The Harvard women's lacrosse team surprised everyone in 1992, advancing to the NCI finals before falling in overtime.
More so than any other squad clad in Crimson, this Harvard team produced a balanced effort from which any one of several players could step up and steal the game. Women's lacrosse demonstrated the depth and balance that marks a national-caliber squad.
Four different players were individual game-high scorers, and six players were in double figures for points. Junior Liz Berkery led the way on the offense, but she sure wasn't the only one contributing.
Remember sophomore Sarah Downing against Maryland in the regular season. Freshman Sarah Winters against Princeton in the NCI semi-finals. Senior Becky Geffen against Vermont. And senior Buffy Hansen all season long.
Harvard did start the 1992 campaign ranked third in the nation, but that was based more on past performance and respect for Coach Carole Kleinfelder than on the team itself.
"I think we were ranked so high on reputation, not reality," Kleinfelder says. "We were very young, especially on defense."
Still, the foundation was there, based on the leadership of Co-Captains Sarah Leary in goal and Ceci Clark on defense.
"The four seniors were the core of the team, along with [junior] Liz Berkery," Kleinfelder says. The experienced coach spares no metaphors describing the field personalities of her four senior stars: "Buffy Hansen was the tiger--the extra spark on offense--while Leary was the CEO. Becky Gaffney was the general, and Ceci was the glue."
With only four seniors and one junior in the starting lineup, Harvard relied heavily on the sophomores and freshmen.
"The sophomores really pulled through and contributed, especially Francie Walton and Sarah Downing, as did the freshmen," Clark says. "By the end of the season, everyone was contributing."
At the beginning, however, things were a little less clear.
"We went down to William and Mary for some scrimmages before the season began, and I was a little concerned how everyone would perform," Kleinfelder says.
Harvard ended those concerns by crushing Temple and Pennsylvania to start off the season and then demolishing then-top-ranked Princeton, 13-2, at Harvard's Ohiri Field.
This string of victories launched Harvard to the top of the national polls--a position it would hold for the rest of the regular season.
Harvard tore through the rest of the first half of the season, defeating its first six opponents by combined score of 78-28, including victories over New Hampshire and cross-town rival Boston College.