While missing out on the first Ivy Tournament in 2017, the Yale women’s team completed the season on a roll, winning four of its last five games, including victories against third place Harvard and league champion Penn. Entering her third year as head coach, Allison Guth hoped to use that momentum to catapult her Bulldogs into the conference’s upper division in 2018. On the strength of its senior stars, the tenacious Elis (19-13, 8-6 Ivy) earned the fourth spot in last season’s Ivy Madness, as well as an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament.
After strong wins in the first two rounds of the WBI, Yale defeated South Alabama in the semifinals, coming back from an 11 point deficit with two minutes remaining in regulation. A 54-50 victory at Central Arkansas gave the Bulldogs its record setting 19th win and the WBI championship, the first postseason title of any kind for an Ivy League women’s program. Coach Guth will need to find a way to replace the production and leadership from its recently graduated class, if the Elis want to get back to the postseason and secure home court advantage in the third Ivy Tournament.
Gone from the Bulldogs roster are Jen Berkowitz, Tamara Simpson, and Mary Ann Santucci. Berkowitz started all 32 contests, averaging 34.0 minutes a game, as well as leading Yale with 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. The first team All-Ivy center and WBI Tournament MVP was tops in the conference with a 54.6 shooting percentage, while her 73.6 percent from the charity stripe was fourth best. Simpson started 31 games, averaging a team-leading 34.5 minutes a game, as well as putting up 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. In addition to being chosen for the All-Ivy second team, she was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in the last two seasons. Simpson not only led all conference players with 130 steals and 4.2 steals per game, but she was third in the nation in each of those categories. Her totals were 70 more steals and 2.0 more steals per contest than the next closest athlete, Cornell’s Samantha Widmann. Santucci, the team captain in 2017-2018, played in all 32 games, averaging 22.0 minutes, 3.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest.
Coach Guth’s “Beautiful Bulldog Basketball” focuses on up-tempo play, pressure defense, and a three or key shooting philosophy. While most of the team’s defensive numbers were in the middle of the pack, they led the conference with 10.3 steals, 19.0 forced turnovers and a +3.88 turnover margin per game. The offense, as well, was centered around the middle of the league, except for its three point shooting, which was last at 28.4 percent and seventh with 6.1 made threes per game. Their two point shooting was fifth best at 45.8 percent, but the 18.6 made twos per game was second-most in the conference. The 2018-2019 Bulldogs will aim to maintain its defensive thievery and inside scoring, while trying to drastically improve its outside shooting.
The returning players will be led by junior Roxy Barahman, junior Megan Gorman and sophomore Tori Andrew. Barahman is a 5′ 8″ point guard, who was named All-Ivy honorable mention last season. In her first year, she played in 17 games, averaging 15.0 minutes, 4.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.8 steals a game. In her breakthrough sophomore campaign, she upped her totals to 32 games, averaging 32.3 minutes, 13.5 points (9th in Ivy), 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists (4th), and 2.0 steals (4th) per game. In her first two seasons in New Haven, the 6′ 1″ Gorman started 52 of 59 games, averaging 5.6 rebounds and 21.2 minutes per game. Her 4.6 defensive boards per game in ’17-’18 was tops for the Elis and 12th best in the Ancient Eight, while her 6.1 total rebounds were second best on the team and 13th in the conference. After missing most of last year’s non-conference schedule, Andrew emerged as the team’s most consistent outside threat during conference and postseason play. For the season, the 5′ 10″ shooting guard played in 22 games, averaging 20.1 minutes and 7.5 points per game, while securing team highs in made threes (44) and three point shooting (38.3 percent).
Coach Guth will welcome a group of four first-years to New Haven that includes two forwards and two guards, including one of the most highly ranked recruits in Yale history. Camilla Emsbo is a 6′ 5″ forward from Colorado, who is listed as a five star recruit, the 50th top national prospect and the 7th best forward in the land by ESPN. She was named the ’17-’18 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year, as well as Colorado Miss Basketball, after a senior season in which she averaged 18.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game. For her career, Emsbo totaled 1,260 points and 659 rebounds. Despite her high profile, Emsbo embraces a team-first approach, as her high school coach, Chris Poisson, told the Denver Post, “A lot of kids in her position would’ve made it all about her. If she had done that, we don’t have the great run we had this year or last year, to the program’s first title game. She wants everybody involved, and she’s great at creating a selfless culture even though she’s the star.”
Erin Hill, a 6′ 2” forward from Martha’s Vineyard, is the first female athlete from the island to play Division I basketball. She played three seasons at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), before moving to the Tabor Academy for the last two years. In her junior year at Tabor, she sufferred a partial tear of her ACL that caused her to undergo intense physical therapy and miss a significant portion of that season. While many schools may have lost interest, the Bulldogs did not. In discussing her recruitment with the MV Times in January, she stated “Yale was the only school who stuck with me throughout my injury. They truly saw me for the player that I am, and believed in me to my full extent.” After scoring over 1,000 points at MVRHS, she bounced back this past season to average a double-double in points and rebounds, as well as 4 assists and 2 blocks per game. In describing Hill’s talents to the Vineyard Gazette, Coach Guth wrote, “She is one of the best post passers I’ve recruited and is tremendous with her ability to score around the rim. Players like that help you win championships.”
Robin Gallagher is a 5′ 10″ wing from Cary, North Carolina, who was the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2016-2017. In that MVP season, she averaged 18.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.5 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. According to MaxPreps, she averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in 2017-2018, but she was listed as appearing in only 5 games. Mackenzie Hewitt is a 5′ 5″ point guard from Prosper High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, who scored over 1,000 points in her career and was named All-Region Class 5A Region 2 for her junior and senior years by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.