Kennifer Shines After Spring Slump
Two-meter player and junior co-captain Devan Kennifer returned to her home state, California, for a competitive spring break. While there, Harvard women’s water polo (12-8, CWPA 1-0) went, 2-5, in tight matches against top-ranked teams, but ended its trip with four consecutive losses.
Back in Cambridge, the squad was determined to turn the California losses into lessons and use what it learned to defend Blodgett Pool on Sunday night.
No one was more determined than Kennifer, who helped the team snap its streak with five goals and five steals in a 12-8 victory over Wagner.
“Our record sounds pretty abysmal in California, but I think we played really well there,” Kennifer said. “Even though we had a four-game losing streak, we were playing such high quality teams and playing against them so well I think it was relieving, for one thing, to know that we brought that [quality] back from California.”
In the Crimson’s only game of the week, Kennifer dominated the water with plenty of help from her teammates. Harvard’s offensive formation cleared out the middle to leave Kennifer with plenty of open water to work with, and provided the junior the ample opportunity to get the ball in the back of the net. One such opening came off a textbook assist from junior Shannon Purcell, who set Kennifer up for one of her five goals on the evening
“It was really interesting because it was like déjà vu from practice the day before,” Kennifer said. “She was in the exact same position, and I was in the exact same position, and she gave me this really great pass that she had given me the day before. It directly translated from playing well in practice. She knew where I wanted the ball, when I wanted the ball, and that kind of thing, so it was kind of cool to see that in the game too.”
But, before arriving at a Crimson victory, the team faced setbacks, as controversial calls and momentum shifts threatened to destabilize the Harvard lead. Yet, Kennifer, who was the CWPA Northern Division Rookie of the Year her freshman year, gracefully dealt with these obstacles and managed to pull out a stellar performance.
“She’s our main offensive player, she’s our two-meter player, so our offense does revolve around her position,“ junior Monica Zdrojewski said. “And yesterday she just did an incredible job of adjusting. We probably weren’t getting calls that we should have been getting from the referees, for example, but she was able to score a lot of goals and finish her opportunities despite that fact.”
Kennifer proves to be a consistent goal-scorer, usually finding the back of the net at least once each game. But she leads the team in goals, with 50, for good reason—Kennifer is no stranger to high scoring.
Sunday’s spectacular showing paralleled Kennifer’s success at the Marist Tournament in Poughkeepsie, New York where she scored four goals against Siena and five against Marist the next day, securing two victories for Harvard. Similarly, Kennifer racked up five goals to defeat Brown and Iona in February.
Kennifer has undoubtedly been a force to be reckoned with throughout the season. She averages 2.5 goals per game and 2.8 steals per game. Her accomplishment Sunday further revealed her well-rounded skill set. She has had several performances with high goal scoring and others with an impressive number of steals, but Kennifer outdid herself when she put the powerful pieces together this weekend.
Last year, Kennifer earned spots on the All-Northern Division first team and Eastern Championship All-Tournament second team, led the Harvard team with 67 goals on the season, and was Harvard’s Most Valuable Player Award recipient.
This year as a captain, Kennifer appears to be on track to lead the Crimson to more success through her individual accomplishments.
“As our captain, she’s a great leader both in the pool and out, and I think that’s been a huge force for us this season,” Zdrojewski said.