Third time’s the charm, they say.
But for the third straight year, the Harvard women’s basketball team (18-10, 10-4 Ivy) came up short in its pursuit of the Ivy title, landing in the all-too-familiar second spot along with an up-and-coming Yale squad. Princeton took home the league crown for the second year in a row.
“We were hoping to build on the solid 20 wins we had last season,” co-captain Christine Matera said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to. We worked hard every practice to try to make that a reality, but we fell a little short.”
After a rollercoaster start to the 2010-2011 campaign where it alternated wins and losses for several weeks, the Crimson shot its way past its first five conference opponents of the season before traveling to New Haven for its first meeting with the Bulldogs on Feb. 11.
Harvard had just come out of a weekend in which it demonstrated its clear intentions to win the league with two dominant performances against Penn defending Ivy champion Princeton.
Yale was not fazed and handed the Crimson its first conference loss of the campaign. Harvard then dropped its game against Brown the following day, putting its chances to take home the title in serious jeopardy.
“We suffered two losses that we didn’t expect, especially because we were undefeated in the league up to that point,” sophomore forward Victoria Lippert said. “We were coming off a great weekend against Penn and Princeton, so that was like going from a high to a low in a span of two weekends.”
The Crimson returned home to add three more wins to its conference record by defeating Cornell, Columbia, and the Bears. The Bulldogs were up next, and Harvard was set on not only defending its home court but also avenging the 11-point loss it had suffered only two weeks before. The effort was unsuccessful, as Yale took control of the contest in the first period and never looked back, winning, 78-64, and taking the season series against the Crimson.
The loss meant that Harvard would have to win all of its remaining three games—all on the road and one of which was against the Tigers—and depend on Princeton dropping a contest. The hope for the program’s 12th Ivy title soon vanished, as the Crimson fell to the Tigers, 68-59, in the penultimate game of the season. The fourth loss meant that Harvard would share second place with the Bulldogs, a team that had finished in second-to-last place only two campaigns ago.
“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t an extremely disappointing loss, especially to lose to Yale twice,” Matera said.
The Crimson closed out the season with a 62-55 victory over historic rival Dartmouth, which has traded places with Yale in women’s basketball over the years. The Big Green, winner of the Ivy title only two years ago, finished tied for last place this season.
Despite the unmet expectations, Harvard enjoyed the continued development of its roster and the emergence of a new scorer in rookie Christine Clark. The freshman started all 28 games of the season and finished as the fourth highest scorer on the team averaging 12.1 points.
Lippert, second on the team in scoring last year, averaged 13.5 points as the team’s designated sixth man, coming off the bench to supply the Crimson with a scoring punch.
Coming off a promising season in which she learned to direct the Crimson offense, junior point guard Brogan Berry became the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points. Though her assists total decreased from the year before, the junior improved her rebounding and decreased her number of turnovers. Berry and junior guard Lindsay Louie were named co-captains for the 2011-2012 campaign, succeeding Matera and Jackie Alemany as leaders of the squad.
“I’m confident that Lindsay and Brogan will do a great job of leading the team as captains,” Matera said. “I’ve seen them working out this spring, and they’ve been doing a great job. The team is going to improve on what we did this past season and do bigger and better things.”
In addition to Matera and Alemany, the team will also lose senior Claire Wheeler, who did not play in her final season due to injury, and Emma Markley. Markley, a permanent fixture in the starting lineup for her all-around play and inside presence, averaged 12.7 points in the final campaign of a noteworthy Crimson career. The senior was a first-team All-Ivy selection last year after leading Harvard in scoring, rebounding, and blocking.
The class of 2011 will be the first class to leave the team in two years, as there were no seniors on the roster the previous season.
“They have made such a huge impact on this program, so they will definitely be missed,” Lippert said.
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at email@example.com.