Facing a cross-town rival and then a nationally ranked California team all on its opening day, Harvard men’s water polo plunged right into the excitement of the fall season this weekend at the MIT Invitational.
The Crimson downed MIT, 13-5, early Saturday morning with scoring contributions from eight Harvard players. But, later that day, the Crimson found itself on the opposite end of the board when it fell, 13-9, to No. 17 Cal Baptist,
“It was a great way to start off the season,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “MIT is our rival, and they beat us twice last year ... [and] Cal Baptist is really tough, so I was really happy with the starting play.”
Senior goalie Alex Popp led Harvard defensively with 18 saves over the two games.
He had three one-on-nobody blocks against the Lancers’ attackers, and provided the Crimson with a consistency that is usually hard to find this early in the season.
“He is the cornerstone of our defense,” Minnis said. “He’s going to allow us to do so many things this year in our defense that we weren’t able to do last year.”
CAL BAPTIST 13, HARVARD 9
Despite keeping pace with Cal Baptist throughout the second and third quarters, Harvard was unable to overcome its poor performances in the two rough quarters that book-ended the afternoon competition.
The Lancers had speed on their side and were able to spring to a quick 3-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game. Minnis called a time-out four minutes in to give the Crimson a very important reminder.
“Let’s focus on the defense, get stops, and the offense will come,” Minnis said. “We just settled down and started playing defense.”
The reminder proved helpful as Harvard caught up in the following quarters and knotted the score at both four and five goals apiece.
Harvard ran with its nationally ranked opponent up until the last five minutes of the game, when the score was again tied, this time at nine goals apiece.
A series of mistakes on the Crimson’s behalf allowed the Lancers to capitalize and create a four-goal gap in the last few minutes of the game.
“Mental mistakes took us out of the game,” Popp said. “They were looking for the counter, and we just let them get past us rather than anticipate that movement. “
HARVARD 13, MIT 5