This past weekend's UMass Amherst Invitational didn't appear to be an important meet for the Harvard men's water polo team. No league foes were playing. No area or division champi-on ships were at stake. And no fancy trophy were given out; it was just a last-second tune-up for the Ivy tournament this weekend.
But the Crimson didn't see it that way. The squad came into the meet with its guns blazing. One, the meet promised the possibility of setting a good mood for tournament season. And two, it was a chance to get back at a consistent thorn in Harvard's side the past few seasons: UMass-Amherst, the 11th-ranked team in the country, and one of the best teams in the east.
"Without a doubt, we thought it was important," senior Jose Busquets said. "We particularly wanted UMass. They've gotten the better half of some pretty good games this season."
In addition to UMass and the Crimson, the meet featured Boston College and M.I.T. Those teams, though, were less-than-imposing going into the meet.
"We pretty much knew that we could beat them (B.C., M.I.T.)," Busquets said. "Our hope was-to deliver the expected and then hope for an upset over UMass."
In the first game of the invite, the Crimson began to deliver on the first part of the goal.
The squad whipped BC, 14-8. Six scorers provided the tally for Harvard, with Alex Kim, Busquets and Julian Alexander leading the way with four points apiece.
In the second game of the meet, however, Harvard attempted to deliver on the tougher part of the promise. The squad batted hard with UMass through the entire game, alternating, turns at the lead. But in the end, as in the end of a previous game between the schools, the Minutemen pulled, ahead in the last minute, winning 12-10.
In the game, Alexander, Busquets and Jake Basset led the Crimson with three points apiece.
"Despite the loss, it was a good game," Busquets said. "Our defense was especially strong. To hold a team to that few points is really tough."
What's almost as tough is rebounding from a close loss. Harvard managed, however, beating M.I.T. 15-8 in a should-have-been blowout that was.
The game was unexceptional except for the play of Busquets. The senior scored an extraordinary eight goals in the game. It was the best single-game performance by a Crimson poloman since legend Jeff Zimmerman scored nine against Brown two years ago.
"It was a good weekend," Coach Don Benson said. "Although we lost, it was important for people to see that we could play UMass dose for the second time. It proved that the first time wasn't a fluke, that we're an East Coach contender.
'It was important for people to see that we could play UMass close for the second time.'
Coach Don Benson