Three-Way Dance for Ivy Lead
So who's it going to be?
Who's going to be left standing at the end of the Ivy League women's basketball season?
Who's going to be the battered and bruised but pleased as punch?
Who's going to be exhausted as ever but never more happy to be moving on to the NCAA tournament?
Your guess is as good as mine following this past weekend's games.
On Friday, Harvard (13-6, 6-1 Ivy) lost to Penn (15-6, 6-1) in a heartbreaking battle of then-Ivy unbeatens.
When sophomore point guard Jenn Monti's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the right side of the backboard and fell to the floor, her teammates' shoulders slumped lower than they had all year. Monti had hit those last-second shots before, and there was no reason to think she couldn't repeat the heroics again when the Crimson had the ball with 18 seconds to go and down 78-76.
Captain Laela Sturdy's face showed disappointment because she knew Harvard would need a little help from its friends, or rather, enemies, in making the postseason.
The Crimson's only hope for a salvageable weekend was that surging Dartmouth (14-6, 6-1) would upend Penn the next night while Harvard held off Princeton (4-17, 1-6), whose record belied its talent. Harvard handed Dartmouth its only Ivy loss on Jan. 7, 73-67.
Dartmouth and Harvard wins on Saturday would force a three-way tie atop the Ivy standings between the Crimson, the Big Green and the Quakers, who would all finish the first round of Ivy play at 6-1.
So the Harvard players found themselves in the foreign position of rooting for Dartmouth, of all teams.
"I can't believe I would root for Dartmouth," Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. "But you know what? That would be alright with me."
The Dartmouth-Harvard rivalry has gotten stronger and stronger with each year as the two teams, who have traditionally been at the top of the league standings year-in and year-out, have developed an animosity toward one another.
"There is nothing better than beating that team," Sturdy said after the Dartmouth game. "This is what we run for in the summer. This is what we sweat for in the preseason."
And, lo and behold, the Big Green took one from the Quakers, 89-71, the good news coming after the Harvard-Princeton game wrapped up with a 73-67 Crimson win.
Like in the preseason, Harvard now has a clean slate, as do Penn and Dartmouth. All three teams now start at 0-0 in the Ivy, and if they each can hold off the pesky likes of Princeton, Yale and Cornell, it will come down to the head-to-head match-ups in determining who represents the conference in the NCAA tournament.
Harvard and Dartmouth travel to Princeton and Penn in two weeks, with Dartmouth playing Penn on the first night and then switching with Harvard on the second.
"I like the order of the next weekend [against Penn and Princeton]," Delaney-Smith said, harboring hope that Dartmouth will wear Penn out that Friday.
The Crimson and Big Green will then square off in a grudge match in Hanover on March 7, the last night of the regular season, in what could determine the Ivy championship.
Who's it going to be? I still don't know, even though I follow this stuff religiously--I have all of the Ivy college newspapers bookmarked in my Netscape, and I read all of the articles.
But you know what? I'm not sure I really want to know. I'd rather watch it unfold and be surprised.
And if you know who it's going to be, please don't ruin the ending for me.