After a winless string of five California road games last weekend, the Harvard men’s water polo team came out empty-handed against a strong Brown squad in its final home game of the season.
The Crimson (12-12, 4-1 CWPA) fell to the Bears (18-2, 5-0 CWPA), 23-9, Thursday night at Blodgett Pool, where the team now holds a 4-2 record this season. For seniors Max Eliot and Antone Martinho, it was a missed chance to come out on top on Senior Night.
The game was one which would decide the No. 1 seed for the Northern Division Championship, a bid which guarantees the team a spot at the CWPA Eastern Championships.
Instead, Harvard was unable to overcome a team that has been, by all measures, incredibly dominant this season.
“Brown’s a very good team, and they’re where we want to be,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “That’s something that we’ve talked about since I got here, that you want to be at the top of your division, win Northerns, get to Easterns.”
The win extended the Bears’ win streak to 10. Brown junior attacker James McNamara appeared in particularly strong form, netting a game-high six goals. Last season, McNamara held the No. 2 spot in the nation with 80 assists and was second on his team with 66 goals. On Thursday against Harvard, McNamara tallied three assists and five steals.
Bears’ sophomore attackers Nick Deaver and Henry Fox followed close behind the junior with four goals apiece. Freshman utility Will Klein led the team in assists with five.
“[The contest against Brown] was a game where we’re working hard and we’re making a lot of turnovers,” Eliot said. “So when the game gets away from you, it’s easy to get down to a level that’s not the level of water polo we want to be playing. I’m very proud of our team for not stooping to that level. We played a classy game.”
Just two minutes into the second half, which saw Harvard junior Jimmy Field take over for freshman Colin Woolway in goal, McNamara capitalized on a tired Crimson defense to drill in a 16th point for Brown just 20 seconds after the previous goal on Field. McNamara rushed across the pool, leaving Harvard defenders in the dust, and fired into the net.
Having scored only six points, Harvard would have to wait for the Bears to extend their lead to 19 before netting another goal with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
But things weren’t always as bleak for the Crimson.
Efforts by sophomore utility Max Murphy, freshman attacker Blake Lee and junior William Roller fired off shots against the Bears defense. The first half saw Crimson attackers throw plentiful assists and aggressive pushes at the two-meter line to net six goals.
Brown goalies Walker Shockley and Andrew Brown posted a total seven saves for their team. The Crimson was heavily outshot by the Bears.
“We just want to be quicker in transition,” Field said. “[Brown was] doing a good job on defense of making it hard for us to get the ball out quickly.”
The game saw the Crimson unable to retain possession and effectively advance the ball towards Brown’s 5-meter line.
Minnis attributed the points scored on fast breaks to turnovers.
“When you turn the ball over, you give them a chance to get out on the counter,” he said. “It’s a recipe for disaster, it’s a recipe for 23 goals. If we did a better job of protecting the ball around the perimeter, then dumped the ball of couple of times and started shooting it early on, it might have been a little different.”
Despite how Harvard played against the Bears, both Minnis and Eliot remain positive about the rest of the season.
“Losing to a team like that, it hurts to lose but we got to see the things that it takes to get to where we want to get to and hopefully in the next couple of years that’ll be us, winning another championship,” Minnis said.
“I’m very optimistic for how we’re going to play through the rest of the season here,” Eliot said. “This is kind of what we like to think of as the mid-season lull, and we’re ready to push through it.”