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Last season's Ivy League title in women's basketball came down to a season-ending showdown between Dartmouth and Harvard. With Dartmouth's 24-point victory came a spot in the NCAA tournament and Ancient Eight bragging rights.
But this is a different season. The same two teams kick off the Ivy League schedule Saturday night when the Crimson (6-5) takes on the Big Green (7-2) at Lavietes Pavilion.
"There's definitely a huge revenge factor in this game," senior forward Katy Davis said. "I think all the upperclassmen really want to annihilate Dartmouth because we played like such crap against them last season."
If the pre-season media poll proves prophetic, Harvard should come away with the victory. The Crimson was picked one spot ahead of the Big Green to win this season's Ivy League title.
But Harvard's women's basketball team has proved anything but predictable this season. Harvard has shown signs of brilliance against schools like Boston University and Boston College, and the team has bested a slew of blowout victims from Army to Northeastern. Yet the season has been peppered with lackluster performances against Arizona, Duquesne and Rhode Island among others.
"[The inconsistency] is definitely disappointing," said Davis, who led Harvard with 16 points in last week's 24-point loss to Arizona. "But that's the past and we have to put it behind us."
The Crimson will have to shed any ghosts of poor games past if it is to beat this Big Green squad. Dartmouth enters Saturday's contest with a six-game winning streak. The first three were road wins, and Harvard is only 2-4 on its home floor.
"I think the key for us, as it has been all season, is to play good defense and stay together," junior point guard Jessica Gelman said. "I think we're a much better defensive team than we were at the end of last season."
Defense will be particularly important at the guard spot. Dartmouth's leading scorer is junior guard Sally Annis, a second team All-Ivy selection last season. Annis is joined in the backcourt by senior Jen Stamp, a sixth player who has burned Harvard in the past. Dartmouth also boasts two up-and-coming freshman guards, Nicole Rinaldi and Kelly Johnson.
"They have some outstanding guards," Gelman said. "They really like to drive a lot."
One potential source of optimism for the Crimson is that the Big Green's last loss was a 21-point embarrassment against B.C., a team that Harvard beat impressively over the break.
A win against the Big Green would give the Crimson an early lead in the race for the Ivy League title. It would also be a first step to justifying all the preseason hoopla.
"We want to make a statement, "We're here,'" Gelman said. 'We want to send a message to the rest of the league that we're a team to be reckoned with."
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