The Yale women's basketball team completed its nine-day tour of Ireland with a perfect 3-0 record while also experiencing the beauty, magic and wonder of Ireland. Throughout the trip, the players and staff wrote about the experience.
Saturday, August 10: Preparations for Bulldogs' 9-Day Tour of Ireland Begin
Junior point guard Sarah Halejian begins the blog of our tour of Ireland with a post about our week of preparation.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — And so it begins! Mostly everyone was back for practice in New Haven on Monday night and it was great to be reunited with my favorite fellow Bulldogs and the coaching staff!
We had the pleasure of officially meeting our awesome new assistant coach, Clare Fitzpatrick, who formerly played at Cornell. She definitely looks better in navy blue than she did in red! After we were all able to catch up on everyone's exciting summers, we got back to work in the gym together.
To say we were all in tip-top shape would be an absolute lie, but after a week of practice, we are well on our way there. More importantly, our team chemistry definitely increased over the course of the week, especially since much-missed juniors Hayden Latham and Arrice Bryant were back on the court with us once again. Our practices have consisted of drills that will prepare us for the European style of play we will be facing soon and also the upcoming season that is right around the corner!
Coach G. has made sure to introduce us to small tastes of Irish culture before we experience the real deal next week. On Thursday night, we visited Ireland's Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, which commemorates the devastating potato famine that plagued the Irish people during the mid-1800s. We then had a delicious home-cooked meal at our Associate Athletic Director Barbara Chesler's house, where we each presented on a specific topic about Ireland, ranging from how the Irish have fun to the economy in Ireland.
On Friday night, we had dinner at Anna Liffey's, an Irish pub in New Haven, for some Irish classics like shepherd's pie. There was live entertainment and a lot of us joined in and sang along to a few songs. I even caught Coach G. belting out some high notes, which was pure joy to my ears!
Needless to say, we are all so excited to embark on our trip on Sunday and feel so fortunate to have this unique opportunity to proudly represent Yale University and Yale Athletics all the way in Europe. We hope that some Irish step dancing over there will vastly improve our footwork on the court and look forward to being fully immersed in the Irish culture.
Our foreign tour includes stays in Galway, Cork City, Dublin, and Belfast and we will be playing four games against different Irish club teams.
Our tour of Ireland would not be possible without the tremendous generosity of former Yale men's basketball great John Lee '58. His very generous endowment has made it possible for our team to experience this great opportunity, and we are very grateful.
We hope you will all be following us along the way and cheering us on! Go Bulldogs!
Report filed by Sarah Halejian, Yale Women's Basketball
Monday, August 12: The Bulldogs Arrive in Ireland
GALWAY, Ireland — After we were publicly welcomed with an airplane intercom shout out and a bottle of bubbly, we unfortunately had to switch planes and endure a three-hour flight delay. However, the Bulldogs were able to put aside the groans and complaints and eventually made it to the boutique House Hotel in Galway, excited to take on the day's activities!
We headed over to Calasanctius College for the awesome opportunity to participate in a clinic with local youth basketball players. The boys and girls ranged from elementary- to middle-school ages and rushed over to the gym right from school ready to work hard.
When they first saw us, they all could not help but comment on how tall we all are (little do they know, we are probably one of the shortest teams in the Ivy League and all of the NCAA for that matter). The majority of them looked like miniature NBA superstars in their different jerseys and sneakers, ranging from Rondo to Durant. I was both disappointed and shocked to see that none of them gave Lebron any love.
After we took them through a multitude of different drills, they got to play 5-on-5 against us. Even though their squad shot what seemed like a blistering 85% from the floor due to their home-court advantage, we had an awesome time running up and down with them!
I was most humbled by the respect and attention the kids gave us and how enthusiastic and eager they were to learn and improve their games. Also, it was really cool to witness first-hand that people all the way across the world love the game of basketball just as much as we all do.
Following the clinic, we returned to the hotel for dinner and then got to explore Galway for a few hours! The city is very beautiful and quaint, made up of cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, pubs, and cute little shops. After a long but rewarding day, we all made sure to get some rest for our first game against the Galway Select the next day!
