In the last home game of their college careers, Harvard women’s water polo co-captains Shannon Purcell and Devan Kennifer bid farewell to Blodgett Pool in style. Kennifer outhustled two Hartwick defenders to score a crucial last-minute goal to send the game into overtime, and Purcell netted the game-winner with 44 seconds remaining in overtime to power the Crimson past the No. 20 Hawks, 12-11.
It was senior night at Harvard, and four-year players Purcell, Kennifer, Lizzie Abbott, and Monica Zdrojewski were honored in a ceremony before the game.
The senior class has racked up a record of 54-55, including a 17-15 mark last season, the program’s first season over .500 in six years.
The Crimson’s victory over Hartwick (23-10, 3-3 CWPA West) marks the first time Harvard (13-9, 4-1 CWPA South) has defeated the Hawks since their first matchup in 2001 and breaks a 27-game losing streak to Hartwick.
“It’s a big thing for our program. Hartwick’s a great team,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “They are very strong…. They’ve been in the top 20 for a long time for a reason. But it’s a regular season win, we still have a lot of work to do, [and] we still have five really good teams in our division that we have to play.”
The crowd was involved in the game early at Blodgett, creating an electric atmosphere. When Kennifer appeared in front of the stands, chants of ‘Ocho, Ocho’ reverberated throughout the pool.
“With the crowd being up there, I wanted to win it for them,” Kennifer said. “The crowd going nuts for us, just every time, again and again. That was such a huge kick.”
The Hawks struck first with a quick goal two minutes into the first period to put Hartwick up, 1-0. But the Crimson quickly struck back, capitalizing on a 6-on-5 to net a goal and tie the game up.
The first period featured ball-hawking defense from both sides that forced many missed scoring opportunities from both teams. The Hawks were able to tally two more points in the first period to come away with a 3-1 edge.
The second frame featured many more scoring displays than the first. Just 30 seconds into the second period, junior two-meter defender Elise Molnar bounced a shot in on a fast break to make the game 3-2 and junior attacker Aisha Price netted another goal two minutes into the period to tie the game up, 3-3.
Freshman goalie Ariel Dukes was active throughout the period, making several key saves. The three-time CWPA Defensive Player of the Week kept Harvard in the game with numerous blocked shots and stops, but the Hawks were able to capitalize on several costly Harvard turnovers to head into halftime up, 7-5.
At the start the second half, Hartwick netted two quick scores in the first two minutes to put the Hawks up, 9-5.
But after a timeout, the Crimson roared back with three goals of its own. Molnar broke free from her defender to score another fast break goal, and under two minutes later, Aisha Price found the back of the net on a 6-on-5 to make it 9-7 Hartwick.
Less than a minute later, Kennifer recorded stole the ball and gave it sophomore attacker Shayna Price, who is also a Crimson Sports comper, to snipe in a long-range goal.
While Harvard was able to narrow the lead and score, the Crimson was unable to stop the Hawks offense and allowed two more scores to end the third quarter with an 11-8 deficit.