Although the Harvard women’s water polo team played only six games at home this season, it is fair to say that those six games were the defining points of the year.
Clear-cut victories, comebacks that fell short, strong freshman play and intra-league troubles characteristic of the 2009 campaign all occurred within the confines of Blodgett Pool through the course of six games.
The Crimson witnessed a slight decline this season as compared to last year, putting forth a 10-14 record after breaking even at 12-12 in 2008. Despite the slight difference in records, co-captain Devon MacLaughlin is proud of the season her team produced.
“We ended the season much better than we have in the past by making [Eastern Championships] and winning a game,” MacLaughlin said. “We also played a much harder schedule this year.”
The team fell just short in several of its losses, with only six defeats—all to opponents receiving votes in the national poll—decided by more than five points. Harvard had difficulty coming out strong and was often forced to overcome a deficit in the second half.
Beginning its season at home with a 10-6 victory over the New York Athletic Club as part of the Harvard Invitational, the Crimson ultimately split the four games of its season-opening tournament and would close out its home schedule later in April with losses to Hartwick and Brown. Next competing in the Princeton and Elite Six Tournament at Bucknell, Harvard came out of the tournaments with a 5-6 record, including two frustrating losses to Princeton.
Regular season play occurred mostly in Connecticut, New York and California. On the West Coast, the Crimson experienced its toughest loss, a 20-2 rout by then-No. 1 Stanford, and greatest victory at the time–a 17-10 triumph over Cal State Monterey Bay.
Harvard returned to the East Coast to compete in the Northern Division Championships, in which the Crimson fell to Hartwick and Brown before crushing Utica and Connecticut College. The two latter teams were no match for Harvard throughout the season; in four matchups with the divisional opponents, the Crimson won by a combined 68 points.
The Crimson finished in the middle of the pack of the CPWA North behind archrival Brown. In three encounters with the Bears, Harvard dropped all of its matchups by a combined three points with one of the games going into overtime.
“Those games were the most heartbreaking,” freshman Devan Kennifer said. “It’s good that they were close but I felt like we could have come out on top in at least two out of three of those.”
Squeaking into the Harvard-hosted Eastern Championships as the eighth seed, the Crimson dropped its first two games against Hartwick and Indiana before winning its final contest of the season against Bucknell to determine seventh place.
“It was also exciting for us to finish out on a win, especially in our home pool,” MacLaughlin said.
Anchored by the two co-captains, the team relied heavily on its numerous freshmen in the pool. Kennifer often led the charge from center, backed by classmates Monica Zdrojewski, Shannon Purcell, Ita Barton-Kettleborough and Lizzie Abbott. Kennifer led the team in scoring and was deemed Rookie of the Year by her team and the CWPA North division.
Next year Harvard will look to its core of rising sophomores to set a new tone for the team, both at home in Blodgett and away in foreign waters.
—Staff writer Emmett Kistler can be reached at email@example.com.