Women's Basketball Jump Starts Season At Yale On Friday

Kelly Hamner

Complete Yale Game Notes in PDF format

Game Day Quick Facts:
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 Patriot) vs. Yale (0-0, 0-0 Ivy)
Date: November 11, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: John J. Lee Amphitheater (2,532), New Haven, Conn.
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Dick Lutsk; play-by-play; Click here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
Yale Video Streaming: Click here
Series Record: Tied 6-6
Last Meeting: Yale 74, Holy Cross 71 (November 12, 2010, Worcester, Mass.)

THE SERIES WITH YALE: This will be the 13th meeting between the Crusaders and Bulldogs. The teams hold an even 6-6 record in the all-time series as Yale enters the contest on a three-game win streak. Last season, Holy Cross mounted a 12-point comeback but fell by the eventual final tally of 74-71 at the Hart Center. The Crusaders had their last victory against Yale, a 66-59 win, at the Lee Amphitheater on January 6, 2008. The Nov. 13, 2009 game was the third time Holy Cross lost to Yale in New Haven and the third time head coach Bill Gibbons had lost to the Bulldogs in his 26-year career at the helm. Gibbons is now 4-4 against the Bulldogs while Holy Cross holds a 2-3 record when playing on Yale's home court. Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht is now 3-2 when playing Holy Cross. She sustained her only loss against the Crusaders on Jan. 6, 2008. Yale has also been the team's first match-up in four of the last five seasons.  

FOR OPENERS: Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 19-18 in its opening game of the season. This year will mark the 16th time the Crusaders have opened the season on the road. The last time Holy Cross started the season as the away team was on Nov. 13, 2009 against Yale. The last time the Crusaders won in their season opener was in 2006, when Holy Cross topped Yale, 68-56, on Nov. 10. In all, the Crusaders post a 9-6 advantage when playing on the road in their first game. The team won its first season-opener under the guidance of Bill Gibbons on Nov. 23, 1985 away at Eastern Michigan. Since Gibbons took over as head coach, the Crusaders stand at 16-10 in season openers. Over the last 10 years, Holy Cross stands at 5-5 on opening day, defeating Massachusetts (68-42 in 2001-2002), St. Peter's (70-64, 2002-2003), Providence (68-48, 2004-2005), Northeastern (76-60, 2005-2006) and Yale (68-56, 2006-2007), while falling to St. Peter's (87-76, 2003-2004), Vermont (54-45, 2007-2008) and most recently to Yale (65-63, 2008-2009, 66-60, 2009-2010 and 74-71, 2011-2012). Gibbons began his career with a five-game win streak on opening day from 1985-1990. The team comes into the contest having lost its last four openers, three against Yale and one against Vermont.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE IVY LEAGUE: In program history, Holy Cross has played against four of the eight teams that compete in the Ivy League. Yale will be the first of four Ivy League opponents the team will face this season. The team will also play at Harvard (Nov. 27) and at Brown (Jan. 16) while hosting Dartmouth (Jan. 3). Harvard and Yale have been the most frequent Ivy League teams on the Holy Cross schedule, competing against the Crusaders a combined 24 times. Dartmouth will face Holy Cross for the ninth time this season while controlling the all-time series 6-2. Brown is the fourth and final Ivy League team Holy Cross has competed against, as the Crusaders have won all three meetings. The last time the Crusaders and Bears met was 1997.

PLAYING THE BULLDOGS: The Crusaders will be playing their first of two opponents with the Bulldogs mascot on Friday. Holy Cross will also host the Bryant Bulldogs on Dec. 21. The nickname Bulldogs is used by a total of 38 collegiate institutions, including Yale and Bryant. Throughout program history, the Crusaders have played against three of those institutions; Bryant, Louisiana Tech and Yale. After losing to both Bulldogs opponents last season, Holy Cross has combined for a record of 10-9 all-time versus Bulldogs opponents.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON POLL: Holy Cross was picked to finish fifth for the second straight season in the 2011-2012 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 52 votes. American was chosen to finish first, receiving 11 first-place votes as senior Lisa Strack was voted preseason All-Patriot League. The Eagles earned a league-high 94 points and was followed by Lehigh, who received three first place votes and 83 points. Reigning Patriot League champion Navy was picked third with 74 points and two first place votes, while Bucknell (58 points) and Holy Cross (52) were selected fourth and fifth respectively. Lafayette, Army and Colgate followed in order, earning 38, 26 and 23 points respectively.

