It wasn't particularly pretty, but it was new, and sometimes that is good enough.
For Harvard's women's vollyeball team (8-14 overall, 2-5 Ivy), 1993 was the beginning of a new era.
With a new coach and a new attitude, the season promised to see an end to the three- and four-win seasons of the past few years.
"You can't really characterize this year as phenomenal, but I think it promises to be the start of something better," senior co-captain Jennifer Garcia says. "We had a lot of people step forward, a lot of young players come through for us, and we seemed to have a better attitude. It was just more fun."
`Fun' might seem like a last-resort criterion for a competitive NCAA sports team when no other positive adjectives are available, but not so for the Crimson.
"We haven't had the greatest program over the past couple of years, and one of the only things that had kept some of us in it was our love of the sport," Gracia says. "For a while it seemed like even that was gone."
This season, however, Garcia found the team considerably more congenial. She credits the installation of Jennifer Bates as head coach, and a host of good, enthusiastic freshman.
The Bates addition proved particularly important. An enthusiastic coach characterized by one player earlier in the season as an "irrepressible optimist," Bates gave the team a sense of direction other than down, and she kept the team fighting through two multi-game losing streaks at points in the season.
"She was great," Garcia says. "She was always there for us, and she was always helpful."
The addition of six freshmen to the squad also helped to boost its record. Of particular importance was the pay of outside hitter Lisa Grant and middle hitter Heather Rypkema, who, along with server Garcia, could be considered to be among the "stars" of the team.
"They were great," Garcia said. "They came in the made big contributions right away. They were also just great teammates--they were a lot of fun."
The addition of Bates and the freshmen made a particularly strong impression at the beginning and the end of the season.
The squad started the year off on an exceptional note by previous standards, winning three of five at the Harvard Classic on September 17-18. After dropping nine of its next 10 after that, it recoved to win four of its last seven regular season contests and to garner fifth place at the Ivy League Tournament.
"There was nothing really great about the way the season went in terms of wins and losses, but I think you have to focus on an intangible--morale," Garcia says. "From that standpoint this year was by far the best since I've been here."
"There's real feeling of excitement now, and that's something we haven't had in a while. While that's only one step towards being a good team, it's a really big step."
Ivy League: 2-5
Key Players: Jennifer Garcia, Lisa Grant, Heather Rypkema
Seniors: Jennifer Garcia.