Monday, August 12: Zenab Keita Rejoins the Squad
Senior center Zenab Keita adds to the blog of our tour of Ireland with a post about meeting the team at the Shannon Airport and more from the clinic at the start of our tour.
The girls were quite tired coming off the plane, not exactly matching my high enthusiasm and energy level to see them, but understandably so. From the travel horror story I heard they had been delayed THREE HOURS in New York, I would have probably been the same. However, like Bulldogs always do, they bounced back after a quick nap on the bus to Galway from the airport in Shannon.
We had a small clinic to run after grabbing lunch at the hotel, so the turnaround was fast, but the Bulldogs love the kids. Lunch was a good buffet in the cutest hotel called the House Hotel. Everything in the lobby was pink or purple just about. After asking the maître d' why that was, she said it was mostly to accommodate bachelorette parties and because the decorator loved pink. Well, I think it was to host awesome women's basketball teams who love pink like us, obviously. Once we were done eating, we hopped on the bus for a 20-minute ride to Calsanctius College.
There were just a few kids when we first arrived who were already on the court shooting around, which is always a good sign. It's always a bummer trying to get the kids to join in, so they made the hard part easy. I went over first to introduce myself and the rest of the team followed and then the kids introduced themselves. They were really receptive and not too shy, which definitely made our jobs easier. The ice was officially broken and Coach Gobrecht suggested that we stretch. While stretching, more kids joined in, making the camp have about 30 kids or so in total, so it was a really good turnout.
We went through some dribbling skills led by our awesome point guards Sarah Halejian and Whitney Wyckoff, then some partner passing skills, defense drills by Coach Benton, and we finished up with some relay competitions. Some of us girls jumped in the drills and realized it has been a loooooong time since last season. We definitely could stand to participate right along with them.
The kids were great. They went hard, they cheered each other on, and they were really enthusiastic about playing along with us. What I loved most about them was the amount of girls playing and having no shame about it. There were boys present and often as a camp counselor, I've seen young girls trying to stay "cute" in front of them, but not these girls. They were just focused on getting better, going hard, and having a good time with us. They all had really sick (in the good sense) shoes. We'll have to look into that for next year (wink wink Coach Benton)
We finished up the day by having the kids watch us go through some of our plays, which I desperately needed since I missed practice because I was in Prague over the summer. Then we let them separate into teams and play against us. They, once again, were incredibly excited and enthusiastic about it and even though we weren't really going hard against them, they took it very serious, getting down on defense and running fast breaks. It was a lot of fun. They've got quite the shooters out here in Ireland!
Running clinics are always my favorite thing to do simply because I love kids, but it's also a lot of fun because our team also gets to enjoy basketball at its purest level. When you're out there teaching kids these skills and playing around with them, you're not worried about getting a certain percentage of made shots or playing for a starting position or your next opponent, which is necessary at this level because it translates into wins which is fun. But with these kids, it is just a fun time with a sport and with friends, trying to get better and have a good time while doing it, and I think the team enjoys it just as much as the kids do.
Report filed by Zenab Keita, Yale Women's Basketball
Tuesday, August 13: Sarju's 22 points Leads Bulldogs to Opening Win
Sarju scored 16 of her points in the second half, and 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter of play. The Bulldogs played the game under FIBA rules, which broke the game into four 10-minutes quarters instead of the usual two halves.
Ten of Yale's 11 players on the travel squad scored in the game. The Bulldogs' four incoming freshmen did not make the trip.
Senior captain Janna Graf scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half. She also had six rebounds and a pair of assists. Juniors Hayden Latham and Arrice Bryant returned to action for the first time since their freshmen seasons after both missed all of last year due to injury. Latham had seven points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Bryant added three points and three rebounds.
Former Iowa State Claire Rockall scored 25 points to lead Galway. Michelle Fahy had 15 points.
