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By Jason Gross


That's what the season has come down to for the Harvard women's volleyball team.

This weekend, the Crimson hosts the Harvard Invitational, an eight-team, two-pool tournament at the Malkin Athletic Center. For the Crimson, it will serve as a gut-check in preparation for next weekend's Ivy League tournament at Cornell.

There are four Ivy teams interspersed among the eight in this weekend's invitational, including Brown, Princeton and Yale. Rounding out the field are Boston College, Concordia, University of Massachusetts and Hartford.

Coming off last week's big five-game win over Brown, this is the last warmup before the Crimson takes the court for real--for a championship.

"We have to show a higher level of intensity this weekend," Harvard Coach Wayne Lem said. "We have to eliminate the lulls where we give up four or five points in a row."

The need for mental toughness has been a recurring theme for the Crimson this season, as it has lost several close matches to teams it was expected to have beat.

In a tournament played for 12 hours one day and eight the next, mental, as well as physical determination could prove to be the difference.

"We've been working all season on conditioning," outside hitter Wanita Lopeter said. "We think we can outlast the other teams."

Too Much Drinking

The Crimson was in high spirits before yesterday's practice, laughing and joking as they stretched. But when Coach Lem arrived, they knew it was time to get down to work.

Practices this past week were hurt by midterm exams and recruiters. And after the tournament, the team will have only three days before leaving for Cornell.

To end a season that has seen setters Dani Cunningham and Carolyn Burger miss extensive game time because of injuries, the Crimson will probably have to do without middle blocker Mary Kroupa, out with strained calf muscles.

As the rest of the squad faltered down the stretch, Kroupa came into her own, dominating net play. She will be replaced by freshman Kristin Smith, a big contributor in the win over Brown.

"Kristin was able to carry the load against Brown," Lem said, "but this weekend will show us what she's capable of."

Looking ahead to the Ivy tournament, the Crimson received a favorable draw, matched against Penn in the first round. The winner faces the winner of the Princeton-Columbia match.

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