The Harvard women’s water polo team wrapped up its 10 game California road trip with losses to two top-ranked teams.
UC Santa Barbara 12, Harvard 9
Rounding out its West Coast tour, the Crimson (11-13, 0-1 Ivy) came close but could not close the door against the No. 16 Gauchos (9-11).
“I think we really wanted to beat a top twenty team, but I think we worked really hard and gave it our all,” co-captain Shayna Price said. “Playing West Coast teams makes us better in our all-around play because it makes us more aggressive and more physical. We learned what it takes to be a top water polo program.”
With the loss, the team ended its spring break trip 3-7.
UCLA 18, Harvard 7
Facing off against the No. 2 ranked Bruins (18-2), the Crimson knew that the team was in for tough competition.
“When you schedule a team like UCLA you’re scheduling it for a couple reasons,” Minnis said. “The atmosphere of playing there is awesome, having the opportunity to see where they’re at and maybe see[ing] things they do that we don’t do—how they warm up, what they are doing on offense, and what they are doing on defense—that we can take back with us.”
UCLA jumped out to a quick lead at Spieker Aquatics Center and did not look back. Junior attacker Emily Donohoe led the Bruins with four goals while sophomore Rachel Fattal and senior Becca Dorst also finished the game with hat tricks.
By halftime, the Bruins were up 9-3, and put in backup goaltender Alex Musselman for redshirt junior starter and U.S. National Team member Sami Hill. With Hill out of the net, the Crimson outscored UCLA, 3-2, in the third quarter.
Despite Harvard’s brief offensive push, the Bruins responded with seven goals in the final eight minutes of play.
“I think it’s really all about the mistakes we make,” Price said. “Whether it’s not getting up on our legs when we shoot or making a pass not perfect, these are the things that top teams are going to capitalize on and take the ball the other way. It’s a lot of little details that we need to work on to play perfect water polo.”
The Harvard offense was led by senior Jelena Cyr, who tallied two goals in the game. Freshmen Melissa Balding, Zoe Osbourne, Michelle Martinelli, junior Kalina Grabb, and Price all added a goal in the loss. Five different Crimson players tallied assists in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior goaltender Ariel Dukes had five saves and two steals in goal for Harvard. Sophomore Charlotte Hendrix, Price, Martinelli and classmate Lexi Del Toro each recorded a steal.
“We learned how to play more as a team,” Price said. “When we were playing well we were looking out for each other. It’s hard to be a top seeded team and play individually. This trip we learned more team offense and team defense and how to really work for each other and not against each other.”
Although the Crimson’s effort came up short during both games, the team is not disappointed, as facing tough west coast competition will prepare them well for the upcoming conference season against fellow east coast competitors.
“The trip is a great opportunity to grow as a team,” Minnis said. “We really focus on using this as a training trip to get better before we face our conference because those are the games that count for us so I think the fact that we had a lot of time in the pool playing a lot of water polo was a good thing for us.”
—Staff writer Ariel Smolik-Valles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.