Freshmen Attract Attention In and Out of Pool

Nida Naushad

Blake Lee, shown here, Robbie Fluegge, Noah Harrison, Christopher Miao, Austin Novis, Colin Woolway, and Ben Zepfel headline the Crimson’s rookie class that has been instrumental in helping Harvard to a six-game winning streak, the program’s longest in more than a decade.

On an average day in Harvard Yard, you may find tourists taking pictures by the John Harvard statue, students rushing from class to class, or a squirrel scampering up a tree, but you may also encounter a different spectacle of seven guys tanning in the grass listening to Korean pop music.

Those seven guys may stand out in the Yard, but they have also managed to stand out as crucial members of the Harvard water polo team.

“We started a club,” said freshman attacker and San Diego-native Blake Lee. “It’s called SOGO, which stands for ‘Sun’s out, guns out,’ and all five of the California freshmen created it so we can keep our tans. We even have tank tops.”

The freshman water polo players love their sport, a good tan, and a bit of “Gangnam Style,” but once they enter the pool they are all business.

Lee and fellow first-years Robbie Fluegge, Noah Harrison, Chris Miao, Austen Novis, Colin Woolway, and Ben Zepfel have combined for 93 goals, 89 steals and 52 assists between them this season and have helped catapult the Crimson (9-5, 4-0 CWPA) to a six game winning streak, its longest in ten years.

“They’re bringing a whole new focus to the program that I didn’t necessarily see in the past few years,” junior attacker and co-captain Will Roller said. “They’re all very intense.”

Leading Harvard to a six-game winning streak and a successful four-win weekend, the freshmen have proven their prowess offensively and defensively in the pool. Harrison with 22 goals, Zepfel with 30 goals, and Lee with 30 goals have spearheaded the offense, while Lee has also chipped in 27 steals and 23 assists. All three have also been recipients of the CWPA Rookie of the Week award this month.

On the defensive end, Woolway has made his mark between the pipes, notching 51 saves so far while splitting time with junior Jimmy Field.

“They’re all doing a great job,” Crimson coach Ted Minnis said. “I’m very happy how hard they are working and how quickly they’ve adapted to the system and adapted to Division I water polo. They’re a pretty special class.”

The water polo team is relatively young with seven freshmen, five sophomores, and just three juniors and two seniors, and transitioning into a new school and onto a new team can be an intimidating process.

But the freshmen give credit to their support system of upperclassmen, family members, and each other for easing the transition.

“There are not a lot of upperclassmen, but they’re all really nice and inclusive,” Woolway said. “It was easy to fit in.”

For many of the Harvard rookies, the older team members played a huge factor in the college decision-making process. For some, it was even a family matter.

“My brother [Evan Zepfel ’12] just graduated from Harvard in the spring, and he was on the water polo team, so I came to visit a bunch and really liked it,” said Zepfel, who has also contributed 16 steals and 5 assists this season.

In the process of getting used to college life, the freshmen have also bonded as a class. Fluegge revealed he actually keeps a list of movies on his iPhone for freshman movie nights.