Outright Title Within Crimson's Reach

LACK DANCE
Hillary W. Berkowitz

Co-captain and senior Christiana Lackner, shown here in earlier play, looks to lead her squad to both an outright Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament bid. The outright title would provide the fourth for the Crimson in six years, and the sixth overall

As a kid, you dreamt about it. You remember the countless afternoons spent in the backyard playing out that defining moment. The moment when the spotlight shines solely on you. That singular instance where you realize that you, after the many hours of work and dedication, finally made it. And now, as your mouth is too numb to speak and the joy sets upon you, your index finger, raised high into the air, expresses all that needs to be said...“We’re number one.”

With three games remaining in the season, the women’s basketball team has the chance to live that moment. After a victory over Princeton on Feb. 9, the Crimson claimed at least a share of the Ivy League championship, adding more accolades to a storied program. This season marks the fourth time in six years that Harvard women have claimed the title having previously won back-to-back in 2002 and 2003 and another in 2005. In addition, outright ownership of the Ivy championship will give the Harvard women’s basketball program its sixth NCAA tournament appearance.

“To know that we can look up there now and everyday that we practice [and] see that banner and see the accomplishments, it’s really cool to know that you are going to be part of basketball history here at Harvard,” sophomore Katie Rollins said.

Right now, the women hold at least a piece of the title, but some things were not meant to be shared. And the team is definitely feeling a bit stingy.

“We want to win it all,” co-captain Christiana Lackner said, laughing as she spoke. “We have a share of the title, but we don’t want to share it.”

The moment becomes even sweeter when you consider the tough times during the first half of the season. After a great showing in its exhibition game, Harvard seemed poised to put forth a strong presence in non-conference play. With great leaders in veterans Kyle Dalton and Lackner and a talented sophomore class, the squad showed a lot of promise.

But early on the Crimson failed to show its full potential, dropping its first six contests of the season and eventually falling to 2-13 before conference play commenced. The women fell into a distinct pattern in each game; early foul trouble and defensive woes became recurring problems for the team.

“We put in a new type of offensive unit in the season which I think took a lot of time to get used to,” Lackner said. “Our defense hadn’t been clicking till a little bit later. I think it was a combination of those things.”

Flashes of excellence appeared every so often during the first half of the season, however. An 83-62 win at San Jose State on Dec. 3 along with a hard-nosed 68-58 victory at Boston College proved that when all the kinks were gone, Harvard would be a tough opponent to overcome.

“They were a very young team, very new to each other,” said Harvard coach Kathy Delanie-Smith. “We have a lot of sophomores and several didn’t play even half of freshman year. We had a tough non conference schedule. I felt we were in many games, but we were not experienced or tough enough to finish. Once they gained confidence and learned that there is not a need to panic, we began winning games.”

And win they have. The Crimson, now on a nine game win streak, has not lost a match since Jan. 26. And the team doesn’t intend to anytime soon, especially with the NCAA tournament right around the corner.

“We can’t get complacent,” Lackner cautioned. “This Ivy League has been crazy. Everyone is beating everyone else so anything can happen. I have said that a million times this season, but it is so true.”

—Staff writer Vincent R. Oletu can be reached at voletu@fas.harvard.edu.

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