Despite a strong start to the 2014 season, the Harvard women’s water polo team could not continue its winning ways towards the end, finishing 15-20 overall and 2-3 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Southern Division.
The beginning of the year saw the Crimson come out of the gate strong against Villanova, Iona, and the Virginia Military Institute, opening up the season at 4-0. At the end of the Princeton Invite, Harvard was 5-1, the program’s best start in three years.
On March 15, the team took its annual trip to California to match up against some of the top squads in the nation. The Crimson ended the trip 3-7, dropping games to teams such as UCLA, San Diego State, and Cal Lutheran. Although the record was not perfect, the team was able to come out of the trip with valuable insight into how to match up against the challenging East Coast competition it would face later in the season.
“UCLA was the number two team in the country, and we stayed with them,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “I thought it was a good trip for us because we got better every day, and we were able to use it as a training trip to focus on the games later in the season.”
Coming back from the California trip, the Crimson recorded significant victories against Mercyhurst and George Washington, though sandwiching those wins were losses to Brown, Bucknell, and Princeton. Over the course of the year, Harvard matched up against Bucknell three times and dropped all three decisions. The Tigers, which were ranked as high as ninth in the country over the course of the season, were also a frequent opponent of the Crimson and were able to defeat Harvard both times they played.
Although initially unsure if it would advance to the CWPA Championships based on its rank, the Crimson did manage to earn a berth and went on to play both Princeton and Bucknell in the tournament. Dropping both games, Harvard fell into the seventh-place game but won the contest against Connecticut College to finish seventh in the tournament.
“We definitely did not want to be in the situation that we ended up [in], because we thought we could be better than that,” senior co-captain Shayna Price said. “But, overall, we gave a lot of heart even though some of the calls didn’t end up going our way.”
Price and two-meter Jelena Cyr were the two senior anchors of the team this year. Having been on the team for all four years that Minnis has been with the Crimson program, Price and Cyr’s absence means next year will be the first time Minnis will coach a Harvard team without them.
“Having senior leadership is always important to a team, and this year’s seniors were different than ones I have had in the past.” Minnis said. “This class has been with me the whole time. Everything I’ve done here, they have been a part of, so they really understand the traditions we have started here.”
Seven rookies joined the team this season and contributed significantly throughout the season. Freshman Melissa Balding was named CWPA Rookie of the Year, ending the season with 45 goals and 13 steals. Two Harvard players received all-conference honors, as sophomore Yoshi Andersen was awarded first-team accolades and Price received second-team recognition. Andersen spearheaded the Crimson’s offense throughout the year, scoring a team-leading 72 goals. Price was not far behind, scoring 58 in her senior campaign.
Although the season did not turn out the way Harvard expected, the team was still able to take away valuable lessons to build upon in the future.
“I think this team played with a lot of heart and overcame a lot of adversity this year that other teams don’t have to deal with,” Minnis said. “I think they did a really good job sticking together through the good times and the bad times.”
—Staff writer Ariel Smolik-Valles can be reached at email@example.com.