Setting out to build on its first winning season in six years, the Harvard women’s water polo team fought its way to its second straight winning season under the leadership of coach Ted Minnis and co-captains Devan Kennifer and Shannon Purcell.
“I was really happy with the way the women played this year; we had some big wins,” says Minnis, whose squad went 17-12 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
The season was highlighted by a victory over No. 20 Hartwick at home on Senior Day. The win was Harvard’s first over the Hawks in the last 27 matches between the schools, a streak dating back to 2001. In a game that went into overtime, it was the senior Purcell who scored the winning goal.
“The win on senior day was huge,” Minnis says.
Right before the season kicked off, the team went on a training trip to Hungary. Specifically traveling to the cities of Eger and Budapest, the Crimson scrimmaged local teams and held a few training sessions, while it quickly learned how prevalent water polo is in Hungarian culture.
When not in the pool, Harvard took advantage of the vast history, tastes, and sites of Hungary and experienced all that the country had to offer.
“You don’t think of Hungary as being a vacation spot, but water polo is huge there,” Minnis says. “It was a great opportunity for our kids.”
Besides being a great experience, the Crimson’s expedition to Hungary provided invaluable experience heading into its 2012 campaign.
“The trip in Hungary really prepared us better than anything else could,” Kennifer says.
Coming back to America, the Crimson enjoyed several close wins, though it also had some tough losses to ranked teams throughout the season.
The squad had two five-game winning streaks for the season, and it ended the year with a seventh-place finish after being seeded seventh in the CWPA Eastern Championships.
“We showed that we were a team that would never give up,” Kennifer says. “We came from behind in a lot of games.”
The women faced some of its toughest competition when it took its annual spring break trip to California in March. While the trip to the Golden State brought more than half of the team home, it also allowed the Crimson to match up against top teams. The Crimson went 1-4 on the trip, but Harvard kept many contests close, falling by one to UC Santa Barbara and two to Cal Baptist.
“We learned some great lessons from that trip and playing against the tough teams,” Minnis says.
With a spot open in goal to open the season, a freshmen stepped up to the plate. Ariel Dukes spent the majority of the season in net, earning three Southern Division Defensive Player of the Week awards along the way.