Sophomore keeper Jay Connolly reeled in 14 saves and kept the Engineers at bay through a crucial 25-minute stretch that saw Harvard break a 2-2 tie and put the game out of reach during the second and third quarters.
Cambridge isn’t big enough for the both of them.
At least, that was the feeling last night when the Harvard Men’s Water Polo team trekked cross-town to match up against MIT at the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center. When the last whistle sounded and the pool lay still, the scoreboard revealed a victory for Harvard, 9-5.
The Crimson (6-5-1) has been waiting this moment for a while now. Out of the last five match-ups between these teams, the Engineers (7-12) emerged victorious four times. The 2005 season remained an especially painful memory for Harvard—MIT won all three meets, each by a one-goal difference.
With that in mind, the Crimson took to the pool to end the slump and avenge its narrow defeats.
“It was time to end it,” coach Erik Farrar said.
The task would not be easy, however. The notoriously rowdy MIT supporters were in full force as always. Armed with pots, pans, and other cookery, the Engineer fans did their best to confuse and frustrate the Harvard team with their trademark ruckus.
But for Harvard, it was just another day at practice.
“We’ve got an impressive sound system in [Blodgett Pool],”said Farrar in an earlier interview. “I want them to be prepared.”
The preparation served the team well, as the crowd did not faze the Crimson at all. In the first few minutes of play, the teams matched up well amidst the clatter of dishware. From the first whistle to the end of the first quarter, the teams stood even at two goals apiece.
However, Harvard upped the defensive pressure on the Engineers, shutting them out for the next 25 minutes of play.
“We weren’t firing on all cylinders today,” Farrar said, “but we found a way to win thanks to a few defensive adjustments.”
By the end of the first half, the Crimson managed a 4-2 advantage over MIT.
After the half, Harvard remained in control of the game, never allowing the Engineers to come within one goal and completing a 5-0 run before MIT found the net again.
Despite the comfortable lead, the Crimson could not afford to let its guard down. As the minutes ticked away, the Engineer squad grew more anxious, playing with a little more urgency.
“You knew it was coming,” Farrar said. “They came right out and played gritty.”
But the preparation came in handy once again. Harvard adjusted quickly to the renewed MIT offense and matched the Engineers step for step.
The Crimson even managed to capitalize on its offensive-minded opponents. With most men up front to aid in scoring, the MIT defense became lax in the final minutes. Capitalizing on this mistake with some quick passing, Harvard scored easy goals in transition.
In the end, the Crimson’s superior play handed MIT its third loss at home this season.
The senior duo of John Voith and Michael Garcia led the Harvard offense. Each player notched a hat trick in their effort against the Engineers. Sophomore Jay Connolly finished another night of stellar play. Connolly recorded a 14-save night in goal, effectively shutting down the MIT offense.
The Crimson will be in foreign waters this weekend as the squad travels to face-off against Fordham on Saturday and Iona on Sunday.
—Staff writer Vincent R. Oletu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.