The days of being the darkhorse and taking inspiration from David and Goliath are over for the Harvard women's basketball team. The image of the underdog made famous by the Amazing Mets of 1969, NC State's NCAA basketball title in 1983 and Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass against Miami in 1984 are now images to fear for a team that has exceeded all expectations.
The Crimson (17-6 overall, 9-2 Ivy) shares the Ivy League lead with Dartmouth (13-10, 9-2), and are only three victories away from the Ivy League title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament--the Big Dance. And this weekend's Crimson opponents, Cornell and Columbia, are looking for the upset.
"Our coach has been reminding us all week that its a dangerous road trip," captain Tammy Butler said.
The Crimson hold a 27-5 lead in the series with Cornell and have never lost to Columbia in their 20 meetings.
Cornell (9-15, 5-7) comes into Friday night's contest in fifth place in the Ivy League standings, while Columbia is cemented into last place and has yet to win a game.
Despite these unimpressive records, both the players and coaching staff know that the smallest loss of focus on this their final road trip could turn their dream season into a nightmare.
"We know we have to stay focused," junior Liz Gettelman said. "We just have to play consistently and not let the teams were playing get momentum."
After a near perfect game last Saturday against Brown and the fight for the Ivy League title likely to come down to Tuesday's contest with Dartmouth, Harvard could have a disastrous letdown this weekend. However, with self-realization comes self-assertion, and thus the Crimson are guarding against any lapses.
"In the Ivy League, every game is huge. A win is a win no matter what team you're playing," sophomore Jessica Gelman said.
Maintaining focus could prove a difficult task for the Crimson after its emotional defeat of the Bears. The team has made every effort to put the Brown game in the past so it can prepare for the remainder of the season, one game at a time.
"The Brown game was a great game but it was not the culmination of our season," junior Elizabeth Proudfit said. "It was a step we had to take to our final goal which is to win the Ivy League title and then go on to the NCAA tournament."
The other dangerous trap for the Crimson this weekend would be to get caught thinking ahead to the season final against the Big Green.
"We have to go out strong and attack and continue to attack this weekend and still be ready and rested for Dartmouth," Gettleman said.
"These two games coming up are both as important as the Dartmouth game," Proudfit said.
Harvard's greatest opponent this weekend could prove to be itself.
"We're in complete control of our destiny," Gelman said. "We need to come out on fire in both games."
If the Crimson isn't caught thinking about past victories or future challenges, wins against the Big Red and the Lions should come easy for the Ivy League's co-leader.
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