Amaker Says

Published by Dennis J. Zheng on February 10, 2010 at 10:10PM

Following an up-and-down weekend at home—first losing to Princeton and then beating Penn—men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker sat down with The Back Page to discuss next weekend’s upcoming games (at Yale Friday, at Brown Saturday). The following are some tidbits from the interview.

Injuries to sophomore Keith Wright and senior Pat Magnarelli, and sophomore Andrew Van Nest’s pneumonia:

“We aren’t, as of today, at full strength. I don’t know when and how that can change. Those guys are out indefinitely, so there’s no time table that we’re dealing with. We’ll get some information today that will give us more direction on that.”

Taking on Yale and Brown with a depleted front line:

“With both of those two teams, their front courts, in my opinion, are their strengths, and so that’s not a good formula for us going into that, and being on the road… but we’ll summon up something to give ourselves the best opportunity possible. Trying to keep guys out of foul trouble will be important…And we have to shoot well. There’s no secret to our attack right now—we have to be able to play well from the perimeter spots, and a lot of times that means making shots. The focal point for us always will be can we defend and keep those guys off the glass from a defensive standpoint in terms of blocking out.”

On Brown star forward Matt Mullery:

“Mullery, in particular, is one of the better players in our league, and we’ve had trouble with him when we’ve had our complete lineup. We’re very much concerned with how we’re going to deal with him. He’s a confident player, and they get the ball to him—they run a lot of high-low things where they get to the top of the circle and try to dump it down to him. It’s going to be tough. We’ll play a little more zone, mix things up, change it up, probably all of the above. Trying to keep him in check a little bit will be a huge challenge for us.”

On sophomore Max Kenyi and freshman Brandyn Curry’s inclusion in the starting lineup:

“We went to Max after our Princeton loss; we went to Max vs. Penn, and Brandyn because we wanted better defense on the floor to start the game…We needed to make a statement that our defensive effort was going to be what we were going to rely on, and what I was going to reward. Those two kids were inserted in the lineup for that, and I think they responded incredibly well.”

Diary of a Halftime Showgirl

Published by Christina C. Mcclintock on February 08, 2010 at 10:10PM

Signing up for the halftime free throw shooting contest at Friday night’s men’s basketball game against Princeton seemed like the perfect idea. I was gung ho, and it’s not like I was going to get chosen anyway, so I would be spared the humiliation of actually having to shoot free throws before a crowd. Besides, I couldn’t back away from a challenge. But as it so happened, I was one of the two contestants chosen and was told to come down to the court with two minutes to go in the first half.

A lot of people are bad at free throws. I wouldn’t exactly be the first person to miss her shots in the halftime contest. Except I didn’t have any excuse—I played basketball in high school. Actually, I’d played basketball since first grade. But I’d never been good at foul shots. It wasn’t my form—my technique was solid, the product of lots of extra practice. But I always got too nervous to actually calm down and make a shot.

I wish I could say that Friday was my magic night, and I started shooting lights out, but the opposite happened. I couldn’t catch a break—my shots went straight at the basket, but I didn’t put enough power on some of them, and I neglected backspin. The only shot that managed to go through the basket was the one at the final buzzer, when I realized three things: I couldn’t win; I still had no skills from the line; and, basically, I had just completely humiliated myself.

And so I started retreating back into the crowd, completely embarrassed, looking to be enveloped by the “White Out.” But it turned out I wasn’t done—there was still one more task. Grudgingly I walked to the center of the court, thinking, ‘Oh okay, I guess I’ll…accept my prize? Yeah, I’ll take the foam finger and wear it proudly for the rest of the game, as well as Saturday’s game.’ At the end of day, was one Crimson foam finger worth humiliating myself in front of a sold-out crowd? Of course it was! Everyone loves free stuff, and a little public humiliation is a small price to pay.

I guess I should’ve learned my lesson. But who are we kidding? I’ll be back. I can’t say I’ll be better than ever, or that I’ll find my foul shot and take home the t-shirt. But what’s the worst that can happen—I make a fool of myself? I do that all the time anyway. I might as well get a prize for it.

The Battle of Tobacco Road

Published by B. Marjorie Gullick on February 05, 2010 at 10:10PM

On Feb. 10, a sporting event that rocks my world–although barely touching the consciousness of the Ivy League–will take place: the Carolina/Duke basketball game.

Coming from North Carolina, I understand the singular importance this game has for the teams’ fans; I’ve seen the clash of the blues, light to dark; I’ve seen hopes shattered, bets lost, and tears shed because of the numbers on the scoreboard. I’ve had a taste of rivalries with the contention between Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, but even with hatred of the Blue Devils in my heart, I can hardly claim that it’s been going on for a century.

