. All the people I met during campus tours or interviews, like Master Krauss, Tom Beckett, UCS staff and so on seemed so warm and welcoming, I just couldn't resist Yale.
When people look back on your basketball career at Yale, what would you like to be remembered for?
Cashen: I would definitely want people to think that I was a part of the foundation for this team rising through the Ivy League. Maybe next year, we will go even farther, and I'd like to think that I was a part of that building process. Hopefully one day, we will bring an Ivy League championship to Yale.
As the only senior on this year's squad, what do you think the future is for Yale with everyone else returning next season on top of the four new freshmen coming in next fall?
Cashen: Since I am the only one graduating, this team should do much better next year. They will have a full team, which will be nice. All of the leading scorers are coming back, and there are talented freshmen coming in. They will be a much stronger team. In numbers and size, they will have it all next year.