After three one-goal losses, the men’s water polo team was able to prove it does have the ability to put a team away—even when facing adversity.
Although Brown fans turned out in torrents to chant “Harvard sucks,” starting goalie Robbie Burmeister was replaced in the cage by freshman Jay Connolly, and Harvard (3-7) was coming off a string of losses, the Crimson came out strong to put away the Bears 7-6 in what could be the turnaround to its season.
Through the Bears narrowed Harvard’s lead to just one goal with 1:30 left in the game, their offensive spurt was not enough to topple the Crimson’s defense, which had been strong all night.
“We came out and we were just helping all over,” junior co-captain Michael Garcia said. “We put everything together on defense. They never got clear looks at the goal but only had tough opportunities to score.”
The Crimson’s defense, which had broken down on coverage to give up easy goals in the past, solidified itself against Brown in the two teams’ second meeting of the season. Harvard lost the earlier bout 6-3.
Although both teams were playing an extremely physical game, the Crimson—anchored by Connolly in goal—was able to force turnovers and dominate possession of the ball.
“Garcia was sick on defense,” junior John Voith said. “He had a tremendous amount of steals.”
Garcia credits the team’s mental toughness for enabling them to play well in spite of the physical nature of the match.
“It was really physical, but we didn’t succumb to their thuggery,” Garcia said. “Everyone came out really fired up.”
The Crimson took the lead first, setting the pace for the game. The contest was tied at three at the half, and Harvard started the third quarter off with more strong offense.
The lead helped Connolly stay cool under pressure, and though he gave up six goals during the contest, Harvard players attributed the shots to Brown’s skill and not any faults with the fresh-faced netminder.
“Jay just played an all-out good game,” Voith said. “There was never a time when he let down. They scored six goals and they were all pretty legitimate. The whole game he just looked really strong in goal.”
The Crimson’s offense was also led by a freshman, Danny Bilotti. Bilotti already made a name for himself during the season, but burst forth with three goals for Harvard last night.
“He played incredible tonight,” Voith said. “He just looked really powerful tonight.”
Bilotti’s success can be attributed to his hard work during practices.
“Lately, Danny has been working on his two meter offense,” Garcia said. “He’s just been working really hard and doing everything right.”
Freshman David Tune and Chris Ludwick, Voith, and Garcia all notched goals on the night as well.
The much-needed win couldn’t have come on a more momentous occasion. The Crimson face rival MIT for the third time of the season tomorrow night and hopes to avenge its two losses.
“It was a big win for us,” Voith said.
Harvard will have to prove it can continue to play complete games and win close contests tomorrow night.
But tonight, the Crimson can sleep easy knowing it has what it takes to win.
—Staff writer Megha Parekh can be reached at email@example.com.