Yale will return to action on Thursday, Aug. 15, in Cork City, Ireland, against Cork Select.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity
Tuesday, August 13: Keita Offers Her Thoughts on Day 2 of the Tour
We went over a lot of our defensive basics and went through our new secondary plays. I must say, it felt really cool being back in that mindset, preparing for a game and getting our plays right. It made me nostalgic for the last three years and excited for my last season this upcoming fall.
After shootaround, we hopped back on the bus and went back to the hotel to get dressed for our day trip to the Ashford Castle. After a 45-minute picturesque drive through the Ireland countryside filled with beautiful green pastures and about a thousand cows and sheep (literally), we saw it in the distance. It was huge and absolutely breathtaking. A structure of that size originally built over 800 years ago without access to the construction technology that we have now — like scaffolding, for one — is mind-blowing.
Originally built in 1228, the Ashford Castle has gone through the hands of many prominent families throughout Ireland's history, and subsequently, has gone through many renovations and additions. It has actually served as a first-class hotel since 1915. It still has a piece of the original castle, too.
As soon as we got off the bus, it was photo-op time in front of the gold plated "Ashford Castle" sign. There were about 30 photo opportunities throughout this castle. We were courteously greeted by the Castle/Hotel Staff and were seated in a magnificent dining room. Our lunches were soooo good: hand sandwiches with this apple and onion soup. It was tasty. During lunch, our tour guide Robert, came up to us and told us about how he played 7-footer NBA legend John Amaeche once in a British basketball league. I actually heard John Amaeche talk during my postgrad year at a diversity conference, so that was pretty crazy and random for me.
Anyhoo, Robert took us on a private tour of the castle, showing us all the secret passageways and telling us the cool stories about the history of the architecture and all of the famous people that had stayed there. It was a lot of fun. We took a billion pictures in the Castle's courtyard by the water. It was just gorgeous. We finished up the tour with a team picture with Robert on the Castle's front steps and then hopped on the bus back to the hotel. We had a game to play!
We arrived at the game about an hour before tipoff, which would NEVER happen in regular season. Hayden Latham and I were talking and we felt like we were back in AAU, coming to the game shortly before playing, not knowing anything about the other team except for one or two star players. I liked it though! I wasn't fatigued by our normal two-hour pre-game routine and had tons of adrenaline for the game. The game got off to a slow start with both teams getting used to each other and us getting used to the spacing of the floor.
We were in for a shock when they zoned us practically the whole game, something we hadn't thoroughly prepared for. But we ran our zone offense fairly well and as the game progressed, ball movement improved and we got some really good shot opportunities.
Coach Gobrecht was disappointed in post play at the half, demanding that we show more of a presence and the posts rose to the challenge. In the second half, "we made our presence known in the key" (Thanks Meredith Boardman for the quote). It was so much fun being back out there with my team, running the floor, talking it up, etc.
The team we played was pretty good, and from what we heard, it is only going to get harder from here on out, but if we keep improving and responding to what Coach Gobrecht asks of us, we'll be fine. We ended up winning, which is always amazing, but what was best was having everyone there. Of course, I know we have an entire freshmen class not here, but having Hayden Latham, Whitney Wyckoff and Arrice Bryant 100 percent back on the floor playing hard defense, running the plays, and rebounding after returning from last year's injuries was exciting to see. We have another match-up on Thursday and I already can't wait for it!
Report filed by Zenab Keita, Yale Women's Basketball
Wednesday, August 14: Senior Captain Janna Graf's View from the Cliffs of Moher
Luckily, we were able to break up the bumpy three-hour bus ride and experience the natural wonders of the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs, located on the west coast of Ireland, were absolutely gorgeous. We were given a few hours to explore the area how we pleased. Whitney Wyckoff and I decided to set off together and we walked along both the paved and unpaved paths along the Cliff's edges for a few miles. Being almost vertical, the Cliffs ascend over 700 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and can be a bit scary without a railing or wall at the edge. Unfortunately, the weather was somewhat overcast and foggy, but we were still able to see some amazing views and take plenty of pictures and "selfies." Towards the end of our hike it had even cleared up a bit more and we were able to see out across the Atlantic.
