Coming off a disappointing 0-4 performance at the Air Force Academy Invitational last weekend and a lack-luster win over M.I.T. Wednesday, the Harvard men's water polo team was looking for something to lift its spirits this weekend at the Eastern League Tournament, which was hosted by Fordham.
The Crimson found the upper it needed badly in the shape of a hard-fought 8-7 victory Saturday over perennial nemesis, Brown.
"The win over Brown was a huge confidence booster," junior Dan Arbelaez said. "Brown and Harvard have been pretty equal over the years but head-to-head Brown's always come out on top."
Brown, a perennial water polo powerhouse, had only lost to Harvard once before coming into Saturday's game. Last season Brown defeated Harvard once in over-time and once by two goals in the conference playoffs. But that was last season.
Saturday, the Crimson (6-6) jumped out to a 5-1 lead by the second quarter and never looked back. Brown managed to close the gap to 8-7 in the last minute of play, but the Bears could come no closer.
Instrumental in keeping the Bears at bay was the sparkling play of sophomore goalie Ed Chen.
"Ed Chen played awesome," Arbelaez said. "He was a wall in there. Ed blocking shots left and right really helped let us win."
Offensively, the Crimson was paced by freshman Mike Zimmerman, sophomore Andy Davis and senior Jon Gill.
"It was a big league win for us," co-captain Chip Hellar said. "This will definitely help our seeding in the later championship tournaments."
Before its victory over Brown, the Crimson disposed of a much weaker squad from the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Harvard had its offense in high gear for the Friday evening game and defeated the Merchant Marine team, 24-11, as Crimson sophomore goalie Jose Villa recorded the victory in net.
The weekend came to an anti-climactic close for Harvard, as a very powerful UMass-Amherst team picked its way through the polomen and came away with an 18-7 victory Saturday afternoon.
"UMass is a higher caliber team that Brown or the Merchant Marine," Arbelaez said. "We were gearing for Brown this weekend, but next time we'll be ready for [UMass]."
Harvard will get a chance to avenge its loss October 11, when it hosts the UMass-Amherst squad in a dual meet at Blodgett Pool.
Still, of the weekend's games, the victory against Brown will certainly stand out.
"That victory really prepares us for the upcoming tournaments," Arbelaez said.
Indeed, with the Ivy League Tournament next weekend and another Eastern League Tournament two weekends from now, there probably could not have been a better time for the Crimson to get a good kick in the pants--or trunks.