WARD NAMED 2011-2012 TEAM CAPTAIN: The lone senior on the roster, Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.), was named captain for the 2011-2012 season. Ward was also named a tri-captain for the 2010-2011 season. She is the veteran leader in the backcourt and returns as one of the team's three starting guards. Ward saw action in all 30 games last season while starting 13. She averaged 23.2 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She registered a Holy Cross single-season record when she went 12-for-12 from the free throw line against Quinnipiac and finished the season as the team's top free throw performer. Her 84.0 free throw percentage was also first amongst league players as well.

SMITH NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM: Sophomore guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) was chosen to the preseason All-League Team after being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season. She joins the team with two other sophomores, Navy's Jade Geif and Bucknell's Shelby Romine and three seniors, American's Strack and Lehigh's Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch. Last season, Smith ranked second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 point per game. She also ranked first on the team in minutes played per game (32.0) and assists (98). She finished the season with 82 three-pointers made, ranking second-highest in the Holy Cross single-season records.

LEAPS FOR LEPLEY: Junior forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) returns for her third-straight season as one of the team's starting forwards. Lepley is at full strength after recovering from a tweaked knee late last season. Originally playing as a guard in high school, the converted forward led the team in rebounding and blocks in 2010-2011. Her team-high of 5.6 rebounds per game also ranked ninth amongst Patriot League players. She is a threat not only on defense but on offense as well as she posted a 9.6 scoring average, third-highest on the team. Her 40.9 field goal percentage ranked second on the team and she posted two double-doubles. She led the team in rebounding in 12 of the 30 games from last season. Against Yale last season, Lepley registered season-highs in field goals made (nine) and field goals attempted (17), finishing the game with 18 points.

HAMNER TIME: Sophomore guard Kelly Hamner (Manassas, Va.) has emerged from the preseason as one of the team's three starting guards. Hamner returns to the court after averaging 12.3 minutes in the 28 games she played in last season. She tallied 3.0 points per game and scored in double-figures twice. She posted a season-high 13 point against Yale in her collegiate debut, going 6-for-9 from the floor. She finished the season with a 29.7 field goal percentage.

GAINS FOR GANSER: The third sophomore to earn a starting role for the 2011-2012 season will be Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.). The 6-1 forward will add a spark to the Crusaders' frontcourt, as she appeared in all 30 games in her freshman campaign. She ranked fourth on the team in rebounding, averaging 3.8 rebounds per game and was solid from the free throw line, making 74.7 percent of her free throws. She led or tied the team-high in rebounding in seven games and shot a season total of 35.5 percent from the field, going 38-107. In her collegiate debut against Yale last season, she scored seven points and brought down four rebounds.

MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE: Ever since Kaitlin Foley graduated from Holy Cross in 2007, the Crusaders have not had a true center on their roster. This year's team will turn to two new faces, freshmen Clare Sullivan (Belmont, Mass.) and Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) for that frontcourt presence. The two are listed at 6-3 and 6-2 respectively and were McDonald's All-America nominees and named to their respective All-Conference teams at least twice. Parker was also named third team All-State two times and ranked 11th in her conference in total rebounding as a senior. Sullivan was a three-time NEPSAC All-New England selection three years in a row. She graduated from the Rivers School, playing three years of varsity basketball after transferring from Belmont.

OFF THE BENCH: The Crusaders' bench will have a big impact on the court this season. The team, who is looking to have a more balanced approach to scoring, will turn to its bench as major factors in this. Sophomore guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) returns as a scoring and speed threat. She averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game as a freshman, while also adding 29 steals. Her scoring average and steals ranked fourth on the squad. Junior forward Kaitlin Cole (Springfield, Pa.) continues to increase her playing time in the frontcourt after seeing action in 29 games as a sophomore. She will add to the team's defense and rebounding capabilities. Junior guard Alexis Nicholas (Jamaica, N.Y.) and freshman guard Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) will increase the bench's depth, accounting for more scoring options.

DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Another goal of the 2011-2012 season is to step up on all aspects of the defense. One of the main ways the team will accomplish that goal is to win the rebounding battle. Last season, the team was outrebounded by a margin of 1,186-1,023, a 123 rebound difference. The year prior, the team was outrebounded 1,197-960. The last Holy Cross team to outrebound all of its opponents during a season was in 2002-2003. That season, the squad put up 1,216 rebounds compared to 1,124 rebounds by their opponents. The squad finished with a 24-8 overall record and won the 2003 Patriot League Championship.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There will be one new face handling front office duties for the 2011-2012 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coach Sahar Nusseibeh. Nusseibeh was a former player for American, a Patriot League opponent, and was part of two squads that won the conference's regular season championship. Nusseibeh joins the Crusaders' hoops staff after spending the last two years as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati. While there, she provided on-road recruiting, video coordinating, served as the team's post coach and was the academic liaison between the players, academics department and coaches.

