Last weekend, the no. 15 Harvard men’s water polo team (23-7, 8-3 CWPA) battled no. 13 Princeton in a pivotal matchup, with both teams vying for the Northeast Water Polo Conference championship.
The game was a back-and-forth affair and remained 10-10 after regulation and 11-11 after the first overtime. In the second sudden-death frame, though, freshman Dennis Blyashov ended the event. The attacker juked a defender and skimmed a shot across the water and into the net.
That play proved the difference, as the Crimson topped the Tigers (22-6, 8-3) to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. This season marked the second-straight year that Harvard has won the title.
Blyashov has been an integral part of Harvard’s offense. The Carlsbad, California, native was recently awarded the NWPC Rookie of the Year and named to the 2017 NWPC All-Conference First Team.
Blyashov has amassed 88 goals on the year, leading the team. His tenacious play has landed him numerous weekly honors. In the Crimson’s opening weekend, Blyashov scored five goals and added six assists at the Bruno Classic, winning him Northeast Water Polo Rookie of the Week honors.
Blyashov went on to win a second Rookie of the Week after scoring eight goals, dishing out four assists, and making three steals, leading Harvard to three victories against Salem International, George Washington, and Gannon.
In October, the attacker captured his third Rookie of the Week, scoring 15 goals overall, including seven in a 13-9 win over Iona. Later that month, Blyashov won Co-Player of the Week honors after a strong weekend in which he scored 14 goals, contributing to the wins against Johns Hopkins, No. 19 Pomona-Pitzer, and George Washington. In later games, Blyashov landed his fourth Rookie of the Week after netting 12 goals.
In the NEWPC Conference tournament, Blyashov helped Harvard best Iona and No. 15 St. Francis. Against the Gaels, he scored six goals; against the Terriers, he added another three.
His most important performance, however, came against Princeton. Besides tallying the winning score, Blyashov added three more goals during the contest.