Climbing to the crest of a wave can be a most difficult task.
After finishing fourth in the East and 17th in the nation last year, the Harvard men's water polo team now aims to finish first or second in the Eastern Championship and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament during the first week in December.
Newly-appointed coach Robert Webster, will look to provide the missing elements that could push the program to its first ever NCAA tournament trip.
"Coach Webster not only brings experience of the game, but a motivating attitude that should put us over the top," Co-Captain Peter Richards said.
Webster has experience and sports some impressive credentials. Graduate and player of UC Santa Barbara, he has spent the last three years as an assistant coach for the UNLV swimming team. Before signing on with the Runnin' Rebels, he assisted the current Olympic water polo coach, Bill Barnett.
Webster's coaching philosophy stresses both tough press defense and an aggressive, counter--attacking offense. The team will attempt to force opponents' turnovers and parlay them into fast break goals.
Webster is enthusiastic about the program and the upcoming season. "This team knows what it is going to take to make it to San Francisco in December," he said. "The talent is there and everybody will be in for a show when we start displaying it on September 21 in Annapolis."
Returning starters for the Crimson include senior drivers Steve Kan and Peter Richards, junior two-meter hole set Chad Barker and junior goalies Danny Oakes and Peter Toot. Both Barker and Richards received second team All-Ivy and All-New England recognition last season. Harvard is also counting on the return of senior Co-Captains Todd Forman and Mike Johnson, both starters on the '89 squad.
Forman is optimistic about regaining the form which made him MVP and All-Eastern his sophomore season before a serious eye injury put him on the sidelines last year. "I feel stronger than I was two years ago," he said. "The eye is no excuse."
Senior Bendek Hansen, juniors Mason Ford and Alex Walley, sophomores Eric Atkisson and Jeff Zimmerman and freshman Jose Busquets will compete for the final starting spot and round out the team.
The Crimson will begin their season at the Eastern Invitational at Annapolis tomorrow. Harvard, which has been picked to finish fourth in the East behind Navy, Brown and Slippery Rock, will face Slippery Rock in the first round and top-seed UC Santa Barbara in the second round.
This weekend's tournament should be an important barometer for Webster's team, as the top-level competition will determine whether or not the Crimson are capable of staying afloat and swimming right on through to the NCAA tourney.