Aquamen Stay Close With Top-10 Teams
It's kind of funny how scores can be deceptive. For example, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team played an exhibition game against the Soviet Union and took a 10-1 pounding. Weeks later it stunned the world by beating those same Ruskies and winning the gold medal.
This past weekend in Providence, R.I., was a learning experience for the Harvard men's water polo team. The Crimson (2-5) lost to Arkansas-Little Rock, 15-5, on Friday, Stanford 19-7 on Saturday, and UC-San Diego, 14-5, yesterday afternoon. Three games, three top-10 opponents, three losses.
But, believe it or not, the round-robin tourney was a success for the Harvard squad.
"I was happy with what we accomplished this past weekend," coach Chris Hafferty said. "We've found our strengths, and we've discovered our weaknesses. And we're going to work out those weak spots."
The loss to Arkansas-Little Rock was the only real disappointment for the Crimson. The squad from the Razorback State is composed of eight players (only one substitute)--all foreign and all members of their respective national teams. But Harvard was hoping to take advantage of its greater speed and depth.
"We played really timid and tentative against Arkansas," Co-Captain Andy Freed said. "I think we were intimidated by the exotic nature of their squad."
Arkansas took advantage of Harvard's rusty transition game to build an early lead to capture the 10-goal victory.
With nothing to lose, Harvard picked up the intensity against Stanford on Saturday. The top-ranked Cardinal had to be stunned to find the Crimson stroke-for-stroke, shot-for-shot, and goal-for-goal with it for two of the four quarters.
Understandably, Harvard was enthusiastic about this performance.
"We played very well against Stanford," sophomore Todd Forman said. "We didn't just give them a tough workout. We also made their coach mad when we showed we could play with them."
"If we played against East teams like we played against Stanford, we would beat any of them by at least 10 goals," Freed added.
The UC-San Diego game further highlighted Harvard's need to work on its transition game. But once again, the score failed to indicate the parity of the two teams' skill levels.
"The point everyone needs to understand is that the other top Eastern teams had similar scores against the Western schools," Co-Captain Nick Branca said. "If you look at Brown, at UMass, at Navy, you'll see that we're playing at least as well as any other team in the East."
The Crimson have nearly two weeks to prepare for its upcoming tournament in Berkeley, Calif. And it expects to show some improvement in their second round against the teams from the West Coast.