December 4, 2022 

Eight Ivy League players who have surprised this season

Rookie standouts, sophomores making leaps and a senior coming into her own

Entering the 2022-23 season, a theme for Ivy League women’s basketball was continuity. Three of the eight teams returned over 80% of their minutes from last season, and every team returned at least 63%. The stage was set for many teams to build on what they had accomplished last season rather than reinvent the wheel.

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However, through the first month of the season, there have still been several players who have made unexpected contributions, including freshmen who have adjusted quickly to the college game and returners who have taken on larger roles and earned more minutes in crowded rotations.

Asked for her impressions of the other Ivy League teams so far, Columbia head coach Megan Griffith told reporters on Nov. 29, “There’s some names that I don’t know as well, like some of the younger players in the league, where you’re always like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that kid,’ or ‘Where did she come from?’ That’s always good to see, new faces doing well.”

Here are eight players — one for each team — who have surprised this season and could be difference-makers in conference play. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from Her Hoop Stats and only include games against Division I competition. Those statistics cover games through Dec. 3, 2022.

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Brown guard Grace Arnolie uses a screen set by her teammate to drive left.
Brown guard Grace Arnolie drives in a game against Fairfield at the Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I., on Nov. 7, 2022. (Photo credit: Brown Athletics)

Grace Arnolie, freshman guard, Brown

In the preseason, junior Kyla Jones told reporters that she thought the Bears had more offensive options this season around her and sophomore Bella Mauricio, the team’s leading returning scorer. She was right, and that is a big reason that the Bears equaled last season’s win total (five) in their first seven games, despite being picked to finish last in the Ivy League for the second straight season.

Jones (17.6 points per game) and Mauricio (12.0) are the team’s two double-figure scorers, as they were last year, but this year, freshman Grace Arnolie is right behind them at 9.1 points per game. Arnolie, a 5’8 guard from Vienna, Virginia, is making 49.0% of her 2-pointers and adding 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She has started each of the last five games, and she has won the past two Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards. Against Monmouth on Nov. 25, she had a career-high 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting and sunk the game-winning free throw with under one second remaining.

Arnolie’s contributions helped Brown beat Monmouth even without Mauricio, who missed two games with a concussion. Last year, not having Mauricio would have made it nearly impossible for Brown to succeed, but Brown is 2-0 without her this season. Freshman guard Makenzie Leahy (seven starts, 6.4 points per game on 36.4% 3-point shooting) has also helped stretch defenses and keep them from loading up on Mauricio and Jones. That offensive versatility and added depth, on a team that already returned over 90% of its scoring from last season, could help the Bears exceed expectations in Ivy League play.

Columbia forward Hannah Pratt shoots an open 3-pointer as a Miami player arrives to contest. The official has one hand raised to signal a 3-point attempt.
Columbia forward Hannah Pratt shoots a 3-pointer against Miami in the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament in Coral Gables, Fla., on Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo credit: University of Miami Athletics)

Hannah Pratt, senior forward, Columbia

In her final season at Columbia, 6’1 forward Hannah Pratt is seemingly putting all the pieces together after injuries slowed her progress earlier in her career. She missed her entire freshman season with a torn ACL, and a knee injury during Ivy League play last season cost her a few games and her rhythm on the court. Now, Griffith said, “She’s playing like a senior. She has that confidence of a senior, like, we got this. We’ll figure it out.”

Pratt has started all nine of Columbia’s games this season and is averaging 11.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game — all career highs except for blocks. She is shooting 46.8% from the field and 43.2% from 3-point range, and she has scored in double figures in all but two games. She is also counted on defensively as one of the tallest players on the Lions’ roster.

“Hannah is such a great decision-maker, and because she is playing so confidently, she’s also way more aggressive offensively and defensively,” Griffith said. “… The biggest steps that I’m the most proud of that she’s taken [are] on the defensive side of the ball. She now can switch and guard on the perimeter. She feels really confident in our coverages. She’s walling up and being up and blocking shots.”

Columbia had its best season in program history last year and returns all but one player this season. Pratt’s improvement is one reason why Columbia could reach an even higher level this season and should challenge Princeton for the Ivy League title.

Cornell forward Emily Pape holds the ball with two hands at shoulder height and scans the floor.
Cornell forward Emily Pape (31) surveys her options during a game against Binghamton at Newman Arena in Ithaca, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Eldon Lindsay/Cornell Athletics)

Emily Pape, freshman forward, Cornell

Seven of Cornell’s eight players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game last season returned this year, and for the most part, those players are getting just a few more minutes per game than they did in 2021-22. The newcomer who has broken into the rotation is 6’1 freshman Emily Pape.

The Park Ridge, Illinois, native is averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and giving the Big Red crucial production off the bench. Despite averaging just 22.5 minutes per game, Pape leads all Ivy League freshmen in rebounds per game, and she recorded a career-high 13 rebounds in only 19:03 against Lafayette on Nov. 16.

Pape’s contributions in the frontcourt, along with those of sophomore forward Summer Parker-Hall, have helped Cornell make up for the graduation of Theresa Grace Mbanefo, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season. Pape and Parker-Hall combine for over a third of the team’s rebounds per game and have helped Cornell be one of the nation’s best defensive rebounding teams (ranking in the 92nd percentile in defensive rebounding rate). That has helped the Big Red to a 5-4 record despite a slow start offensively.

Dartmouth forward Olivia Lawlor dribbles with her right hand with a New Hampshire defender on her left hip.
Dartmouth forward Olivia Lawlor makes a move in a game against New Hampshire at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 13, 2022. (Photo credit: Doug Austin)

Olivia Lawlor, freshman forward, Dartmouth

Last season, Dartmouth didn’t have a single player who averaged even seven points per game. This season, it has freshman Olivia Lawlor, who is tied for second in the conference in scoring among rookies. Lawlor, a 6’1 forward from Summit, New Jersey, has started six of the Big Green’s seven games and is averaging 9.6 points on 45.8% shooting from the field, 4.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game.

Against Holy Cross on Nov. 27, Lawlor had a career-high 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, six rebounds and three steals. In the Big Green’s next game against Vermont on Dec. 1, Lawlor was held to just six points but became a facilitator, recording four assists after only registering one in her previous five games.

Dartmouth finished seventh in the Ancient Eight last season, and head coach Adrienne Shibles told reporters in the preseason that her team’s offense needed to improve significantly. Lawlor has been a big reason why Dartmouth’s scoring has increased from 47.0 points per game last season to 58.7 this season and why its field goal percentage has increased from 31.9% — worst in the nation — to 37.0%. The results haven’t been there yet — Dartmouth is 1-6, with two losses by one possession — but Lawlor’s offensive contributions are helping the Big Green stay in games, and perhaps soon, win them.

Harvard guard Elena Rodriguez attempts a left-handed layup as a UMass Lowell defender contests with their right hand and body.
Harvard guard Elena Rodriguez (10) shoots during a game against UMass Lowell at Lavietes Pavilion in Allston, Mass., on Nov. 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Samuel Bennett)

Elena Rodriguez, sophomore guard, Harvard

Last season, Rodriguez played just 9.2 minutes per game for Harvard, but new head coach Carrie Moore hinted this preseason that Rodriguez would have a larger role as a sophomore. In 23.0 minutes per game this season, she has been extremely efficient, averaging 7.6 points per game on 67.4% shooting from the field along with 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.9 steals. Against Merrimack on Nov. 21, Rodriguez scored 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, which more than doubled her previous career high. She added 12 points against a Power 5 team, Oklahoma State, four days later.

As Harvard has adjusted to a new head coach and navigated injuries, several players have surprised this season, including freshman guards Gabby Anderson (nine starts in as many games, 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game) and Saniyah Glenn (5.8 points per game) along with Rodriguez. But Rodriguez’s emergence could be especially important because of the team’s roster composition. Only three players are listed as exclusively forwards, and two of those players are freshmen.

Though the 6’2 Rodriguez is listed as a guard, Moore has used her as a center to complement Harvard’s many sharpshooting guards. Rodriguez gets over 70% of her shot attempts at the rim and finishes more than 86% of them, according to CBB Analytics. But according to Moore, Rodriguez also has the potential to space the floor as a stretch five, and we might see more of that as the Crimson settle into Moore’s system.

Penn guard Simone Sawyer holds the ball above her head with two hands and scans the court, with a defender in front of her.
Penn guard Simone Sawyer (11) scans the court during a game against Saint Joseph’s at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia, Pa., on Nov. 15, 2022. (Photo credit: Hunter Martin)

Simone Sawyer, freshman guard, Penn

Sawyer had a quiet start to her season, going scoreless in three of her first four games, before scoring at least 18 points on at least 50% shooting in three straight games. Most of her points have come from the 3-point line, where she is shooting 43.2%. But at La Salle on Nov. 29, Sawyer had a career-high 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting from 2-point range and 4-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line, showing that she is more than a jump shooter.

For the season, Sawyer, a 5’11 freshman from Lincolnshire, Illinois, is averaging 9.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 20.3 minutes per game. But her minutes have increased significantly in the past four games, so those averages could continue to rise. Her emergence coincides with Penn seemingly finding a rhythm offensively: The Quakers are 3-5 this season but have shot their best percentages from the field in the past three games, which were two wins and a six-point loss to USC on the road.

“She’s been growing and developing; all she needed was a chance,” Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin told City of Basketball Love after the La Salle game. “… I think the kid is just going to be a really good player here. She’s got everything. She’s got the DNA. She wants to be good. She works hard at it. … She can put the ball in the basket and she plays hard.”

If Sawyer can continue scoring, it will take pressure off of two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection Kayla Padilla, who is Penn’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game but has struggled with her shot for most of the season. Sawyer’s ability to space the floor could be especially helpful, as Penn is shooting just 27.9% from 3-point range.

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Princeton forward Paige Morton attempts a close-range shot with her right hand, fading away slightly as a Villanova defender contests the shot.
Princeton forward Paige Morton (5) shoots during a game against Villanova at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, N.J., on Nov. 11, 2022. (Photo credit: Sideline Photos)

Paige Morton, sophomore forward, Princeton

As a freshman, the 6’3 Morton averaged just 6.4 minutes, 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds off the bench for the eventual Ivy League champion Tigers. Princeton head coach Carla Berube opted to start a smaller but more experienced frontcourt, and Morton and 6’4 classmate Parker Hill were options if Berube wanted a bigger lineup or the Tigers had foul trouble.

This season, Morton has seized the starting spot available due to the graduation of guard Abby Meyers, and Princeton has been able to play its big lineups more often. The 4-2 Tigers are still developing their chemistry on offense, but Morton is contributing 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game. She had a career-high 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the season opener on Nov. 7, and she has surpassed her freshman-year high in minutes (12:22) in every game this season.

“She came back [this season] in really great shape, stronger, more confident,” Berube said of Morton on Princeton’s “Get Stops” podcast on Nov. 10. “… She’s a really big target in there. She runs the floor extremely well. The way our two starting post players, Ellie [Mitchell] and Paige, run the floor, run rim to rim, just really will open things up … [I’m] really excited to see what she’s capable of doing this season.”

Freshman guard Madison St. Rose has also been important for the Tigers off the bench, averaging 5.5 points in 18.1 minutes per game. But St. Rose was the 46th-best prospect in the Class of 2022, according to espnW HoopGurlz, so her emergence was anticipated this season while Morton was more of an unknown.

Yale guard Nyla McGill drives to the lane with her right hand. She has a step on her defender, who is trying to stay on McGill's inside.
Yale guard Nyla McGill (30) drives during a game against Army at Christl Arena in West Point, N.Y., on Nov. 16, 2022. (Photo credit: Sam Rubin/Yale Athletics)

Nyla McGill, sophomore guard, Yale

There has been lots of adjusting in New Haven this season: Yale needed practically its entire team to step up after two-time All-Ivy forward Camilla Emsbo tore her ACL in the offseason, and the Bulldogs are also figuring out new roles under first-year head coach Dalila Eshe. Players such as sophomore forward Grace Thybulle, sophomore guard/forward Mackenzie Egger and junior guard Elles van der Maas are regular starters for the first time, and freshman guard Kiley Capstraw leads the Ivy League in scoring among rookies.

However, sophomore guard Nyla McGill is the pick here after already playing nearly twice as many minutes (217) as she did as a freshman (114) and starting six of Yale’s eight games so far. Last season, McGill shot just 19.0% from the field for 0.7 points per game; this season, she is shooting 59.1% for 7.4 points per game, including a 19-point outing off the bench at Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 11. She is also contributing a team-high 7.9 rebounds, a team-high 2.1 steals and 2.0 assists per game.

McGill’s rebounding has been especially important without Emsbo, who ranked second in the conference last season in rebounds per game. Despite standing only 5’8, McGill has grabbed at least eight rebounds five times this season, including 13 at Saint Joseph’s and 11 at Massachusetts on Nov. 30. Yale, at 4-4 this season, will likely need continued production from McGill to finish in the top four in the Ivy League and qualify for the conference tournament.

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Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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