A two-point victory had never tasted so sweet for the Harvard women’s basketball team. The Crimson ran out and celebrated, forming a huddle directly over the “H” of Hofstra on the opposing team’s midcourt.
The jubilation was the result of a 73-71 win over the Pride in the first round of the WNIT tournament, a game that culminated a record-breaking year for Harvard. The victory was not only the first WNIT win for the Crimson but also in the history of the Ancient Eight.
Though Harvard (18-12, 10-4 Ivy) fell late to a surging Temple team in the next round, a stand-out performance from co-captain Brogan Berry, with key shots from juniors Emma Golen and Victoria Lippert as well as sophomore Christine Clark, turned the game into a near-upset. Berry led the team with 21 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 60 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line.
“I’m very, very proud of them,” said Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith after the game. “I wish they could have been rewarded with a win. I thought we were mismatched…but I thought we outplayed them. I just couldn’t be prouder of everyone.”
And only weeks after this narrow defeat, the work of the team was acknowledged as Berry and Clark were named to the All-Ivy First Team and junior Victoria Lippert was named to the second team.
The season did not start out quite as promising, though. After losing both games in the Hawkeye Challenge, including a matchup against Iowa in which the Crimson gave up a late 14-point lead, the ball club headed back to the Northeast for a Rhode Island two-step. Harvard lost the first to Providence but won the second against a struggling Rhode Island College team.
The following five games were up and down for the Crimson, as it went 3-2, including an impressive 62-57 win over Boston University.
But all of that was just a lead-up to Dec. 22 when Harvard took on Big East powerhouse St. John’s. Against the team that would eventually make it into the NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen, the Crimson not only put up a fight but took control of the game and ended up with a 63-56 victory.
The contest came down to a diving steal and two pairs of clutch shots from the charity stripe.
“It was definitely very exciting to be able to get over on a team that has a lot of respect and is from the Big East,” Lippert says. “It’s really satisfying knowing that we executed to the best of our abilities and were able to overcome an opponent people thought we would be unable to beat.”
After a loss against Hartford the following week, Berry guided her team to three straight wins, nabbing a double-double and an induction into the Ancient Eight’s top 10 all-time scorers along the way.
The streak featured victories against UMass, TCU, and, in the squad’s first league game, Dartmouth.
Next up was its last regular season non-league opponent, North Dakota. The game seemed out of reach early in the second half for the Crimson, as it faced a 12-point deficit.
But, a key steal by Lippert and shots by Lippert, Clark, and Berry cut the lead to three going into the contest’s final moments.
Following a missed free throw by the Fighting Sioux and a rebound by junior Miriam Rutzen, Harvard had a chance to send the game into overtime with a three-pointer. It was not meant to be, though, as Clark’s attempt came up short as the final ticks went off the clock.