Despite winning the Ivy League title and possessing a gaudy 14-2-1 record, the Harvard women's soccer team was not selected to the 24-team NCAA Division 1 Tournament yesterday.
Only two days after taking the Ivy League championship in an emotional 1-0 victory over previous champion Brown, the Crimson was surprised and disappointed by the NCAA slight.
"I think we should be there," Harvard co-captain Sara Noonan said. "We are definitely one of the top 24 teams in the nation."
"Nobody really understands how this happened," sophomore fullback Linsay Minkus said. "Everyone believed we were going to get into the tournament. I don't understand how they could have not let in a team with as stellar a record."
Only three teams were chosen from the East: UMass, UConn and Hartford. Those teams are joined in the Eastern bracket by Minnesota, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. All but six of the teams which made the tournament had more losses than the Crimson, including Washington (11-7), Vanderbilt (13-7), Kentucky (17-6) and Clemson (14-6).
Coach Tim Wheaton said that he was unhappy with the decision, but as a former member of the selection committee he understood the complexities of the process.
"I was disappointed," Wheaton said. "But they have to take teams who have beaten other teams in the tournament, and we just didn't do that."
The selection committee takes into account head-to-head competition, results against common opponents, results against teams already selected for the tournament and results against non-league opponents. Unlike the men's 32-team tournament, where several league champions including the Ivy's get an automatic bid, no women's team is guaranteed a slot in the 24-team tournament.
Harvard's only ranked opponent was No. 3 Connecticut and the Huskies blasted the Crimson 3-0 in the second-to-last game of the season. Harvard also lost to non-league opponent Monmouth, which did not make the tournament, in its sixth game.
"We didn't have a tough enough schedule, and we didn't put in our best effort against UConn," said sophomore midfielder Emily Stauffer, who led the Crimson with 13 goals and 34 points. "But it's tough that we had to go up against a great, great team and that determined our fate."
Cornell coach Randy May, cited Harvard's weakness of schedule, particularly within the Ivy League, as a major factor in the decision. Cornell was second in the league and tied Harvard 0-0 midway through the season. The Big Red also did not get a bid.
"Usually teams like Brown and Dartmouth are right up there, and when they fall it hurts the whole conference," May said. "But Tim [Wheaton] constructed a schedule which left him no room for error."
The rejection was particularly hard to swallow considering that last year three Ivy League teams were selected, including Ivy runner-up Harvard. UMass knocked the Crimson out of the tourney in the first round.
"Our first and foremost goal was the Ivy League title," sophomore midfielder Keren Gudeman said. "Today the title was overshadowed by the fact that we didn't make it into the NCAA's, but in a week I think we will have regained our perspective."
"Our chief goal was to win the Ivy Championship. Last year I would have given up [the NCAA berth] to have an Ivy ring on my finger, and I still feel that way," Stauffer said.
Harvard has the option of going to a secondary tournament, the ECAC's, but according to Noonan the team decided not to go because "it would have been very anticlimactic, a letdown."