The Harvard women's basketball season may not have ended the way many of the coaches, players and fans wanted it to, but with several great individual and team accomplishments taking place during 2008-09, there is much reason to celebrate and believe in a promise for a bright future.
For starters, the Crimson recorded 19 wins and made its seventh postseason appearance in 2008-09. The program also reached a milestone when it recorded its 500th win in January and became the first Ivy League institution and first school in the city of Boston to accomplish that feat. The Crimson's 19 victories were the most since 2004-05 and Harvard's first ever appearance in the Women's NIT marked the Crimson's second postseason trip in three years and seventh in the last 14 seasons. Senior Emily Tay left her mark in the Harvard record books, while freshman Brogan Berry made history of her own and proved that the long tradition of successful teams at Harvard will continue for years to come.
Tay became the 13th basketball player at Harvard to record 1,000 points and, by the end of the season, had moved into eighth on the all-time scoring list with 1,263 points. She finished her career second on the all-time assists lists with 517 hand outs and also made her third entry on the single season assists list with 151 helpers, which ranks fifth. For all her efforts on the court this season, Tay received her third first-team All-Ivy League honor and second-straight unanimous vote. She in only the fifth Harvard player to earn first-team honors three times.
Berry was the first freshman to earn a spot in the starting line-up since Reka Cserny in 2001. And the similarities don't end there. Berry was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, only the fifth Crimson to do so and first since Cserny. She was also an honorable mention All-Ivy recipient and landed a spot on the All-Rookie team.
The Crimson (19-10, 11-3 Ivy League) had a challenging schedule, tipping off against six teams that made the postseason in 2009, including four that played in the NCAA Tournament. Highlighting the non-conference schedule was Harvard's first win over Vermont since 1989. The Catamounts won their fifth America East Championships and played Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. Harvard also picked up wins over Central Connecticut State, Holy Cross, Siena, Maine, New Hampshire, University of California at Santa Barbara and Northeastern in out of league play.
In conference action, the Crimson swept Brown, Cornell, Penn, Princeton and Yale and won six of its final seven regular season games to finish second in the Ivy standings. Harvard had one of the best come-from-behind wins in NCAA history against Princeton at Lavietes Pavilion Feb. 20. After falling down 22 to the Tigers in the first half, the Crimson came back to earn the win and equal the third largest deficit overcome to win a game in NCAA Division I history. Two weekends later, Harvard scored 91 points on senior night against Yale, which was the most by the Crimson in four years.
Harvard led the league in scoring, scoring margin, shooting, assists and defensive rebounds. The Crimson's 68.5 points per game were 3.5 more than the Columbia, who was second in the league. Harvard outscored its opponents by 5.0 ppg. The Crimson also led the league in field goal percentage (.438) and three-point field goal percentage (.338).
Sophomore Emma Markley led the Crimson in scoring and rebounding. From the first game of the season, when she earned her first collegiate start, to the final game against St. John's, she frustrated opposing defenses and found a way to score. She reached double figures in 23 games this year en route to 14.0 ppg. She also dominated on the boards posting seven double-doubles, while leading the team with 7.0 rpg. She was named to the second-team All-Ivy League team for her accomplishments.
Classmates Jackie Alemany, Christine Matera and Claire Wheeler had several shining moments this season and are part of a rising-junior class that will be looked upon to lead the team next season. Alemany had a career night against Yale in New Haven Feb. 6, recorded career highs in points (13) field goals (5) and steals (6), to help the Crimson defeat the Bulldogs on the YES Network. Alemeny joined the starting rotation in latter part of the season, taking over for senior co-captain Niki Finelli, who suffered a seaso- ending knee injury with seven games to play. Matera got hot from beyond the arc in several games, including a 5-for-5 effort from beyond the three against Penn at The Palestra Jan. 30 for a career-high 17 points. Wheeler had a breakout performance against Holy Cross Nov. 20, picking up her first collegiate double-double with a career-high 14 points and career-high 12 rebounds.
The Crimson, who posted its 23rd winning season, returns two of its top three scorers from this season as well as a tight-knit sophomore class and use its experiences and determination to bring home another Ivy title next season.