The Harvard-Yale football game, “The Game,” originated in 1875; the Ivy League was throwing around insults before the invention of the car, before the Civil Rights Movement, before a World War. The Game is, in fact, the oldest continuing rivalry in sports and was ranked sixth in the Best Rivalries in College Athletics as selected by Sports Illustrated. Ever since the first meeting between the Crimson and the Bulldogs, the overall record stands in favor of Yale, at 65-53-8.

So perhaps as I watch the game on Sunday (and lament the fall of my beloved Tarheels), perhaps I won’t put as much meaning in the outcome–after all, it’s just a game, not The Game.

Crimson Ultimate Heads to Sin City

Published by Christina C. Mcclintock on February 04, 2010 at 10:10PM

An event greater than the World Cup and World Series combined?

The men’s and women’s Ultimate Teams might make that argument about the Trouble in Vegas 2010, the largest college Frisbee tournament worldwide. The tournament welcomes 70 men’s and 60 women’s teams, and for the first time, Harvard’s Red Line and Quasar squads will be among those competing.

The Crimson teams have been talking about making the tournament a reality for a few years, and for the men’s team, which left for Vegas today, that dream has finally become a reality. The women’s team hits the “city built of hot sand, broken dreams, and five dollar lobster” tomorrow.

“It’s definitely going to be a wake-up call to see how we do against teams that have been practicing in the sunshine,” junior captain Christina Kelley said.

While Harvard’s varsity squads make cross country trips all the time, the task was more daunting for the student-run Ultimate Teams. Club sport and UC funding could not completely cover the costs of the trip, so the teams were forced to fundraise. Another obstacle involved the age of the athletes; for example, one must be 21 or older to rent a car.

But the costs are worth it for squads looking to make the College Bowl, the Nationals of Ultimate Frisbee. Last year, the women’s squad lost the qualifying game, finishing third in regionals—one spot shy of a Nationals berth.

“It was really disappointing but also awesome,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to make it to Nationals.”

And where better to start the journey than in Las Vegas?

It is, after all, “a city where you can get a happy ending, but only if you pay a little extra.”

Given the amount of fundraising the teams have had to do, it seems as if they have paid that extra.

Squash Coach Forecasts Weekend

Published by Brian A. Campos on February 03, 2010 at 10:10PM

If you think the Harvard women’s squash team (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) had it tough last weekend in terms of opposition, just look at the pair of foes coming up on the schedule. The Crimson will host No. 3 Penn on Saturday and No. 7 Princeton the following day. The only comfort for Harvard (and luckily for squash fans on campus) is that all this will be taking place on home territory at the Barnaby Courts.

It seems like the Crimson is cruising to a national title after beating No. 2 Trinity, 7-2, and No. 6 Stanford, 8-1, in back-to-back days. It was a physically exhausting stretch and a challenge for the women’s team. This past weekend marked the first time that Harvard dropped any matchup, going 9-0 in the first four games of the season. This weekend, the Crimson hopes to maintain its perfect record and escape unscathed.

Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa granted The Back Page an interview on Sunday after the Crimson handily beat its West Coast rivals. He shared his thoughts on the mentality of the team and its preparation in the days leading up to another taxing weekend.

Bajwa on the team dropping games to Trinity:

“Even the best of the best are going to have a bad day. But the best people win when they have a bad day. [Saturday] what we didn’t have was a bad day; what we had was different conditions. So when you play against Trinity, they’re the only one with panel courts. Their glass courts are different colors. The girls had a hard time adjusting to the conditions, so we lost a couple of matches. That’s all. In terms of if they were to play again, every one of them is capable of winning their match at a neutral place.”

Last weekend, sophomore Nirasha Guruge had an uncharacteristic loss, her first of the season, against Stanford’s Pamela Chua. Bajwa had this to say:

“I wasn’t surprised. I think Nirasha would win that match next time; it’s not a match that she can’t win. But she played a five game match [Saturday], and she had to come up from behind because she couldn’t get used to the court. She had to work very hard to win that match, and [Sunday] she lost a little edge from having to play [Saturday]. I personally think sometimes you can have a bad win and a good loss.”

Forecast on the rest of the season:

“Injuries and well-being of the team is key to winning. Good planning for them so that they can perform on the day is the coach’s job. The work is done now, so it is a matter of being there. If belief is there and there are no injuries, then we should win.”

When asked about the Harvard-Princeton rivalry, Bajwa felt like it wasn’t going to play as big a role as it did last year when the Tigers’ championship team beat the Crimson in a heartbreaker, 5-4. Here’s what he clarified:

“I know that Princeton just recently beat Yale, but the stronger opponent coming into the match is Penn. Penn beat Princeton. [Last weekend] the toughest match on paper came [Saturday], and the next one will be on [next] Saturday. But it doesn’t get any easier playing Princeton the day after.”

Harvard’s preparation:

“We’re focusing on quality over quantity. Sometimes they feel like if you hang around the squash courts you’ll get better. The girls understand that they must do one and a half hours of quality training, and then save your energy and recover. Training and recovering at the same time is key.”