The players' emotions were more conspicuous and the play itself more intense than usual, but when the New England water polo championships ended last night, all the teams finished just as expected.
The Crimson Aquamen failed to derail Brown on its path to an eighth straight regional title, but staved off a spirited challenge by MIT to take the second of two New England seeds in next weekend's Eastern Championship in Indianapolis.
The Engineers had surprised Harvard, 11-7, a week ago in a non-tournament matchup at Blodgett They were all set to repeat that performance Saturday morning in their home pool, especially with a large contingent of seniors hoping to play in their first Easterns, and with a boisterous crowd of 200 supporters.
And they gave the Crimson good reason to be nervous for most of the first hall. "They were really psyched," said Harvard Coach Steve Pike "It took a while for what I consider our better skills to overcome their emotion."
Until late in the second quarter, MIT sophomore George Jaquette almost singelhandedly cut through the visitors' defense, scoring four times in the first 11 minutes. But with 2:36 left in the half, Jaquette was booted from the game for picking up his third 35-second penalty, and the Engineers collapsed without him.
In the nine minutes followig Jaquette's ejection. Harvard scored 10 unanswered goals MIT failed to score again until the last minute of the third quarter, a seven-minute stretch Pike called "probably our best period of water polo of the year."
Actually, one of Harvard's top scorers, Steve Munatones, also had penalty trouble and was thrown out in the third period. But the Crimson attack was well-balanced: Co-Captain Dave Fasi, who missed last week's loss to MIT, scored six goals, while freshmen Mike Rogers and Dave Chao notched five apiece and Adam Button scored four coming off the bench, on the way to the 25-14 final.
Having easily disposed of the weakling of the N.E. final four. UMass, by a 20-9 count, the Crimson last night made its fourth futile attempt this season to end Brown's regional dominance.
Still, yesterday's 15-9 defeat was Harvard's best showing against the Bruins. The Crimson players were still threatening as late as midway through the third quarter.
A measure of how well the Crimson played was that the squad stayed within six goals without Munatones, lost before the half with three penalties, and despite the disallowal of two goals in the third stanza--because they were immediately preceded by foul calls on Bruin defenders.
But Brown's greater stamina and bench depth showed in the final quarter, as it held the Crimson scoreless and nailed down the win.