The Back Page's Athlete of 2011, Round 1: Kiefer v. Pucci

Published by Peter G. Cornick and Christina C. Mcclintock on January 12, 2012 at 3:12AM

2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.

There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.

We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.

Earlier this morning, we took a look at the matchup between Rebecca Nadler and Laura Gemmell. Now, we turn our attention to our second showdown on the women’s side: fencer Alexandra Kiefer v. hockey’s Josephine Pucci.

Alexandra Kiefer – 2011 NCAA Foil Individual Champion

No one in the country had a more successful 2011 in women’s collegiate fencing than Alexandra Kiefer.  Coming into the year with a tournament victory at the Garret Invite already under her belt, Kiefer went 9-0 to take the MIT Eric Sollee Invitational. A week later, the then-freshman went 15-3 at the Ivy Championships, taking second place.

But Kiefer never looked back after that, going 9-0 at the Beanpot and taking first place at Northeast Regionals.  At the NCAA Fencing Championship, the All-American and first-team All-Ivy selection grabbed 18 victories and earned a score differential of +42.  Avoiding former Olympian and two-time NCAA champion Doris Willette, who was upset in the semifinals, Kiefer took down Princeton’s Eve Levin 15-7 to claim the championship, becoming Harvard’s third-ever women’s national champ.  The Crimson finished the season in sixth place.

Josephine Pucci – 25 points, 12 goals, 13 assists, +/- of +24 (2010-11 season)

Josephine Pucci has held her own against some of the toughest competition in the world, and twice in 2011 Pucci helped the U.S. women's national team to victories. Before school started, Pucci and the U.S. went 6-0 at the 12 Nations Tournament and then took gold at the Four Nations Cup in November.

Pucci's selection to the national team came after a sophomore campaign in which she finished tied for third on the Harvard team in points with 25 despite being a defender, earning second-team All-ECAC honors. At this point in the season, Pucci is again tied for third on the team in points, and her play on the blue line has helped the Crimson post a 9-4 record thus far.