NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's basketball team ended last season in memorable fashion, cutting down the nets at the Farris Center in Conway, Ark., after beating Central Arkansas for the WBI Championship. That was also the team's school-record setting 19th win of the season. Topping that in 2018-19 will be a challenge, but the Bulldogs have improved their win total from season to season in each of the past three years.
Adding to the incentive for the Bulldogs this season, the Ivy League Tournament will take place on their home court, Lee Amphitheater, this March. The top four teams in the regular season standings make the tournament, and the winner earns the Ivy League's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Yale was picked for fourth in the league's preseason poll, which was released Oct. 17.
Yale is entering its fourth season with Allison Guth as the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. This season Guth has brought in three new assistant coaches -- Danielle Brown, Emma Golen and Lashay Banks.
Here is a position-by-position look at the team heading into the 2018-19 campaign:
Backcourt (6 returners, 3 first years)
The lone senior guard for the Bulldogs is one of the team's leaders -- Gabby Nelson, who was elected captain by her teammates. The Texas sharpshooter has carved out a well-defined role for herself on the court, where all but one of her 26 shots from the field last season came from three-point territory. Her .346 shooting percentage from beyond the arc was third-best on the team. When not firing threes, Nelson provides a steadying presence on the bench and in the locker room.
Yale's junior guards have some star power. Roxy Barahman earned honorable mention All-Ivy League honors after a breakthrough season in 2017-18. Limited to 17 games by an injury her first year, Barahman made up for that lost time as a sophomore. She led the team in assists (4.1 per game) and was third on the team in both points (13.5 per game) and rebounds (4.5 per game). Even with all those accomplishments, the feeling is that Barahman has just scratched the surface of her tremendous potential.
Another junior guard, Aerial Chavarin, made the challenging move of joining the basketball team immediately after the end of soccer season -- she was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in that sport in 2016. Playing basketball again for the first time since her senior year of high school, Chavarin made it into five games and racked up 10 points in just 10 minutes.
A trio of talented sophomore guards look to make an even bigger impact on the team now that they have a year under their belts. Ale Aguirre gained experience last season, appearing in eight games, and figures to develop into a threat from downtown -- she finished her high school career seventh on the national three-pointers made list. Tori Andrew is also a threat to shoot from anywhere, posting a .383 shooting percentage from three-point territory last season. Limited by an injury midway through the season, she ended the year on a high note, averaging more than 12 points per game during Yale's WBI Championship run. Ellen Margaret Andrews stepped into a starting role immediately, averaging 7.4 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Three guards join the Bulldogs as first years. Robin Gallagher (Cary, N.C.) was the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference Player of the Year last season. In addition to being a potential floor general at the point guard spot, she can score -- 1,000 points in high school. Mackenzie Hewitt (McKinney, Texas) was also a 1,000 point scorer, and was TABC all-region as a junior and senior. Roxanne Nesbitt (Chicago, Ill.) was a three-time captain in high school and helped her team win a regional championship in 2016-17.
Frontcourt (5 returners, 2 first years)
The lone senior forward, Alexandra Maund, has earned a spot as one of Yale's top options off the bench by doing all the little things that help a team win. Last season her rebound rate per 40 minutes (10.2) was second on the team, and she repeatedly showed the tenacity to battle for position under the basket even when at a height disadvantage. She also can score when needed, as evidenced by her season-high 14 points in the win at Binghamton in the WBI quarterfinals.
The junior class provides the Bulldogs with some height and skill up front. Bronwyn Davies appeared in 23 games, averaging 5.7 minutes. She can be a factor on the boards, with 50 career rebounds in 243 career minutes. Megan Gorman, who could also play guard, started 31 games last season and finished second on the team with 6.1 rebounds per game. She and Davies both pulled off a rare feat, joining the Yale women's lacrosse team once basketball season was over. Classmate Jessica Lezon, at six-foot-six, is Yale's tallest player. She was sidelined by injury last season after appearing in 11 games her first year.
Sophomore Alex Cade provided a burst of energy off the bench in her first season. She appeared in 27 games, racking up 57 rebounds in just 178 minutes. She did some of her best work offensively near the end of the season, including a season-high 11 points vs. Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals.
The first-year class includes a pair of forwards. Camilla Emsbo (Lakewood, Colo.) is a five-star ESPN recruit who was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Colorado. At 6-foot-5, fans can expect her to contribute both offensively (18.1 points per game in high school) and defensively (3.6 blocks per game in high school) while also providing a strong presence on the boards (7.8 rebounds per game in high school). Erin Hill (Edgartown, Mass.) was a first team All-New England pick in high school, where she averaged a double-double in points and rebounds while also averaging two blocks per game.
The schedule starts Nov. 6 against Colgate at Lee Amphitheater, the first of at least 10 home games on the slate. In addition to the 14 Ivy League games -- starting Jan. 18 at Brown -- the Bulldogs have at least 15 non-league games. That includes Yale's first appearance in the Preseason WNIT, which starts with a game at Northern Illinois Nov. 8. The Bulldogs also play in another in-season tournament, Florida Atlantic's Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29. All told, Yale will play in at least 11 different states this season and face teams from at least 10 different conferences.
This is the third year for the Ivy League Women's Basketball Tournament, which features the top four teams in the regular season standings and takes place at John J. Lee Amphitheater Mar. 16-17. The winner of that tournament receives the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity