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Bulldogs Pay Homage to Cashen at Banquet

The Yale women's basketball huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The Yale women's basketball huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Team Awards, Letters and Special Honors Rewarded at 2011-12 Celebration


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University women's basketball team honored its lone senior, captain Michelle Cashen, one final time and rewarded several players for their contributions during the past season at the 2011-12 year-end banquet at Mory's Wednesday night.

Throughout the night, the coaches and players paid tribute to Cashen with speeches and special presentations. The coaching staff honored all 11 players with year-end letter awards at the banquet.

"This is the first time that I can remember the entire team receiving a Major Y Award," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "That speaks a lot about our depth this season."

The Bulldogs ended the 2011-12 season short of their goal of reaching postseason play, but there was a great deal to be proud of out of a season that ended with an 8-6 Ivy League finish and a 16-12 overall record, the most wins in the program's history since the 1993-94 season (16-10) and just the third time that the team won 16 or more games (1979-80, 17-9).

Gobrecht and junior guard Megan Vasquez were presented with painted game balls that commemorated the milestones that they reached in the same game, an 86-73 win against Cornell on Feb. 10, 2012. Gobrecht earned her 500th career coaching victory with the win and Vasquez surpassed 1,000 career points.

The coaches also recognized the players who earned awards from the Ivy League throughout the season, including the weekly award winners and the players who earned All-Ivy honors.

The award portion of the banquet ended with Gobrecht handing out the team's major awards, which included the "Bulldog Basketball Awards."

Rather than present awards for Most Valuable Player or Defensive Player of the Year, the women's basketball team rewards players for their contributions on the court with "Bulldog Basketball Awards." Those special honors are presented to the players who performced best in the areas of the game most valued by the Bulldogs.

The banquet included a special tribute to Cashen by the three players who will be seniors next season, including Vasquez, Aarica West and newly elected team captain Allie Messimer. The three took turns honoring Cashen with their own recollections of their captain as a player, teammate and friend, while wishing her well in her future endeavors.

Cashen followed by offering her own recollections of her teammates, thanking them, the coaches, the parents in attendance and others for their support of her during her four years at Yale.

The banquet closed with a special video tribute to the season that was put together by assistant coach Kelly Rotan. The video included several highlights of the season, tributes to Gobrecht and Vasquez for their milestones, as well as some humorous clips.


The Awards presented at the banquet included:

Bulldog Basketball Awards

  • Charge Takes: Janna Graf
  • Free Throw Percentage: Megan Vasquez, led the team with a .848 free-throw shooting percentage.
  • Assists: Aarica West, led the team in assists with 3.4 assists per game (fourth in the Ivy League) and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.1 (third in the Ivy League).
  • Rebounds: Janna Graf, led the team in rebounding with 5.8 rebounds per game (10th in the Ivy League). She was also ninth in the Ivy League in defensive rebounds (4.0 per game) and 14th in offensive rebounds (1.8 per game).

Most Improved Player (Awarded to that member of the women's basketball team who, in the opinion of the coaches, has shown the most improvement during the season): Zenab Keita, played in 26 of Yale's 28 games with three starts, averaging 3.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, with 12 blocks and seven steals. Her best performance of the season came at Baylor, the NCAA National Champion, on Nov. 22, 2011, in which she collected career-highs in points (13), assists (2), blocks (2), and field goals made (5) while going up against Brittney Griner, the consensus National Player of the Year.


Outstanding Leadership Award (Awarded annually to that member of the women's basketball team who, in the opinion of her teammates, through her spirit, hustle, attitude, desire and determination has served as an inspiration to the team): Allie Messimer


Karen Yarasavage Award (Presented to the player who most displays the attributes of grit, determination and Bulldog spirit that were embodied by Karen Yarasavage during her career at Yale): Janna Graf

The list of letter winners includes:

First Year "Major Y" Awards

  • Sarah
  • Arrice
  • Hayden
  • Zenab
  • OJ
  • Amanda
Second Year "Major Y" Awards
  • Janna
  • Aarica West
Third Year "Major Y" Awards
  • Allie Messimer
  • Megan Vasquez
Four Year "Major Y" Award
  • Michelle Cashen


Ivy League Award Winners

All-Ivy Team

First Team: Megan Vasquez, second straight year on All-Ivy First Team. Vasquez becomes one of only six Yale players to earn First Team honors more than once in her career. Vasquez is the first Yale player to do so since Mary Kalich in 1992-93 and 1993-94. The other four are Tonya Lawrence (1987-88, 88-89, 89-90), Sue Johnson (1983-84, 84-85), Margy Hutchinson (1981-82, 82-83) and Lisa Brummel (1979-80, 80-81).


Honorable Mention: Michelle Cashen, All-Ivy Recognition all four years. Cashen is one of only four Yale players to earn All-Ivy honors in each of her four years at Yale. She joins Katy Grubbs (1995-1998), Mary Kalich (1991-95) and Regina Sullivan (1979-83) to record an All-Ivy honor in each of her four years with the Bulldogs. Cashen was named to the All-Rookie Team as a freshman. She also earned All-Ivy Second Team honors as a sophomore, and Honorable Mention recognition as a junior.


All-Ivy Rookie of the Year: Sarah Halejian, first Yale Rookie of the Year since Melissa Colborne (2006-07) and fourth Yale Rookie of the Year overall, joining Colborne, Mary Kalich (1991-92) and Katy Grubbs (1995-96). 


Ivy League Players of the Week

  • Janna Graf, Week of Jan. 30
  • Megan Vasquez, Week of Feb. 13

Ivy League Rookies of the Week

  • Sarah Halejian, Weeks of Dec. 19, Jan. 9, Jan. 16, Jan. 23, Jan. 30, Feb. 27
  • Hayden Latham, Week of Feb. 20

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity