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Could women’s basketball stun the Ivy League?

Bears off to hottest start since 2005-06 season

On Oct. 12, the Ivy League released its preseason poll for the 2023-2024 Women’s Basketball season.
Courtesy of Brown Athletics.
On Oct. 12, the Ivy League released its preseason poll for the 2023-2024 Women’s Basketball season. Courtesy of Brown Athletics.

On Oct. 12, the Ivy League released its preseason poll for the 2023-24 women’s basketball season. Brown, coming off a 4-10 conference record the previous year, was ranked sixth — with less than half the total vote share of top-three finishers Princeton, Columbia and Harvard. 

Less than four months later, the Bears now sit tied for second place with a 12-5 overall and 3-1 conference record early in the season — with hopes to continue their stellar play and stun the League by stealing a spot in the Ivy Madness playoffs hosted by Columbia this March.

“We want to get to New York and prove people wrong,” said sophomore starter Grace Arnolie ’26, who dropped a career-high 25 points in a Saturday win over Cornell. “We like to say we play with a chip on our shoulder knowing that we don’t go into every game with the other team’s respect, but that we’re gonna earn it.”

Head Coach Monique LeBlanc, who is now in her third coaching season for the Bears, pointed to the group’s high level of focus in practices as their distinguishing factor. 


“We came into the mindset this year that getting to the city, getting to the Ivy League tournament is the goal,” said three-point aficionado Isabella Mauricio ’25. “I think we’ve taken that intensity and channeled (it) into all of our practices, and it’s paid off.”

The Bears’ momentum surge this season follows a midwest game against Loyola University Chicago on the day before Thanksgiving. After trailing in the third quarter, Bruno exploded for a 20-0 run and didn’t look back, seizing an exhilarating comeback victory by a final score of 56-49.

Four days later, in New Jersey, the Bears once again found themselves in a third-quarter hole — this time down 39-22 to Monmouth University — before igniting to seize a clutch 59-58 win.

The Bears, who entered that week with a 2-3 record, used the victories to spark a seven-game win streak lasting until New Year’s Day.

Multiple players highlighted the consecutive comebacks as a defining moment emblematic of the team’s identity.

“I think that showed us that we can compete with these teams,” said Kyla Jones ’24, the Bears’ top scorer this season, who was named Ivy Player of the Week after dropping 54 points across the two games. Jones also called this year’s Bears “mature,” noting their veteran leadership and experience.

“Another team might give up, hang their head and think the game’s over, but this team just digs our feet in,” Arnolie said. “I think that kind of shows how much grit we have as a team.”

In addition to the Bears’ never-say-die mentality, the Loyola Chicago and Monmouth games displayed another tenet of the Bears’ newfound success: a vastly improved defense.

Last season, Brown ranked seventh in the Ivy League in points allowed per game. So far this season, they’ve catapulted to second place, already winning four games while scoring under 60 points.

“When we look at the teams that were in Ivy Madness last year, those were the top four defenses in the league. So if you want to be there, you have to be one of the top four defenses,” LeBlanc said. “There’s no sneaking in with a seventh place defense, so I think (the players) fully understand that, and they’re brought into being a great defensive team.”


“There’s definitely a higher focus level,” Jones said about the team’s defensive efforts “We have a lot of speed this year, and I think playing a (man-to-man) defense, people are able to showcase that a little bit more. We’re really active and getting steals, really disrupting what other teams are trying to do.”

That defensive disruption will become all the more important as Brown’s road ahead toughens. 

After this weekend’s match-up against Dartmouth at home, the Bears will set out on a stretch of seven consecutive games against Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Penn — the four top-ranked offenses in the Ivy League.

In preparation for these challenging match-ups, the team led by LeBlanc and a strong starting five of Arnolie, Jones, Mauricio, Ada Anamekwe ’26 and Alyssa Moreland ’26 can relish the program’s best start since the ‘05-’06 season.

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“We’re at a really exciting place,” LeBlanc said. “Because we are continuing to improve and we’re so hungry to keep getting better.”

“When you’re winning, there’s always a good buzz around it,” Mauricio said. “A lot of people have come up to us in the dining halls and been like, ‘Keep it up,’ so it feels good. Hopefully, we’ll keep it rolling.”

Linus Lawrence

Linus is a sports editor from New York City. He is a junior concentrating in English, and when he's out of The Herald office you can find him rooting for the Mets, watching Star Wars or listening to The Beach Boys.

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