Once we had eaten lunch at the Café at the Cliffs, we loaded back on the bus and headed towards Cork. The drive was beautiful and we were able to see much of Ireland's hilly green countryside. We were all definitely surprised at how many sheep and cows there were grazing everywhere! A few hours later, we finally reached our hotel in the city of Cork, the third biggest city in Ireland.
That night we had a delicious three-course meal at the hotel together. Following dinner, we headed into the city center to walk around with our free time. The downtown area was lined with many cool restaurants, shops, and pubs. Cork is built on the River Lee and looked especially beautiful at night lit up.
After a long and exciting day, we headed back to the hotel to make sure to get some rest for our next big day, and our second game of the tour.
Report filed by Janna Graf, Yale Women's Basketball
Thursday, August 15: Bulldogs Rally For Victory over Glanmire
Yale outscored Glanmire 30-22 in the second half to pull away with a 54-51 victory. Senior captain Janna Graf led the Bulldogs with 14 points, 10 in the first half, and nine rebounds, while junior guard Sarah Halejian had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Senior center Zenab Keita fell one point shy of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Nyasha Sarju added eight points.
The Bulldogs trailed 29-18 at the 4:24 mark, but they scored the final seven points of the half and went into the halftime break with a 29-25 deficit. They came out of the locker room and opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run to take a 33-31 lead with 4:30 left in the quarter.
Glanmire did not go away quietly, pushing past Yale for a 40-38 lead with 22 seconds left in the third quarter, but Graf's jumper with two seconds on the clock tied the game at 40-40 after three quarters.
The Bulldogs clamped down on defense in the fourth quarter, holding Glanmire to just one field goal — a 3-pointer by leading scorer Orla O'Reilly with 1:34 left — over the final 4:10 of the game. O'Reilly, who will play professionally in Spain this season, scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Gráinne Dwyer recorded a double-double, with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bulldogs began the day with a visit to the Blarney Castle and will travel to Dublin on Friday. There, they are scheduled to meet the Meteors Basketball Club on Saturday.
DUBLIN, Ireland — Yale opened up a 12-1 lead to open its game against the Meteors Basketball Club and cruised to an 85-43 victory on Saturday, finishing the three-game exhibition run on the 2013 Tour of Ireland with a perfect 3-0 record.
Junior guard Hayden Latham gave the Bulldogs the biggest push in the first quarter, scoring 14 of her game-high 18 points in the opening period. She also finished with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
By the time the buzzer sounded to end first quarter, Yale was comfortably ahead 31-7. The Bulldogs went into the locker room at halftime with a 50-19 lead.
At halftime, the Yale players and coaching staff, along with the capacity crowd in attendance at the KUBS Carroll Arena, were treated to an extended halftime performance by a local youth traditional Irish dance group.
When play resumed, the Meteors put together their best quarter of the game, outscoring the Bulldogs 15-13 in the period, but Yale picked up the pace in the fourth quarter and pulled away with a 22-9 run to finish off the 42-point victory.
Senior captain Janna Graf scored 12 points to go with six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Senior center Zenab Keita recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Whitney Wyckoff added nine points and five assists.
Yale outrebounded the Meteors 70-45 and committed just 10 turnovers. Yale also had 17 steals off of the Meteors' 27 turnovers.
Yale will travel to Belfast on Sunday and will take part in a clinic with PeacePlayers International, as well as a shortened exhibition with the Ulster Rockets, on Monday, the final full day of Yale's tour of Ireland.
Saturday, August 17: KUBS/Meteors Hospitality Hits Home with Halejian
DUBLIN, Ireland — After a close game in Cork, we were all excited to play our third and final game in Dublin. The gym, which belonged to a program called KUBS, was probably one of the funkiest gyms I have ever played in, and I figured that it would be filled with energy come game time.
