M. Water Polo Hunts Down Eagles
Every team hopes to have that game going into a big tournament--the game where everything clicks, the team gels, kicks it into a higher gear, brings everything together, opens the proverbial can of whoop-ass.
Whichever well-worn sportswriter's phrase you choose, the Harvard men's water polo team had that game in its 7-3 victory against Boston College (B.C.) last Friday at Blodgett Pool. HARVARD 7 BOSTON COLLEGE 3
"We just really brought it together as a team," said captain Mike Zimmerman, who led the scoring with five goals.
"The team really was there in a way I haven't seen it before--mentally, physically, everything. It was really a beautiful game," said sophomore netminder Josh Bliesath, who ended the day with seven saves.
Having lost to B.C. the first game of the season, the Crimson came into this game with something to prove.
"They've gotten a lot better in the past couple of years," Bliesath said. "But it was really just a case of pride. We did not want to lose to this team."
The Eagles opened up the scoring early, scoring off of a fast break but Zimmerman answered to tie it up in the first quarter.
Two more quick goals early in the second period proved to be B.C.'s last. Freshman Sean Cheng scored on a six-on-five to pull the Crimson within one at the half, 3-2.
"We maintained our composure pretty well," Zimmerman said. "We knew we were playing well, and they seemed to be getting a little tired. We just seemed to have more juice and we knew we could dominate the second half."
And dominate they did.
In one of those rare but hugely gratifying instances of team synergy each good play seemed to lead to another.
By holding the Eagles to only three goals, the defense took a lot of pressure off of the offense, allowing the Crimson attack to play a relaxed effective game. The offense returned the favor through excellent ball retention, crisp and accurate pass execution and smart shot selection.
Zimmerman tied it up in the third period, and junior Dror Bar-Ziv added a goal to put the Crimson up 4-3. Bar-Ziv, who has been bothered by a nagging case of tendonitis in his right wrist, came in off the injured list to play a quick two-minute shift and score the six-on-five goal.
"It was weird," Bar-Ziv said. "I came in, Zimmerman drew the ejection, I scored and then I felt my wrist and it was like 'I need to get out.'"
Zimmerman scored three unanswered goals in the fourth period to put the game firmly out of the Eagles' reach.
"It was really just some beautiful water polo," Bliesath said.
The Crimson couldn't really ask for a better weekend before facing No. 1-ranked Queen's College at home next Saturday in the Northern regional tournament.
"This is really good preparation for us mentally, to come together like this before Northerns," Zimmerman said.
Despite the fact that Harvard enters the tournament seeded eighth, players seem unperturbed by Queens' top ranking.
"We're really excited about this matchup," Bar-Ziv said.
Earlier in the season the Crimson played an excellent game against Queens but fell in the end by only two points.
"They're going to be looking past us for sure," Zimmerman said. "We have nothing to lose and things seem to be going well for us. If they take this game for granted, and we play really well, we could upset."
To do that the Crimson simply needs to tap into the groove it found this past weekend.
"If we can play like we did last weekend; tight defense, relaxed offense, just keep it going like that, I think we could take them," Bliesath said.