Heading into Thanksgiving break, with The Game behind us and some of the more noteworthy spring sports—basketball, swimming, hockey, etc.—just beginning their seasons, The Back Page is taking a look back at the semester that was in some of Harvard’s major sports.
After winning the Ivy League title in 2011, Tim Murphy’s squad was expected to take the Ancient Eight crown again in 2012.
Through the squad’s first 23 quarters, that prediction looked to come true as the squad took a 34-10 lead into the fourth quarter at Princeton. After a series of blocked kicks, turnovers, and clutch play from Tiger quarterbacks that led to Princeton’s surprising 39-34 comeback victory, the Crimson looked to be down and out.
However, two Tigers losses to Cornell and Penn led to a winner-take-all contest in Philadelphia for the Ivy League title between Harvard and Penn. The Crimson dropped that game, 30-21, as the Quakers mustered over 200 yards against Harvard’s No. 2 ranked run defense in the FCS.
Although the Crimson rebounded to defeat Yale, 34-24, for the sixth straight time in The Game, the team underwhelmed despite various statistical accolades. The team had the best offense in the Ivy League and the second-best defense, with seniors quarterback Colton Chapple and running back Treavor Scales combining for 46 touchdowns and 4226 total yards of offense. Chapple eclipsed 350 yards through the air three times and amassed 448 yards with five touchdowns in the loss to Princeton.
On defense, the team mustered an FCS-best 78 sacks and shut down Cornell’s air attack—led by NFL prospect Jeff Mathews—that amassed over 440 yards against both Penn and Princeton. However, despite the two road losses, Harvard’s come-from-behind victory over Yale represented a fitting capstone to the tremendous final seasons of Scales and Chapple.
Men's Water Polo:
After bringing in a freshman class that accounted for 159 goals and 128 assists between them, the Harvard men’s water polo team notched its first nine-game winning streak since 2002 before qualifying for the CWPA Eastern Division Championships—a preseason goal of the squad. After losing to the first and second seeds earlier in the tournament, the Crimson took out third-seeded MIT in its final match of the year.
Freshman Ben Zepfel, who contributed 70 goals and 9 assists, was named to the CWPA Northern Division first team and thrice won Northern Division player of the week. The team loses only one senior next year—Antone Martinho—and with a youth-laden squad will have more experience under its belt as it tries to improve on its tournament performances.
For the fourth year in a row, the Harvard women’s volleyball team finished in the middle of the Ivy League pack, taking fifth place in the Ivy League with a 7-7 record and 26 sets for and 26 sets against.
The team bounced back from a seven-match losing streak early in the season to take six of the next eight contests and took two of its last three matches—including its final game to send its seniors out with a victory. It was the fourth time in a row the Crimson finished either fifth or sixth in the Ivy League.
In her senior season, Taylor Docter starred for Harvard. Docter, who was named to the All-Ivy first team, led the Crimson in kills and had a career-high 12 double-doubles while setting career highs in total digs and kills. She is the first player in eight years to be named to the All-Ivy League first team and ranks seventh all-time in Crimson history with 980 kills.
In 2012, the Harvard men’s golf team got a new head coach in Kevin Rhoads. Rhoads, who previously only coached the women’s team, coached both this fall. After graduating two starters from last year in Mark Pollak '12 and Tony Grillo '12—who held the four highest single-season scoring averages in team history—the team filled the void with incoming freshmen Un Cho and Rohan Ramath.
The team improved throughout the season as it adjusted to fill the void, improving from a 14th-place finish at the Windon Memorial tournament to finish 5th at the MacDonald Cup, held at Yale, in its penultimate tournament of the fall semester.
After a solid season in 2011 where then-sophomore Bonnie Hu won the Ivy League individual championship, the Harvard women’s golf team continued to improve the following fall. The group incorporated a new assistant coach in Claire Sheldon ’10, a captain of the team when she was a Harvard senior.
In a GoCrimson article, Rhoads called this team “the strongest yet for the Harvard women’s program” and the team backed up his comments by finishing with the highest ever national ranking in program history. They were No. 46 nationally and No. 12 in the East Region, both program records as the smaller team—five players were either injured or took leaves of absence during the school year—twice finished in the top five of the three tournaments it contested, finishing above No. 35 Texas in the other.
After winning the Ivy League championship in 2011, the women’s soccer team finished fourth in the Ancient Eight in 2012. While sophomore forward Meg Cascells-Hamby led the team with six goals, the team managed only one goal in back-to-back league losses to Dartmouth and Princeton.
The team held all but one of its last ten opponents to two goals or less and had solid defense all year, posting six shutouts—including in three of the final five games. The team will lose a senior class to graduation this fall that finished its career having notched 39 victories and two Ancient Eight titles during their time as Crimson.
Just three years removed from capturing the Ancient Eight championship, the men’s soccer team struggled for the second consecutive year under coach Carl Junot.
The team did not win a game in Ivy League play for the second straight year despite losing only one game all season against a team by more than two goals—against Connecticut in nonconference play. The team struggled in overtime with a 1-3-3 record, but did not give up more than three goals to any opponent but the Huskies.
In conference play, the Crimson took better shots—45 percent of its shots were on goal compared to 42 percent overall—and the team took more shots from outside in generating fourteen shots per game against competitors. Still, three members of the team were named to the All-Ivy first team, with co-captain Scott Prozeller making it outright and fellow co-captain Richard Smith and freshman Jake Freeman garnering honorable mention honors.
Harvard field hockey received a new coach in 2012, hiring Tjerk van Herwaarden in the offseason. The Crimson finished tied for last in the Ivy League in van Herwaarden’s first year, finishing 1-7 in League play.
The team lost a pair of one-goal decisions to close the year. Harvard had two players, co-captain Kim Goh and sophomore Caitlin Rea named to the second team All-Ivy unit. Goh finishes her career having appeared in every game the Crimson played over the four years. In her second year with the team, Rea led the group in scoring and her 47 shots (27 on goal) led the team. In the offseason, the team will need to replace co-captain goaltender Cynthia Tassopoulos, who is third all-time in Harvard saves with 540 for her career.