Improved Aquamen Seventh at Easterns

The Harvard men's water polo team ended its tournament season Sunday with a seventh-place finish at the Eastern Championships at West Point.

That's not too bad for a team that began the season with a new coach and a completely revamped offense.

The Crimson, which entered the weekend tournament off a strong second-place showing last week at the New England Championships at Brown, went 1-2 on the weekend.

The aquadudes fell to Navy, 11-5, in their first contest, Game two resulted in a 13-8 loss, this time at the hands of Slippery Rock. And in the third, Harvard breezed to victory over Washington and Lee, 8-4.

Plotting

Last week, after the team learned that it would face second seeded Navy in the first round of the tourney, the Crimson planned its strategy to counter Navy's fast-paced offense. Harvard had fallen to the Midshipmen, 19-3 earlier in the season.

"We were confident going into the [Navy] game," said junior Brian Johnston. "We went in assuming we could beat them if everything worked out for us."

In the first half of the game, though, Harvard was nervous and couldn't keep up with the Middies, falling five goals behind at the half.

"Navy's a fast-swimming team, and they just out swam us in the first half," said sophomore Bruce Novis.

But the second half proved a different story, as Harvard, led by Rob Strauss's two goal performance, got its game together. The Crimson played Navy evenly in the third quarter and out played its opponents in the fourth.

"Once people calmed down, we played well," said Johnston.

"We went into the fourth quarter saying, 'we're tired and they're tired, let's try to outplay them,'" said freshman Fred Scherrer.

That strategy worked well, as Harvard took control and outscored Navy, 4-2, in the fourth.

The second-half effort wasn't enough, though, and Navy triumphed, 7-4. The defeat sent the Cantabs to the consolation bracket, where they faced Slippery Rock, I squad that went to Nationals last year and had beaten Harvard, 13-6, earlier this year.

The story remained the same. Harvard played better than in its first match with Slippery Rock but still fell, this time, 13-8.

"It was a really good game," said Novis, "We played so much better than the beginning of the year."

Harvard faced Washington and Lee in its final game, and this time the Cantabs pulled everything together to defeat the Generals, 8-4.

"We dominated from the start," said Novis.

"[Crimson goalkeeper] Brian Graham was the key in that game," said Strauss, who scored three goals in the contest. "Brian just shut them down," he added.

"The tournament indicated how out season went," Strauss said. "We played better each game, and by the last game we were playing our best water polo of the season."

THE NOTEBOOK: Strauss led Harvard with seven goals in the tournament. Senior Captain Adam Button scored six Last week, both Strauss and Button were named to the All-New England first team.