Following a successful showing at the Harvard Invitational last weekend, where the team swept all four of its games, the Harvard men’s water polo team (18-5, 3-2 CWPA) traveled to the west for the Rodeo Tournament in Southern California.
The tournament was a mixed bag for the Crimson. The team started the tournament with two close losses to No. 20 Loyola Marymount (8-13, 2-1 WWPA) and No. 9 UC Davis (18-4, 4-0), their first consecutive losses of the season. However, No. 10 Harvard responded strongly, posting two dominant wins against Fresno Pacific (8-15, 1-5) and No. 20 Santa Clara (13-16, 2-5).
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 14, HARVARD 13
In the first matchup of the Rodeo Tournament, the final result wasn’t decided until the final minute, where Loyola Marymount scored to secure a 14-13 victory. The loss snapped the Crimson’s four game win streak. Senior attacker Noah Harrison led the team with four goals, notching his 11th hat trick for the season; his three steals also led the team.
Senior defender Dan Stevens along with freshmen attackers Austin Sechrest and Charlie Owens scored two goals each for Harvard. Senior attacker Joey Colton provided an all around effort, collecting four assists, two swipes, and a field block.
“The first loss was the toughest loss for us for the weekend,” junior captain Harry Tafur said. “LMU is a good team. It was the first game of the tournament so we had to adjust to a different style of play [from the previous tournament]. We made some mistakes that they capitalized on; we had the opportunities to win but we didn’t put them away.”
UC DAVIS 7, HARVARD 6
The second game of the tournament was very similar to the first, as the Crimson fell by one in another tightly contested match. Both teams came out firing from the onset of the game, finding themselves tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter. However, while UC Davis’ attack maintained its firepower, Harvard’s faltered, and the Crimson entered halftime trailing 6-4.
Harvard clamped down on defense in the third quarter, holding the Aggies scoreless and scoring a goal of their own to end the quarter trailing only 6-5. The Crimson scored again in the fourth quarter; however, UC Davis responded by scoring a goal of their own and eventually holding on for a 7-6 win.
Harrison and sophomore attacker Grayson Judge led Harvard with two goals each. Sophomore attacker Nick Bunn and Sechrest scored one goal apiece as well. Sophomore goalie Anthony Ridgley’s 10 saves led the Crimson’s defensive efforts.
“The UC Davis game is becoming a bit of a rivalry game because we play each other every year and the games are always close,” sophomore attacker Nathan Ondracek said. “I feel like it was a good experience for our team because we got to play 4 full quarters either up by one or down by one, which is amazing experience going forward for the rest of the season.”
HARVARD 18, FRESNO PACIFIC 8
“The coaches were proud we battled for four quarters in the first two games; we just missed a few things that could have brought it together for us” Ondracek said. “We needed to clean up a few mistakes. We need to play our game and play Harvard water polo.”
With those words from the coaches following their losses, Harvard responded in a big way, beating Fresno State 18-8 in a game that the Crimson controlled from the beginning. The 18 goals were a season high for the team. Six different players scored in the first quarter, helping Harvard get out to an early 6-1 lead. Harvard added seven more goals in the second quarter, going into the half with a 13-1 advantage.
While the Fresno Pacific attacked picked up in the second half, it never threatened the Crimson, who went on to win 18-8. The team was led in scoring by Ondracek’s three goals. Freshman goalie Nikhil Suri led the defense with seven saves.
HARVARD 12, SANTA CLARA 7
In the final game of the tournament, Harvard, led by 4 goals apiece from junior utility Colin Chiapello and sophomore attacker Nick Bunn, beat Santa Clara 12-7. The win was the Crimson’s seventh against a ranked opponent this season.
With early goals from Chiapello, Bunn, and Ondracek, Harvard raced out to an early 3-1 lead, eventually extending its lead to 8-2 as the teams headed into halftime. By riding the hot hands of Chiapello and Bunn, the Crimson continued its attack in the second half, going on to win the game 12-7.
“In the last two games, we were hungry to get a win,” Tafur said. “It had been a long time since we lost; I don’t think we had lost back to back games all season. People were motivated to get out of that losing streak and we played team ball and stepped up defensively. Both games we were up by significant margins at the half and we kept the intensity up for four quarters.”
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