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.
Last week, we went through each of the individual matchups. Now, it’s time to reveal the winners. First, we take a look at two first-round men’s matchups.
While Peppelman had a stellar year on the mat, it’s tough to match Ortiz’s dominance. He changed opposing teams’ game plans; no coach could figure him out, and even double teams could only slow down the 450-pound bench presser so much. With the exception of Princeton, no team could run the ball on Harvard, largely thanks to Ortiz, unequivocally the D-Line’s stalwart.
What’s more, Ortiz and the football team went 7-0 and ran away with the league title. The strong play of the Harvard defense helped the offense have consistently great field position, one factor in the team’s record-breaking 374 points during the course of the season.
But Peppelman is certainly on the rise. After receiving national attention as a sophomore, the grappler has looked sharp early in his junior campaign, currently boasting a 13-3 record.
WINNER: Josue Ortiz
Both Keith Wright and Matt Jones had monster years in 2011. Jones tallied an eye-popping 332 kills, and in the second half of the season, Wright averaged nearly a double-double, taking over contests with his inside presence.
But in the end, Jones’ volleyball team went a dismal 1-7 in league play, and the then-junior at times proved inconsistent, earning a hitting percentage below .100 eight times. By comparison, Wright elevated his play in the crucial second half of the season. The league MVP, Wright helped make history in 2011, helping Harvard capture its first Ivy crown and putting the squad just seconds away from earning its first NCAA Tournament berth.
WINNER: Keith Wright