Yesterday afternoon, the Crimson (17-6, 7-0 Ivy) barely spared enough time to catch the ESPNews broadcast revealing that the squad had earned the 16-seed and the first two regional rounds would be played on Harvard turf at Beren Tennis Center.
The Crimson arrived at the Bright Hockey Center’s Blueline Room, in which it planned to watch the news, but the door was locked. The delay caused the team to miss the announcement of its name.
But the report quickly spread by cell phone: Harvard would face Quinnipiac in the first round and, with a win, continue on to play the winner of the Tulane-Notre Dame matchup.
And then it was back to practice.
“We just wanted to keep our eyes on the road,” said senior Chris Chiou, explaining why his team didn’t hype the announcement more. “We already kind of knew we were going to make the tournament.”
The Crimson had clinched an NCAA berth 10 days before, when the squad claimed at least a share of the Ivy title—the crown might have been shared with Brown at the time, but Harvard had defeated the Bears and thus would earned the NCAA’s nod.
And when last Wednesday’s win over Dartmouth capped a perfect 7-0 Ivy season, all the team had left to do was wait.
Yesterday, the Crimson was rewarded with what junior Jonathan Chu deemed “a great opportunity for us.”
As the top team in the four-squad regional played at Beren, Harvard will first face Quinnipiac (12-4, 8-0 Northeast Conference). The Bobcats have lost three of their last seven matches, and their last national ranking, coming on April 6, was No. 73.
The Crimson, meanwhile, was ranked No. 21 as of May 3, and the squad has not lost since the beginning of April.
But should Harvard defeat Quinnipiac and continue to the second round, the competition would become somewhat stiffer. No. 30 Notre Dame (15-8, 3-2 Big East) has won five of its last six matches, and No. 19 Tulane (18-5, 6-0 Conference USA) has not lost since March 13, winning its last nine.
“Both teams will be pretty tough,” remarked Crimson co-captain Cliff Nguyen. “It will be a definite war [against Tulane].”
“There’s enormous parity [between the teams],” agreed Harvard coach David Fish ’72. “They’re really strong, and those teams are really going to battle, and we’re going to really have to be sharp.”
Chu echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“For the entire year, we’ve been saying we’re going to take everybody seriously,” Chu said, “and rankings and numbers at this point don’t mean anything.
“It’s one tournament for all the marbles, so we’re going to treat Quinnipiac or whomever we’re playing the same way we’d treat [No. 1 and top seed] Illinois or [No. 9 and tenth seed] Stanford or any of those bigger name teams.”
But it certainly doesn’t hurt to play at home.
“I’m delighted we’re going to be able to host,” Fish said, adding that he was equally delighted that the women’s team would host its first two rounds as well.
“It’s a much more fun event [with both teams],” he said. “It sort of builds interest over the weekend.”
And the Crimson fans have much to be interested in. The team’s top seed was relatively surprising, but this is no time for Harvard to rest on its laurels.
Which is why, of course, the team tried not to stray from its regular practice routine yesterday.
“It was crazy,” Fish said of the squad’s mad dash to the television and back. “It was hard to get started again in practice, but that’s just part of the fun of getting ready for the NCAAs.
“Nobody made a big deal of it—it was just a little disruptive to take a half an hour out and come back and start again. But it’s a once a season type thing, so it’s not a big deal.”
Nor is the team’s 16-seed, according to Chu.
“It’s great,” he admitted, “but at the same time, just being the 16th seed isn’t enough.”
For now, though, the Crimson is looking forward to the first two rounds, which will commence the weekend of May 15 at the Beren Tennis Center.