After being off the water for two weeks, the Harvard women’s water polo team showed no signs of rust as they rolled to a 15-5 victory over Connecticut College Thursday night.
Holding on to a precarious one-goal lead after the first, the Crimson turned on the jets and pounded the Camels to submission, shutting them out in the second and outscoring the hosts 6-1 in the final period of play. Having battled through arguably their toughest season ever, Harvard’s conditioning and fitness proved to be too much for Conn. College. The win extends the Crimson’s dominance over the Camels to 10 games; since 2003, Harvard has gone 10-0 and 4-0 on the road against Conn. College.
“I think we’re stronger than we’ve ever been since I have been on the team,” junior Devon MacLaughlin said. “I think it’s a really good sign for the team that we’re not just relying on a couple of people [for goals]. It shows that we have strength on our bench.”
Led by senior co-captain Lauren Snyder, the Crimson barraged the Camel net from all angles as eight different players found themselves on the scoreboard. One of those players, freshman Shami Entenman, notched her first collegiate goal with 1:25 left in the final quarter. Entenman’s goal came off the heels of stellar performances by a few of the Crimson’s youngest members as fellow classmate Natasha Whitney, who is also a Crimson News writer, and sophomores Kristina Bergquist and Kathryn Bilder each forced their name on the box score with a goal.
“They’re a great group of freshmen,” said senior co-captain Lauren Snyder. “They’re overshadowed by the strong upperclassmen sometimes but because we got a lot of ejections early on [MacLaughlin and senior co-captain Vivian Liao each irked the referee through the first half], the freshmen got a chance to show what they could do.”
While youth was being served offensively, the defensive side proved to be a hotbed for veteran cunning, as senior Melissa Mueller wreaked havoc in the pool and snatched six steals on the night. Senior Cassandra Forsyth entered the pool for the first time in a month after being out with a concussion. Although Harvard added another stellar performance to its 2008 season, the team isn’t quite ready to rest on its laurels. Its remaining schedule looms large with Northern and Eastern Championships just a few weeks away.
“I think we’re getting there [to peak form],” Snyder said. “We can still notch it up a few levels for the next few games but we’re getting to the point where things feel natural.”
MacLaughlin added, “There’s always room for improvement, especially when we’re in pressure situations against teams that are equal or faster than us.”
Luckily, the Crimson has been able to utilize its depth throughout the season and a majority of the underclassmen have received invaluable game-time experience.
After a sputtering start saw Harvard clinging on to a slim lead, the team collectively relaxed into its own pace and set out to control the tempo of the game using their physical advantages to run the Camels out of the pool.
“We got a lot of counter attack goals, which reflects how well we’ve conditioned,” Snyder said. “We’re as fast as we’ve ever been and that really showed in the transition game.”
The Crimson face a quick turnaround as they get ready to do battle with No. 14 Hartwick on Saturday in the team’s final home game. The match promises to be an emotional one, as several seniors will be honored during Senior Day.
Harvard’s last preparation before the championship tournaments will be a road trip to the not-so-friendly confines of Providence as the Crimson meets their archrivals Brown in a repeat of this season’s earlier game. The Bears won the first contest 12-4. With all the excitement on tap in the next few weeks, it bodes well for Harvard to be firing on all cylinders right now. Riding high after winning three of their last four, the Crimson will look to continue the momentum and improve upon a 2007 campaign that saw early exits in both post-season tournaments.
—Staff writer Mauricio A. Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.