In the opening game of its conference season and its first match played on the East Coast since spring break, the Harvard women’s water polo team was able to fight to a victory against George Washington.
The Crimson (12-13, 1-0 CWPA South) outpaced the Colonials (9-12, 0-2), 10-8, on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
Sophomore Yoshi Andersen led the Harvard offense with six goals in the game, pacing the team throughout the match toward the victory. When the George Washington defense shifted in order to cover Andersen and smother her scoring ability, senior Shayna Price came up with two crucial goals for the Crimson.
“With our offense, you get a lot of movement, and we do a lot to move people around so if the defense picks one person to stop, that person is going to have an opportunity,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “Yoshi is a very talented player… She exploded early and kept getting open and putting those shots away.”
Andersen leads the team with 53 goals on the season. She also leads Harvard in assists, recording 26 so far this year.
“[Being successful] is definitely about being mentally prepared and being completely immersed in the game by not letting anything distract you,” Andersen said. “Everybody needs to be running on all cylinders for anybody to be scoring goals because everyone needs to be on the same page, and that helps us a lot to score.”
The game started out in tight competition with the Crimson taking a slim 3-2 lead in the first quarter after two quick goals by Andersen. The Colonials countered with three goals, but Harvard answered and was up two goals at the half.
Both Harvard and George Washington recorded three goals in the third quarter, allowing the Crimson to keeps its lead, but the Colonials were knocking on the door, scoring back to back goals and coming within one with less than eight minutes remaining in the match.
“Our defense is a little bit lacking still,” Andersen said. “We still don’t get back to help others when one of the players on the other team beats us. Sometimes we are a little bit late getting to the ball, which allows the other team extra time to get composed and ultimately score on us.”
With Harvard’s lead shrunken down to one goal, Price came up with the final goal of the game to give the Crimson the cushion that would ultimately seal the victory.
Freshmen Melissa Balding and Zoe Osborne rounded out the rest of Harvard’s offense, adding a goal apiece. Balding led the team in steals with three, followed by classmate Michelle Martinelli who had two takeaways throughout the competition.
Martinelli and Osborne topped the assists for the team on the day, each aiding two goals. Freshman Lexi Del Toro, Balding, and junior Victoria Frager also all had an assist.
Junior Ariel Dukes started in goal and remained between the poles for all 32 minutes of competition, recording seven saves. Dukes has accumulated 166 saves this season, leading the team in starts in goal and saves this year.
This was the Crimson’s first game back from its spring break trip to California in which the team went 3-7.
“I think we did a really good job of pressing,” Andersen said. “We encountered a lot of hard pressing teams while we were in California, so we tried to bring the same intensity that we came up against in California. I think we were a little more patient [Saturday] than we have been in the past which we really needed to be careful about in California because those teams were very fast and strong.”
Saturday’s game also marked the opening of the conference season for the team, which has increased its importance this year because teams must now qualify to reach the Eastern Divisional Championships as opposed to receiving an automatic bid as has been the case in previous years.
“We have been talking all year about getting experience and building on our play,” Minnis said. “In the first part of our season we were looking at getting on the same page and working together. Now we are really working hard at getting better….everything is a process, and I think we accomplished that first step yesterday.”
—Staff writer Ariel Smolik-Valles can be reached at email@example.com.