Following what I think was the longest shootaround in history (many of us love to talk through every possible scenario on the court), we were definitely prepared. Coach G came on the bus and informed us that there would be a few important people at the game that night, including a senator from Ireland and a representative from the U.S. Ambassador's office. We were all obviously really flattered and excited that they were coming to see us play and understood that we would have to put on a good show.
Before the game, there was a short ceremony in which we met those people and exchanged gifts with the opposing team. They made us feel so important and I realized at that moment that it was probably the closest I would ever get to fame. A few local kids were chatting up the coaches before the game and imitating our every move while we were shooting free throws. They were devastated when the coaches told them that none of us could dunk (I would have but did not want to make the rest of the team look bad).
We were able to win comfortably and played solid team basketball. To stick with the theme of feeling important, they surprised us with an unbelievable halftime show featuring local girls performing traditional Irish step dancing. Their footwork really put the game of basketball to shame and we were all extremely impressed, although I was cringing watching how much they have to bend their ankles in different directions.
After the game, there was a flood of spectators coming over to talk to us. All of their compliments were so humbling and we had a blast playing in Dublin. One thing that also stood out to me was that they all made sure to ask if we were enjoying Ireland, which is a testament to what great hosts and hostesses all of the Irish people have been to us.
They also had sandwiches for us after the game and we got to mingle with all of the children who came to watch us play. They were all so adorable and hilarious. Zenab Keita and I made a little friend named Katie who is definitely the troublemaker in school. We loved talking to her, and she loved smacking stickers on our faces and making us look foolish.
The entire night was so awesome and really made me realize how lucky we are to have had this opportunity to play basketball in Ireland. All of the people who organized the night were so hospitable and the kids were thrilled to see us play and hang out with us. To be able to make them so happy and excited was rewarding and we were all so proud to represent Yale and our athletic program. And to finish 3-0 was obviously the cherry on top!
Report filed by Sarah Halejian, Yale Women's Basketball
The day went very smoothly. Coach Thomer was just the liveliness we needed to get the clinic running, starting the entire group with stretching and then fundamental passing. We had about 30 or so girls in total that ranged from ages 9 to 17 years. The girls really responded to Coach Thomer's energy and our team did as well. The way she set up the day, every single one of us was useful, whether it was serving as an example, hyping the girls up, or giving a few pointers in the stations. It was cool to see the girls open as the clinic went on. A few of them were shy at first about talking and being loud like we were, but in Mere and I's outlet station, we saw girls go from practically whispering "outlet" to shouting it so loud, the other side of the gym heard them. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised considering how loud I am.
After our stations, we played some relay games, which was a lot of fun. I didn't participate because I was busy taking pictures. I got some pretty cool action shots of the girls dribbling and shooting and my teammates mixed in with them. The girls were so genuinely happy and I caught a lot of their smiles on camera. We will have to upload them to our site or Facebook. They were just so happy to be out there playing with us or playing in general. Once relays were done, we had a great question-and-answer segment with the girls. They asked us about our majors, why we decided to play basketball, how long we had been playing, amongst other things. One girl asked if sororities were a real thing! We let Janna answer that one. THETA! The most profound question was "What's it like to be you?" This question was…deep. I never really think about what it is like to be me or to be a part of the team, but I'm sure to a younger girl watching us at a clinic or at a game or wherever, they must be really interested in what its like to be us—young women that are all friends, playing Division I basketball, getting opportunities to travel the world and affect young lives. I was that way when I would go to tournaments and see older players or even on my recruiting trips. In that moment, I realized how much of an impact just our presence has on these young girls in Ireland and anywhere, and how much our personal actions and towards each other are analyzed by them. I still don't really know the answer to that question, but I'm happy the little girl asked it because it is definitely something to think about.
We finished the day with a scrimmage against a good women's team in Belfast. We didn't even have jerseys or a clock. It went by pretty quickly, and then we mixed in the kids from the camp to play with us. Overall the entire day was a lot of fun and I'm thankful to the Peace Player's organization for allowing us to come. Like I said before, the Bulldogs love the kids!