But for the Harvard women’s water polo team, it was all business this past week as the Crimson traveled to sunny California for three games over a 48-hour time span.
Entering the western region on a two-game losing streak, Harvard dramatically ended their losing ways by winning a 10-9 thriller over Concordia University.
The Crimson suffered its lone loss of the break against the Lancers of UC Baptist but quickly recovered three hours later in its nightcap against Redlands.
“We’ll look to that Redlands game as proof to what we can do and what we’re capable of as a team,” said senior co-captain Lauren Snyder.
HARVARD 8, CAL REDLANDS 4
In its final game of spring break action, the Crimson recovered from its earlier defeat and successfully capped their California trip with a four-goal victory over their hosts.
Stifling defense was the key to triumph as Harvard accumulated 11 steals during the game and severely limited the Bulldogs’ offensive opportunities.
“Our defensive skills definitely came to a high point in this game,” said senior co-captain Vivian Liao. “We were working on a high pressure defense, working the lanes, and it all came together in the end.”
The Crimson raced out to a 5-1 lead at the end of the first half and never looked back as they continued to pepper the opponent’s net. Although Redlands’ net minder Lauren Ellsworth racked up 14 saves, it wasn’t enough to prevent the barrage of attacks by Harvard’s veteran players.
Seniors Vivian Liao and Lauren Snyder led the team with four and two goals respectively. On the defensive end, junior Devon MacLaughlin proved to be the stealthiest player in the water, grabbing four steals during the game.
“That’s one of the best games we’ve played this year,” Liao said. “We finally played a full 32 minutes of good water polo. Good movement, good offense and defense, it’s something nice to have in the repertoire, knowing you can have a performance like this one.”
CAL BAPTIST 9, HARVARD 5
The Crimson suffered its lone setback during spring break at the hands of the UC Baptist Lancers.
Shortly after the onset of the match, Harvard found itself down three as senior Cydney Owen and sophomore Chelsea Gentry lanced their way through the Crimson defense (Each would finish the game with a hat trick).
Harvard continued to battle, however, and reduced its deficit to one with back-to-back goals late in the third quarter.
“For better or worse, we have a lot of experience coming back from deficits,” Snyder said. “We don’t get overwhelmed when we go down because we know we have the offensive talent to bring ourselves back into contention.”
Snyder added, “We felt we were in a pretty good spot going into the fourth but they capitalized on their opportunities and pulled away. It was just one of those games were things weren’t clicking.”
Down 5-4, the Crimson comeback attempt was permanently finished as the Lancers reeled off four straight goals in the last quarter to ice the victory. Poor shooting accuracy and missed opportunities spelled doom for Harvard. The team was only two of eight from its man advantages and despite shooting 20 times at the net the Crimson only had four goals to show for it.
Liao once again led the team in goals (two) as Harvard received scoring contributions from Snyder, MacLaughlin, and senior Melissa Mueller.
HARVARD 10, CONCORDIA 9
Three minutes remained on the clock. Both teams were deadlocked at nine goals each. Someone somewhere needed to take control of the game and step up.
That someone was Vivian Liao. With 2:53 showing on the scoreboard, Liao delivered the game-winning goal (her fourth of the night) to give the Crimson a thrilling 10-9 victory in its first spring break action.
“Some of the older players had to take a larger role than they normally might [because of injuries],” Liao said. “But the team in general stepped up and filled the positions they were asked to fill which opened up opportunities to score.”
Having had to climb from a three-goal deficit late in the first period, the Crimson roared back to tie the match heading into the half. The second half commenced with both teams furiously trading goals, as the score was tied several times through the last two quarters of play.
After weathering the chaotic offensive play of the first three periods, Harvard sealed the floodgates and completely shut out its opponent as Liao’s goal proved to be the only score of the fourth quarter.
“We started to move and anticipate their moves a lot better as we adapted to their west coast style of play,” Liao said. “West coast style is a little more finesse, a lot of counter attacking [whereas] on the East coast, it’s a lot more physical. Over the course of the break during our trained, we started to move a lot better as a team.”
In addition to Liao’s four goals, Snyder posted two of her own with five assists. MacLaughin supported the offensive attack by drawing four ejections for the game.
Harvard returns to the pool on April 10 when they visit Connecticut College before hosting their second home game of the season against Hartwick on April 12.
—Staff writer Mauricio A. Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.