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The Harvard women's volleyball team is off to Yale for the Ivy League championships.
How long they will be there is a matter of contention.
There are some who would point at the team's 0-7 Ivy record and first-round matchup with top-seeded Cornell, and would say that the Crimson is lucky that the tournament is double elimination.
But there are others who would look at the team's morale, their desire to win just one, and think that the Big Red could be in for a real fight.
"We're more confident than we might have reason to be," Co-Captain Christina Smith said. "We feel good, and we're playing well."
"Well" will have to become "awesome" to upset the Big Red. But this is the Ivy League, and stranger things have happened.
No coach is ever going to be absolutely certain of victory in the Ivy League. The emotion present in these games make them unpredictable and full of surprises.
It happens in every sport, teams that play far above their potential and stun the complacent league-leader.
It could certainly happen here.
The pieces are in place.
The first piece is the Crimson's strong defense.
Is The Best Offense A Good Defense?
Offense wins games, but defense wins championships says a popular sports cliche. While the Crimson's record does demonstrate a marked lack of offense, its defense has kept the Crimson in all of its matches.
"We play a scrappy defense, designed to frustrate out opponent," Smith said. "Dig it out, get the ball up, and pass."
Oh, That Winning Feeling
But can they frustrate Cornell?
"I think so," said Smith. "We have a new, better blocking lineup than we had for most of the season. Cornell hasn't seen us like this."
The other piece is the will, the fire, to take out the heavily favored Big Red.
"Beating Cornell would make our year, our lives," Smith said. "We're looking to win one, just one, and we can do it."
Cornell, though, is a strong team, which went undefeated in Ivy play.
They have a substantial height advantage over the Crimson, and feature several consistently good hitters and an excellent setter.
In the one match between the two teams this season, Cornell won three sets to one.
"That was a tough match," Smith said. "We made mistakes we should not have made. But it was early in the season, and we've changed a lot since."
Harvard Coach Wayne Lem installed a better blocking lineup and a better offensive set.
The Crimson features sophomore Ngozi Ogbunamiri, senior Cathy Griffin and freshman Rachel Heit as designated blockers, sophomore Jennifer Garcia as setter, and Smith and senior Dani Cunningham as outside hitters.
"We are still short, in comparison [to Cornell]," Smith said. "But hopefully, these new changes will be what we need."
What they need, this weekend, is that elusive upset win.
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