For the Harvard men's water polo team, it's become a familiar, almost repetitive refrain. Another weekend, another step toward becoming the new beast of the East.
It's a routine the upstart Crimson can live with.
No. 20 Harvard (13-6, 5-1 Collegiate Water Polo Association) ran its win streak to eight with a 3-0 swing through New York this weekend, including wins over a ranked Iona team and Ivy League rival Brown. The Crimson continued its resurgence from a surprising 12-11 loss to unranked MIT on September 27.
Harvard has gone 8-1 since that setback, the one loss being a competitive 9-7 battle with No. 17 Princeton.
"Both the Iona and Brown games were close, but we never were scared," said Harvard Coach Jim Floerchinger. "We relied on each other, and executed well. We expected success."
Harvard 9, Iona 8
The weekend included a 9-8 win over tournament co-host Iona, who, up until this week, shared Harvard's No. 20 ranking. Iona (8-4), like Harvard, is an eastern team on the rise. Its appearance in the Top 20 was the program's first in over a decade.
Unfortunately, Iona's facilities have yet to experience a similar renaissance. Unlike Blodgett's all-deep, Olympic-caliber pool, the Gaels' pool has a shallow end that complicates the field of play.
The pool's shallow end gives Iona an advantage in virtually every home game, and created a greater challenge for the Crimson than Iona's boisterous home crowd.
"It was terrible," said sophomore Istvan Zollei. "Coming from Hungary, I'd never played in a shallow-end pool before, and it made things incredibly difficult for us."
Harvard adjusted its strategy quickly, beginning with its goaltending situation. The larger half of Harvard's two-headed keeper, junior Gresham Bayne, played the two quarters that found Harvard defending the shallow end of the pool. Sophomore Paul Tselentis guarded net in the other two.
Aided by a solid team defensive effort, the two combined to hold a Gaels squad that averages 12.7 goals per game to below its usual output.
"We figured out how to play that pool early, and it proves what a great team we are," Zollei said. "We could have beaten them by a lot more in a normal pool, but overcoming that adversity made it a greater victory for us."
Harvard 10, Brown 7
The second game took place in Lehman College's Apex, an athletic complex more hospitable to top-flight collegiate competition. The matchup between Harvard and Brown promised just that.
Prior to this year, the Crimson hadn't beaten the Bears in several years. Harvard had opened the 2000 preseason with a breakthrough 9-7 victory over the Bears. Saturday's win was the Crimson's first league victory over the Bears since 1992.
"The team really proved its character in that game," Zollei said.
The Crimson got off to a sluggish start, and found itself down 3-0 after the first seven minutes.
"These games would have never been close if we played like a team for four quarters," Floerchinger said. "That is the major focus of the last third of our season, and when we solve that issue, we will have the final piece of the puzzle."
Harvard made a six-point turnaround the rest of the way. Zollei led a balanced scoring attack with four goals and three assists. The Crimson broke a 7-7 tie in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter with three goals in just under a minute and a half to seal the victory.
"It was extremely important to play a team game," Zollei said. "There have been other games in which we've played sloppier, with everyone looking to score. Here, we played team defense, team offense, a total team game."
Harvard 19, USMMA 8
The venue shifted back to the uneven confines of Iona for the Crimson's final game of the weekend. Every Crimson player saw action against an unheralded U.S. Merchant Marine Academy team that entered with no wins in three league games.
However, the game was surprisingly competitive for two quarters. At the half, Harvard found itself up only three goals, 8-5.
The second half featured superior Crimson passing play, and produced a final score a bit closer to what had been expected.
This Saturday, the Crimson will host Ivy foes Yale and Dartmouth at Blodgett Pool. The matches against these weaker Ivy squads should represent the easiest portion of Harvard's upcoming schedule.
On Oct. 21, Harvard will take on Northern Division opponents No. 18 Queens and No. 13 St. Francis of Brooklyn as part of a four-game tournament stint in Amherst.
Then, if the team finishes in the top three of the Northern Division, the Crimson will participate in the ECAC Championships at a site that has yet to be determined.
The most significant event will be the Northern Division Championships, which Harvard will host beginning Nov. 3. The team's finish there will determine whether it can follow the women's team's lead last year and qualify for the NCAAs.