NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's basketball team was on a roll at the end of the 2016-17 season, winning four of its last five games to finish with the team's best win total (15) since 2011-12. That included a convincing 61-48 win vs. Penn -- the Quakers' only league loss -- and a thrilling 57-52 win vs. archrival Harvard. The Bulldogs look to keep that momentum going into the 2017-18 season, which starts Nov. 10 vs. LIU Brooklyn at John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Yale is entering its third season with Allison Guth as the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. The team has made steady progress under Guth, whose staff includes assistants Melissa D'Amico, Roman Owen and Jacinda Dunbar -- all also in their third season with Yale. The Bulldogs have improved their win total from season to season in each of the past two years. Yale was picked for fifth in the Ivy League preseason poll, which was released last week.
Here is a position-by-position look at the team heading into the 2017-18 campaign:
Backcourt (6 returners, 2 first years)
The Bulldogs will look to a pair of experienced seniors for leadership in the backcourt. Guard Tamara Simpson is the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and already holds the Yale career record for steals (232). She led the league in steals last season with 79 and can contribute offensively as well -- she was third on the team in points per game (9.6). Guard Mary Ann Santucci was one of the team's top ball handlers, finishing second on the team in assists with 2.2 per game. Her 15 point night, a season high, proved critical in the win vs. Penn. Elected captain by her teammates, Santucci figures to be a major contributor to the team both on and off the court.
Junior Gabby Nelson, who could play guard or forward, brings 16 career games of experience into the season. A trio of sophomore guards adds further to Yale's depth. Roxy Barahman appeared in 17 games last year, making one start, and reached double digits in scoring three times -- including a season-high 15 in the season-ending 55-47 win at Columbia. Megan Gorman, who could also play forward, started 21 games last season and finished third on the team with 5.1 rebounds per game. She shot 46.2 percent from three-point range. Jessica Steffen appeared in five games, connecting on two of her four three-point attempts.
First-year guards Ale Aguirre (La Jolla, Calif.) and Tori Andrew (Wayzata, Minn.) bring impressive credentials to New Haven. Aguirre should be able to stretch opposing defenses: she finished seventh in the nation, second in California and first in San Diego for three-pointers made in a career. She set the national record for three-pointers in a game with 15, earning a mention on ESPN. Andrew is also a threat from deep. A three-time first team all-state selection, she set school career records for scoring, double-doubles and three-pointers made. Her high basketball IQ should enable her to contribute immediately.
Frontcourt (4 returners, 2 first years)
There is only one senior among Yale's centers and forwards, but she is a good one. Jen Berkowitz was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection last year, leading the team and finishing sixth in the league with 13.4 points per game. She led the league in shooting percentage (.508) and was ninth in rebounding (6.9 per game). At six-foot-two, she is a formidable presence in the post for the Bulldogs.
Junior Alexandra Maund was one of Yale's top options off the bench last season, appearing in every game and averaging 8.4 minutes. She had a season-high 11 points in the season finale and a season-high nine rebounds last November vs. Wagner.
Sophomore Bronwyn Davies appeared in 18 games, averaging 6.2 minutes. She is one of the team's top free-throw shooters, finishing second on the team with an .833 free throw percentage. Classmate Jessica Lezon, at six-foot-six, is Yale's tallest player. She appeared in 11 games last year.
First year Ellen Margaret Andrews (Dallas, Texas) was the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private Player of the Year as a senior. Her athleticism enabled her to be all-conference in three sports (basketball, track and volleyball), and she was the first player in her school's history to score 1,000 points in a season. Classmate Alex Cade (Shaker Heights, Ohio) was a two-time all-state selection and averaged a double-double her senior year (16.7 points, 13.8 rebounds) while adding 4.2 blocks per game.
The 27-game schedule starts Nov. 10 against LIU Brooklyn at Lee Amphitheater, the first of 12 home games on the slate. In addition to the 14 Ivy League games -- starting Jan. 12 vs. Brown -- the Bulldogs have 13 non-league games. This is also the second year for the Ivy League Women's Basketball Tournament, which features the top four teams in the regular season standings and takes place at The Palestra in Philadelphia Mar. 10-11. 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