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.
After taking a look at half of the first-round matchups on the women's side, we now examine two more faceoffs between Harvard's top female athletes: squash's Laura Gemmell v. skiing's Rebecca Nadler and fencing's Alexandra Kiefer v. hockey's Josephine Pucci.
Check back soon to find out the rest winners on the women's side of the bracket.
This pair of Canadians came by success in very different environments. On the slopes, Nadler made history by becoming her team’s first NCAA championship qualifier. Nadler, who went on to take 20th in the slalom, and her teammate Sheils represented Harvard, one of only two Ivy schools to qualify racers.
Nadler also raced for Team Canada at the World University Games.
Gemmell, for much of last season and the year before, was the No. 1 seed on a No. 1 women’s squash team prided for its excellence. But in 2011, neither Gemmell nor her squad could repeat the success from 2010. The Crimson fell to Yale in the CSA National Championship, and Gemmell lost her first collegiate match to the Bulldogs' Millie Tomlinson in the finals of the CSA Individual National Championship.
But Gemmell still dominated the competition, posting a 16-1 record in her sophomore campaign. So far this season, though she's now playing at the No. 2 spot, Gemmell is perfect.
In the end, Nadler made program history while Gemmell couldn't repeat her performance from the previous year. The nod goes to the skiier.
Winner: Rebecca Nadler
Alexandra Kiefer v. Josephine Pucci
Sophomore foil Alexandra Kiefer and junior defender Josephine Pucci can both use their weapons with remarkable dexterity and ingenuity to dominate their respective opponents.
Pucci’s weapon, her stick, is responsible for 25 points in the form of 12 goals and 13 assists in 30 games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to leading all defenders in points, her +24 doubled Harvard’s next best skater’s +/-.
Alexandra Kiefer also found a degree of success that was unmatched by her teammates. Her 78.3 winning percentage as a freshman at the NCAA Fencing Championship led not only Harvard but all fencers in the foil. Kiefer went on to become the only Ivy fencer to win an individual gold medal.
Kiefer’s standout individual performance and Pucci’s goalless December combine to give Kiefer the advantage in this one.
Winner: Alexandra Kiefer