Defense Provides Offense for Crimson

Published by Jessica L. Flakne on March 05, 2010 at 11:14PM

Wednesday afternoon the Harvard men’s lacrosse team faced a non-conference opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas, in a televised contest played at Georgetown. The Crimson is poised to be a top team this year, returning its leading scorers from last season and welcoming one of the most talented freshmen classes of any team in the nation. Harvard fell to the Hoyas on Wednesday, but the Crimson’s offense was relentless, especially in the closing minutes when it tallied four goals in two minutes en route to falling by one, 13-12.

That Harvard will have a strong offense again this year is certainly expected, but I, for one, have been wondering what the condition of their defensive line will be after graduating several starters including goalie, Joe Pike '08. If senior Ben Smith’s early season contributions are any indication of how the defense will play, then I’d say the defensive line is going to be very solid this year.

In the first two games of the season, Smith has already tallied two goals for the Crimson. Smith scored against Canisius in the season opener at Harvard last Saturday. His score came after the defense pushed the ball up field and carried the action into the offensive zone, creating an opportunity for Smith to have a shot on net. After three years on the roster and plenty of game action in the past few seasons, this was Smith’s first collegiate goal. The goal was not a fluke or a stroke of luck by any means though. On Wednesday, in the tough battle with the Hoyas, Smith again netted a goal.

Smith's versatility on the field perhaps indicates some untapped potential to his game. Whatever the cause of his newfound ability to drive to the goal, it is certainly a harbinger of great things to come for both Smith and the rest of Coach Tillman’s defense.

Women's Hockey Players Earn Season Honors

Published by Kate Leist on March 05, 2010 at 10:10PM

It’s tourney time for women’s hockey, and with the end of the regular season also comes a slew of regular-season prizes.

Junior Kate Buesser and freshman Jillian Dempsey are both up for two of ECAC Hockey’s biggest individual accolades.

Buesser, a forward, is a top-three finalist for ECAC Player of the Year after earning a spot on the conference first team last week. The junior has stepped into the void left by the graduation of Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09, Jenny Brine ’09, and Sarah Wilson ’09 to lead the team with 38 points on 15 goals and 23 assists.

Buesser is tops in the ECAC with a +26 ranking, and was the conference’s second-leading scorer in league games. She is competing with Dartmouth senior Sarah Parsons and Cornell sophomore Catherine White, both forwards, for the prize.

Dempsey, a center, is one of three candidates for the conference Rookie of the Year prize. She is second on the Crimson with 26 points and is 10th among rookies nationally with 0.86 points per game. Big Red defenseman Laura Fortino and Quinnipiac goaltender Victoria Vigilanti are the other two finalists.

Buesser, Dempsey, and No. 4 Harvard take on No. 6 Clarkson in the ECAC semifinals tomorrow night in Potsdam, N.Y.

Harvard Athletes Do Good, Well

Published by Madeleine Smith on March 04, 2010 at 10:10PM

While sporting events may not the biggest source of revenue at Harvard, several recent rivalry matchups allowed for serious fundraising for a very worthy cause.

During last month’s high-profile men’s basketball and ice hockey games against Ivy League foe Cornell, Crimson athletes dressed in old school Harvard gear made their way throughout packed crowds collecting donations for Partners in Health-Harvard for Haiti. The event, organized by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, raised over $5,000 for the cause.

The SAAC, led by senior softball player Melissa Schellberg, is comprised of representatives from most of the school’s varsity squads, including several head coaches. The group organizes community events and serves as a connection between athletes and Athletic Department administrators.

The fundraising at the February matchups was just one example of Crimson student-athletes’ more philanthropic activities. Over the last few years, several teams, players, and other SAAC members have been involved in everything from producing an educational math video for elementary students, to a bench press challenge benefitting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, to this fall’s “Miles for Myles” event in honor of the late NCAA President Myles Brand.

Check out athletes’ latest charity efforts at Harvard football's Blood Drive, held 1-6 p.m. Friday on the second floor of the Dillon Field House.

Wilson Makes Spring Training Roster

Published by Christina C. Mcclintock on March 02, 2010 at 10:10PM

It’s a long road from the 28th round in the MLB Draft to a roster spot on a Major League Team, but former Harvard player Steffan Wilson '08 may have a chance to complete the journey this season. Wilson was added yesterday to the spring training roster for the Milwaukee Brewers, where he was called up to back MLB star Prince Fielder.

It was a big jump for Wilson, who spent last year playing in the Class A Advanced or “A+” league for the Brevard County, part of the Brewers’ farm system. He batted .272 with 13 home runs, 15 doubles, and 60 RBIs.

Wilson played baseball for the Crimson for three years before leaving Cambridge a year early to pursue his baseball dreams. Some regarded it as a bad move given that his junior year performance failed to match preseason expectations, but the first baseman couldn’t turn down a shot at his childhood dream of making the Big Leagues even if it meant leaving Harvard coach Joe Walsh and Harvard baseball behind. General manager Doug Melvin say his primarily role will be to allow Fielder to get some rest time in drills, a comment not surprisingly left off the GoCrimson update.

So while it remains unlikely that 2010 will be the magic year for Wilson to play in a regular season game, membership on the Spring Training roster means that he can always say he was on a major league baseball team even if it was just for spring training.

And he can always follow the lead of Brian Scalabrine, speaking here on not playing during the Celtics 2008 Title Run:

“Maybe now you could say I didn't play a second, but in five years, you guys are going to forget. In ten years I'll still be a champion. In 20 years I'll tell my kids I probably started, and in 30 years I'll probably tell them I got the MVP. So I'm probably not too worried about it.”

A Crimson article on Steffan Wilson from the 2007 season can be found here.

Stats Shed Light on Ivy Hoops

Published by Jake I. Fisher on March 01, 2010 at 10:10PM

Harvard men’s basketball closes out its regular season on the road against the Killer P’s this weekend. The Crimson will look to secure a second place Ivy finish with a pair of victories.

So how do the teams match up? Penn sits at 4-7 in conference, Princeton at 8-3, and Harvard at 9-3.

But maybe more telling of how good the teams are is a statistic calculated by Harvard freshman John Ezekowitz.

Looking at team tempo and points scored and allowed per possession, Ezekowitz has developed a ranking system for Ivy League basketball teams. The statistic he uses is called a team’s Efficiency Margin.

The system for the most part validates the Ivy League standings, but it offers a little more detail into how strong the teams are.

In line with common knowledge, Cornell is by far the leader in the Ivies in efficiency margin at .28. Princeton’s efficiency margin is .15, barely above Harvard’s .13. After the top three teams, there is a major drop off. Brown, Yale, and Penn come in at -.04, -.05, and -.06, respectively. Columbia sits at -.14 and Dartmouth occupies the cellar at -.22.

Cornell boasts the leagues best offense at 1.16 points per possession and Princeton claims the league’s best defense with a league-low .87 points per possession. Harvard is the fastest playing team in the Ivies with adjusted tempo of 68.7 possessions per game.