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The Harvard women's basketball team has been sharpening its blades all season, focusing on the Ivy League championship which the Crimson is expected to win. With a 5-3 overall record, the players realize they have much room left for improvement.
After a slow start, the Crimson has made strides over the past week, however, defeating URI 77-71 and UNH by a 74-69 count. Indeed, the Crimson seems to have recaptured its confidence, something that its opponents cannot overlook in head-to-head competition.
Harvard faces Northeastern at home tomorrow after finishing an exhausting four game road trip. Last year, the Crimson thoroughly dominated Northeastern, 86-61. The Harvard players realize that revenge will be a motivating factor for the Northeastern team.
"We beat them handily last year," co-captain Jessica Gelman said. "But their team this year has improved a lot. Last year was an exception. Traditionally our Northeastern game is a good one. They are usually a strong team."
The Crimson expects a tough match. However, the team's confidence remains undaunted.
"I expect a similar outcome but more of a challenge this year," sophomore shooting guard Suzie Miller said. "That's what we like."
Harvard will enter tomorrow's game coming off a two-game winning streak.
The team showed its resiliency in last Saturday's win against New Hampshire. Although the Wildcats clawed their way back into the game after a falling behind by six at half-time, Harvard managed to stave off the UNH threat, converting several key free throws in the game's waning moments.
"We've shown that we can win down the stretch," Miller said. "We've had leads dwindle in the second half in our last two games but managed to win. Basketball is a game of shifts in momentum. Even when the momentum is against us, we have managed to maintain the win even on the road. It shows our poise."
"We've definitely made a lot of progress in the last weeks," Gelman added. "We're getting used to each other and are beginning to feel more comfortable playing together."
Indeed, the Harvard team is slowly beginning to form its own identity.
"All thirteen members of the team have contributed to everything we've done," said Miller. "Our captains are playing well and Feaster has been playing out of her mind."
Junior forward Allison Feaster has scored over 30 points in the Crimson's last two victories, including a career-high 32 points against the Wildcats which helped secure the win.
Northeastern will face an additional challenge playing the confident Harvard women at Lavietes Pavilion.
"We've shown we can win the important games on the road," Miller said. "We are all eager to return home after our four road games."
If the Crimson players maintain the high level of intensity they have displayed in the last four games, Northeastern should fall easily.
"I think we definitely have a good shot of winning the game," Gelman said. "The team is looking forward to entering the holiday break on a winning roll."
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