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March to the Sea: They’ll Be Back

By Alex M. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

Scanning the Harvard women’s basketball team’s bench after the Crimson’s 79-69 opening-round NCAA Tournament loss to third-seeded Kansas State, I was struck by the rather unusual show of emotion at the end of Harvard’s season.

Something was different. There were few tears. There were few glum faces. Instead, I saw a satisfied squad that knew it had just hung with the No. 7 team in the nation. I saw a Crimson team that understood it had finally played up to its expectations against a top-25 opponent. I saw 11 Harvard players who will be hungrier, more talented and more experienced when the NCAA Tournament rolls around in 2004.

Only captain Kate Ides, who played tremendously in her final game in a Crimson uniform, graduates this year. Two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Hana Peljto will return with a chance to match the school record of three consecutive Ivy Player of the Year awards set by Allison Feaster ’98. Feaster is the only athlete in conference history to win her sport’s Rookie of the Year award and then earn three consecutive Player of the Year honors. Peljto will likely become the second if she can avoid injury next season.

Sophomore Reka Cserny showed that she is capable of dominating against any level of opposition with her performance against Kansas State. Scoring 25 points, knocking down open three-pointers and using her 6’3 stature to draw fouls in the paint, Cserny scored 10 consecutive Harvard points in one stretch as the Crimson whittled a 19-point deficit to eight (69-61) with 3:29 to play.

Cserny’s ability to step up when Peljto is not carrying the team is an exciting sign for the future. Peljto spearheaded the Crimson offense throughout most of the season. Yet when Harvard faced top-25 opponents like Boston College, Vanderbilt and Minnesota, Peljto’s one-woman show needed supporting actors to rise to the occasion.

Against the Wildcats, Peljto hit just two of her first 11 shots. Earlier this season, Peljto’s struggles would have led to a 30-point loss. But Cserny’s big game kept Harvard within striking distance against a more talented team.

Yet, the most impressive player against Kansas State may have been junior point guard Bev Moore. The transfer from Louisiana Tech scored 14 points and handled the basketball like a top Division I player. Moore has the ability to dish the ball inside, move it quickly along the perimeter or set up and take the three. She was 4-of-9 from behind the arc against the Wildcats, but the statistics do not tell the entire story. Moore’s long-range shooting form is a cut above most Ivy Leaguers. Her quickness allows her to penetrate or create room for her own shot. The only drawback to her game is her height. At 5’2, Moore can be overmatched by a bigger guard. But her tenacious defense and non-stop motor make her an essential piece of the puzzle for Harvard. It is not a coincidence she was the only player to play every minute against Kansas State, as she is desperately needed on the floor at all times.

Perhaps next season, Harvard will develop more help for Moore in the backcourt. Freshman Jessica Holsey and sophomore Rochelle Bell were both injured against the Wildcats. Holsey showed flashes of brilliance this season but did not get the playing time to mature into a big-time contributor. Her subluxing right shoulder has been a problem since she initially hurt it against Yale on Feb. 8, and she reinjured it on March 16. Hopefully, the offseason will give her time to heal, ensuring that she can see more time on the floor.

Though Tricia Tubridy only scored seven points against Kansas State, the junior proved earlier this season that she can be a complete player. Tubridy recorded the first triple-double in Harvard women’s basketball history on Feb. 7 against Brown and earned Second Team All-Ivy honors this season. The next step for Tubridy is to become more aggressive in big games. Tubridy pulled down eight rebounds against the Wildcats but did not get to the foul line. Though the New Yorker doesn’t mind hanging around the perimeter—she attempted a team-leading 110 three-pointers on the season, hitting 42 of them—if Tubridy can post-up on smaller defenders and draw fouls, she can add another dimension to her game.

Kansas State is loaded with talent. Big 12 Player of the Year Nicole Ohlde only missed one shot (8-for-9 from the field). Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn, both All-Big 12 First-Teamers, combined for 38 points and six three-pointers. The Wildcats shot 48.2 percent from the field, while the Crimson connected on 38.7 percent of its shots. Combine that discrepancy with 10,732 screaming fans seemingly all wearing Kansas State purple, and it’s not surprising Harvard could not advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.

Fortunately, this Crimson team will only get better. You can buy your tickets to next year’s NCAA Tournament, because Harvard is too good not to win the Ivy League again. The Crimson will likely have to play another “road” tournament game next year because the selection committee does not give Ivy teams much credit. But Harvard will be ready—and don’t be surprised if you mark the Crimson into the second round of your brackets next season.

—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at sherman@fas.harvard.edu.

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