The best way to describe the Harvard women's swimming team's 152-147 loss to Yale last Friday at Blodgett is to let the Saddam-swattin', globe-hoppin,' Eli-graduatin' macho lameduck himself tell the story.
Many months ago, way back in "Message: I care" land, George Bush uttered the perfect words to describe how the Crimson felt after the close loss to a team it hadn't lost to in over 10 years.
Don't cry for me, Argentina.
"You know, this team hates to lose, but we're a championship team and that means we see dual meets as preparation for the Eastern Championships," Harvard Coach Maura Costin-Scalise said, "Our team was a little tired, they were gunning for us..."
Costin-Scalise trailed off with nothing else to say. Nothing else needed to be said. Clearly, she wasn't planning to lose much sleep over this one. And with reason. While Yale clearly relished its victory (one swimmer ran all the way out to the public phone by the front door to call home with the exciting news), Harvard shrugged off the loss as a speedbump on the highway of its success.
Rest assured, when the lines are finally drawn (i.e. Easterns), things will be different.
"At the Easterns, we'll be shaved, rested and more mad than now," Co-Captain Eva Romans said.
The five-points loss overshadowed a strong effort from Harvard.
Freshman Greta Steffenson turned in the gutsiest performance of the night, taking second place in the 200-yard freestyle and third in the 500 and 1000-yard freestyles.
The 1000 and 200 races are swum back-to-back, yet Steffenson finished just .17 seconds out of first in the 200, losing to Kathleen Hughes 1:52.40 to 1:52.57 in the second of the two races.
"Greta swam tough as nails," Assistant Coach Stacy Duncan said.
Sophomore Deborah Kory also dazzled the crowd, taking first in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley.
Yale led, 76-55, after seven events (out of 16), but a 1-2-3 sweep by the Harvard divers pulled the Crimson within eight, 79-71.
The Elis widened their lead over the next three events before a 1-2-3 showing in the 100 butterfly spotted them a 140-105 lead.
Another 1-2-3 Harvard diving sweep couldn't close the gap, and Yale needed just one point to win in the final race, the 400 freestyle relay. In order to lose, all four of its relay teams would have had to be disqualified.
It didn't happen, but the two Harvard relay teams took first and second place anyway. "I'm not disappointed in this loss," Costin-Scalise said. "This team swam tough and didn't give up."
Round One may have gone to the Elis, and it may have been a huge victory for the them ("a pivotal moment" Yale Captain Kristen Krebs said), but nobody was under any illusions as to who was the better team.
"It's great when you beat the best," Keefe said. "I'm proud of what we've done." After the meet was over, some in the Harvard stands reacted with the oldest comeback in sports--it chanted "Eas-terns, Eas-terns," a not-so-subtle reference as to who will be favored to win that tournament and who won't.
Remember: A true championship team.
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