BOWL FOR BONDS: Assistant coach Chante Bonds knows what it's like to be a champion. This past summer, Bonds was a major part of the Boston Militia, a team in the Women's Football Alliance. Her squad went 7-1 during the regular season and finished with a 3-0 record in the national conference playoffs, earning them a spot in the world championship. Facing the San Diego Surge, Bonds' Militia won the game 35-19 and was crowned the 2011 Women's Football Alliance National Champions. Bonds, who was in her third year in the women's league, earned second team All-America honors as a wide receiver. Playing as a cornerback in the championship game, Bonds stopped a San Diego drive with an interception and an 11-yard return. Bonds, born and raised in Brockton, Mass., played Division II basketball at Bentley. A combo guard, Bonds' favorite tasks on the basketball court were diving for loose balls and setting screens for post players. On the football field, she caught on to contact and tackling quickly.

SUMMER SHAPE-UP: The Crusaders went through a tough and rigorous summer off season, working with assistant coach Chante Bonds and strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil. In addition to the normal training regimen of strength, power, core stability and knee injury prevention, Keil and Bonds implemented a conditioning sprint test. The sprint test simulated game-like conditions, and when they ran it together as a team, they competed to see who can stay on top of the 'speed ladder'; slowest person is last in line, fastest person is at the top, and they fight to move up or keep their position on every sprint rep. Both Bonds and Keil felt that this new training segment changed the squad's mentality of being on the team and kept them training with consistency and intensity throughout the summer.

PATRIOT LEAGUE DOMINANCE: Despite its preseason ranking, the Holy Cross women's basketball team has its eyes set back on the top spot amongst the Patriot League's eight teams. Since its inaugural season back in 1991, the team has posted 243 league victories and just 71 losses. It has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-10 all-time record. The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, a program low and lost to American in the quarterfinals. The Crusaders are most successful against Colgate as they have mounted a 43-3 all-time record against the Raiders. The team also boasts a 45-8 record against Lafayette. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 28 of the 71 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 13 wins against Holy Cross as well.

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2011-2012 season is the second instance under Gibbons' tutelage that a player on the roster has not participated in the NCAA Tournament. The last time a Holy Cross team made the NCAA Tournament was the 2006-2007 season. Holy Cross has played in the Big Dance 12 times, posting a 1-12 all-time record. It received a team-best seventh seeding in 1985 and played as the 16th seed in its last appearance, 2007. The Crusaders have also participated in the WNIT, playing in the 2002 season.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS: 27th SEASON: Bill Gibbons is in his 27th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 31st as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2011-2012. He has compiled a 496-286 record as head coach (.634 winning percentage), including a 10-20 record at the helm last season. He ranks 24th on the active Division I win leaders list and is four shy wins of his 500th victory. His quarter-century pledge to the team has made a major impact on all aspects of the women's basketball world and especially in the surrounding community. He has led the Crusaders to nine Patriot League Championships in the last 16 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 26 years as head coach. With sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt, Gibbons has cemented himself and the women's basketball program as one of the best in the East. The sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women's basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross Basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men's basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with more than 495 wins, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: On Sunday, Nov. 13, Holy Cross will travel to play the No. 4 ranked Connecticut Huskies. The game will serve as the Huskies season opener and will be played at 2:00 p.m. at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. The contest serves as the 22nd meeting between the two squads.

Record: 0-0 Affiliation: Ivy League

HEAD COACH: Head coach Chris Gobrecht enters her seventh season at the helm of the Yale women's basketball team and her 32nd year of coaching Division I basketball programs. Last year she led her team to a 14-15 record (10-4 Ivy League). Her team earned a second place finish in the league and played in the WNIT for the first time in program history. In her 32-year career, Gobrecht has recorded 487 wins and 416 losses as she is 25th on the list of NCAA Division I winningest active coaches (categorized by victories), right behind Bill Gibbons.

2010-2011 SQUAD: The Yale women's basketball team was picked to finish third in the Ivy League. Led by first team All-Ivy League selection Megan Vasquez, Yale's top scorer in each of her first two seasons, the Bulldogs return eight letter-winners, including senior captain Michelle Cashen and sophomore Janna Graf, a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy Rookie Team last season. Vasquez averaged 13.6 points per game last season and needs just 312 points, which would be her lowest output of her Yale career, to become the 17th player in Yale history to eclipse 1,000 career points. Cashen averaged 8.2 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game, while Graf was third on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per game to go along with 4.2 rebounds per game.