Contrary to what the schedules may say, the women's basketball team began its 1979-80 season Wednesday with an exciting 83-78 win over Springfield College.
Let's call those other games (five embarrassing losses and a single sloppy victory) a post-pre-season--a training period for this young, talented and now-confident squad.
One should not, however, make the mistake of evaluating the cagers solely on the basis of their last performance. The problems that plagued the team during its early debacles still haunt Coach Carole Kleinfelder as she tries to mold a 2-5 squad into an Ivy contender.
Surprisingly, Center Elaine Holpuch is one of the major problems. The 6-ft. 1-in. sophomore led the team in offense last season, scoring an average of 11.9 points per game, but she has rarely broken loose this year.
On defense, she has had trouble containing her more aggressive opponents, allowing them to sneak inside for back door layups and cheap rebounds.
After the 72-70 loss to UPenn, a team that does not even carry a full-fledged center, Kleinfelder said, "Last year, Elaine was an unknown quantity, and she caught everyone unaware. Now they keep an eye on her."
Harvard's opponents are not the only ones worrying about Holpuch; she is doing some worrying herself. By her own admission, Holpuch has played too tentatively, afraid to make mistakes. This caution has slowed her down and reduced her value as a rebounder.
On the Runway
Karen Smith, another sophomore, who began the season as Holpuch's replacement, has been the beneficiary of the star's troubles. Playing for more than 20 minutes in the team's last five games, Smith has shown she can score from the inside against the zone, but like Holpuch, has struggled against man-to-man defenses.
Both players have displayed an unfortunate affection for the floor boards. "I don't know how to make tall people jump," Kleinfelder mourned during the hoopsters' five-game losing streak.
Ball handling and foul shooting have proven the other big weaknesses. Kleinfelder has started various combinations of guards Pat Horne, Stacie McMahon, Nancy Boutillier, Ann Scannell and Frenesa Hall. Nothing clicked until the Springfield game. With third-year player McMahon the only non-freshman of the corps, inexperience remains the easy but accurate diagnosis for the cagers' dribbling woes.
And what can you say about foul shooting? Use your legs, follow through, get back spin, put them into the basket. The Crimson lost at least one game--the Ivy opener against the Quakers--strictly at the line, muffing numerous free throws in the closing minutes of that two point defeat.
The final factor missing from the Harvard effort for most of this season has been leadership. Senior Co-captain Caryn Curry has the experience, credentials and brains to be the director of the production, but she refuses to keep her performers in line. The youngsters needed Curry during their opening tour--needed her to drive and shoot more from the outside when no one else seemed capable of holding the ball, let alone put it through the hoop.