After a Strong Season Last Year, Women's Basketball Looks to Carry On Success

The Harvard women’s basketball team currently sits below .500 for the first time since last year’s season opener. On Saturday, it has a chance to get back to its winning ways and improve to 2-2 on the season.

Harvard (1-2, 0-0 Ivy League) hosts Sacred Heart (1-1, 0-0 Northeast Conference) at Lavietes Pavilion this Saturday, the second game of a three-game home stay. In its last game, the Crimson scored 24 and 23 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, to rally to a victory against Siena University. With the victory, the team avoided dropping the first three games of the season, something it hasn’t done since the 2011-2012 season.

Harvard will look to rebound to the ways of last year when the team lost just 2 games at home. The Crimson hopes to improve on this home record in the newly-renovated Lavietes Pavilion. Construction finished in September, just in time for the new season.

“Playing at home has always been special. There’s always been a sense of protecting our space, protecting our new house.” said captain and guard Kirby Porter. “I think that playing in a newly renovated Lavietes adds an extra element of that to it. We have this new space, this new gym, we have all the nice things, but now we have to live up to that. Playing in this new space is definitely a special thing, so it adds a new sense of pride for us.”

Harvard will be looking to win two in a row on Saturday, and regain the rhythm of last year. The Crimson finished the 2016-17 season with an impressive 21-9 record, which included a dominant run of sixteen wins in a row stretching from mid-November to early February. Harvard cooled off significantly after this streak, losing eight of its last thirteen games, and finishing third in a strong Ivy League. The Crimson will be hoping to find some of the magic, which seemed to come naturally at times last season.

As the team only contains two seniors, a younger contingent has started to emerge so far this season. Sophomore guard Katie Benzan leads Harvard in scoring this season, averaging 14 points per game, while junior guard Madeline Raster has also impressed.

While the Crimson managed to produce a lot of offense against Siena—dropping 57 points in the second half alone—defensive inconsistency continues to plague the team.

“Everybody loves to score, so I would have to confess that we are a team that does feed off of scoring, so that always helps. I would rather be a team that feeds off of defense,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “It’s more important to me that we stop the other team.”

Sacred Heart comes into the weekend matchup following a 65-61 home win over Manhattan on Wednesday, and sits 1-1 on the season. It finished last season 17-15 overall, grabbing second place in the Northeast Conference. It will be looking to make amends following last year’s matchup against Harvard, in which the Crimson ended up winning 68-60. It was one of only four home losses for the Pioneers, so they will be looking for revenge this year. Harvard has not lost to Sacred Heart since 2010-11, so extracting this revenge may prove to be a challenging.

“We made a step in the right direction in the Siena game,” Delaney-Smith added. “Hopefully we were better today, and we’ll be better tomorrow. I think we’re feeling like we’re making some headway.”

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