What at noon yesterday appeared to be Harvard women's hockey's finest accomplishment, later in the day became one of the team's biggest disappointments ever.
After receiving its first-ever EAIAW playoff bid at the midday point, the Crimson voted unanimously to reject the invitation, thereby bringing to a close its most successful year in history.
Selected as the sixth and final team in the prestigious Eastern classic. Harvard was slated to play the tourney's third-seed, Potsdam state--which joined the EAIAW just last week--Wednesday night in Potsdam. N.Y.
But at the squad's afternoon practice, the icewomen voted to remain at home. calling Potsdam's invitation "a slap in the face to everyone involved in the tournament," according to Crimson Coach John Dooley.
Both Crimson players and coaches agreed unanimously that Potsdam should not have been invited to the tourney because it was unethical for the Hears to join the EAIAW only last week.
"We just felt the whole thing wasn't very kosher," said a somewhat disappointed Dooley "Potsdam wasn't in it from the start, and then just last week, when they realized the position they were in knowing they would be selected third and would have home ice, decided to join."
Dooley, who in his second year at the helm turned the Crimson from a perennial loser into a legitimate playoff contender, added that "I wouldn't want anyone to think that we're copping out. It was just that the selection, in the way it was done, left something to be desired "Had it been any other team, we most assuredly would have played."
Harvard's absence from the tournament, for which it had worked since October, leaves only five teams UNH, Providence. Potsdam, Northeastern and Princeton vying for the Eastern crown Tournament officials said late last nigh that Dartmouth and Colby, which finished seventh and eighth respectively in yesterday morning's vote of the FAIAW tournament committee, had both declined to take Harvard's place, citing academic as well as travel reasons. Colby Coach Bob Ewell, the tournament committee chairman, said a replacement will be determined today.
But late yesterday other developments surfaced in the bizarre events that had landed the Crimson its first post-season bid in its five year history. The Harvard squad was angry that Colby, which defeated Harvard, 4-1, this season may have finished above the Crimson in the committee's rankings, but had declined to travel to Potsdam, and therefore relegated itself to eighth place.
"It's hard for us to believe that we finished ahead of Colby," Dooley said. "And if they declined and we're just acting as a filler team, then I just feel like we're being used."
Ewell, whose Mules finished with a 10-7 record while the Crimson finished at 11-8, denied those charges. "In all the rankings we did. Harvard finished sixth and we finished eighth."
And while Ewell denied those charges Potsdam Coach Brian Doran was doing the same in upstate New York Doran blamed the Bears' recent EAIAW joining on the EAIAW itself "We've had an application pending for awhile. It just took them awhile to act upon it, it just seemed like a very slow process."
Not even Doran's words were enough to convince the Crimson squad, though "The whole team was pretty disappointed about the thing," said Harvard goalie Cheryl Tate "But we felt-that Coach made the right decision. We stood by him the whole way because we felt that there could be no other decision.
For Dooley, the improbable ending to an otherwise remarkable season left mixed feelings. "We've had such a fantastic year," the Crimson coach said. "I just can't justify the two days away from school, nor the expenses involved to day a team that did what Potsdam did."
A team that began just five years ago as one of the nation's weakest, the Crimson's playoff bid was enough knowledge to overcome the deep regrets. "We've come such a far war," Dooley said. "We know ourselves, that we've accomplished more than we ever thought we would. We don't need the playoffs to know that.