After several late attempts to put the Bears away for good proved unsuccessful, co-captain Mike Garcia dealt the death blow in sudden-death overtime, scoring his third goal to secure an 8-7 victory for the Crimson.
After losing three of its last four matchups with Brown, the Harvard men’s water polo team came away with a hard-earned victory in its final regular season game of the year. It took sudden death to decide the winner, but finally the Crimson (9-8-1) got the best of the Bears (14-8) last night at Blodgett Pool, winning 8-7.
“We had a tough past couple of weeks not winning too much. Everyone came to play and did what they had to do,” senior co-captain Mike Garcia said. “I thought we just brought it tonight.”
Garcia, especially, “brought it.” Halfway through the third overtime period Garcia scored his team-leading third goal of the game, this one for all the marbles.
“Overtime has very little to do with how good a water polo player you are,” coach Erik Farrar said. “It has a lot to do with how big your heart is and how cold is your blood when it comes to executing…[Garcia] had a huge play.”
Although Garcia was the hero in the end, it could have been any number of people last night. Just over halfway through the third quarter, junior Michael Byrd fired a shot into the upper corner of the Brown goal to extend the lead to 5-4. As he turned away, fist pumping, it would have been easy to believe that the Crimson had just sealed the victory.
But the Bears were not ready to concede defeat so easily. With just two minutes left in the final quarter, Brown landed the equalizer to even the score, 5-5.
“We shut them out for like 25 minutes and then they exploded for like four goals in five to six minutes,” Farrar said. “They did a great job coming back.”
Harvard seemed poised for victory once again, this time late in the first overtime period. Harvard freshman Spencer Livingston received a pass inside and blasted it home for the would-be game winner. His goal put the Crimson up 7-6 with just 28 seconds left.
Brown only needed 25. Sophomore goalie Jay Connolly hardly had an opportunity to see the shot, which came from point blank range.
Despite Brown’s resiliency, the Crimson was confident all along.
“We came to win. The whole time there were never any doubts,” Garcia said. “We just kept grinding.”
Like the overtime frames, much of the second half was characterized by a back-and-forth struggle that forced both teams to rely on their defenses to make big plays.
“Each goalie had a couple of big stops,” Farrar said.
His words proved to be an understatement. With thirty seconds to go in regulation, Brown cranked a shot from three meters away that sophomore goalie Jay Connolly tipped just enough to hit it off the top pipe. The save preserved the tie and gave Harvard the final possession.
“Our defense really stepped it up and that is a big reason why we won the game,” Garcia said.
The win, only the second for Harvard in its past seven games, avenges an early-season loss to the Bears and sets the team on the right track as it prepares for the Northeast Championship tournament next weekend.