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.
Harvard will be looking to harness more of the energy pictured above, after junior forward Ryan Donato's goal at Colgate last weekend.
The last time the Harvard men’s hockey team played at the University of Minnesota, Jimmy Vesey ’16 hadn’t won his Hobey Baker yet.
In Jan., 2016, the Crimson faced off against the Gophers in the championship game of the Mariucci Classic—Minnesota’s four-school invitational named for its raucous home rink. History was not on Harvard’s side. In fact, in the four meetings between the two teams since the Crimson’s NCAA championship win against them in 1989, the Gophers had always come away with victory. Harvard’s record in the Mariucci Classic overall was relatively unimpressive, having never finished better than last.
The teams’ most recent showdown saw leads gained and lost. The Crimson jumped ahead, 2-0, by the second period, but before long it stared down a 3-2 deficit with less than a minute left in regulation. The Harvard icemen rose to the occasion. Two-time captain Kyle Criscuolo ’16 played the hero, tying the game at 19:26 of the third frame and scoring the overtime winner.
The No. 13/11 Crimson (2-3-0, 2-3-0 ECAC) will need some heroics to get past the No. 7/6 Gophers (7-4-1, 3-2-1 Big Ten) this weekend. In 69 years and 29 games of series history, Harvard has never beaten Minnesota on the road in regulation. The Gophers are coming off a frustrating weekend against conference rival Michigan, scoring 10 goals in two games but earning just one point from their offensive efforts. They are certainly primed for a bounceback, however, with undeniable offensive talent in sophomore forward Rem Pitlick, who boasts a team-leading 14 points, and freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt, the 8th overall pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft. The keystone to this high-flying offensive unit is 2017 First Team All-American and Hobey Baker Finalist, junior Tyler Sheehy.
Minnesota’s firepower up front could present a particularly unique challenge for the Crimson: the Gophers play on an Olympic ice sheet—a wider surface encouraging more skating and providing more time for clever decision making with the puck. To adjust to the foreign dimensions, Harvard practiced on Wednesday at the local Belmont Hill School’s rink, which boasts an Olympic-sized surface.
All the hype about offensive firepower should not detract from both teams’ sturdy netminder play. The Crimson will also face one of the nation’s most experienced goaltenders in Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn (7-4-1, 2.39 GAA, .913 SV%), who is fresh off his Big Ten Goaltender of the Year campaign. The senior has backstopped the Gophers in every game of the season. Harvard is just as qualified in net, though. Tri-captain Merrick Madsen (2-3-0, 2.01 GAA, .913 SV%) is its last line of defense, and his performance will be crucial to the outcome of the weekend’s double-header.
All in all, the Crimson faces an uphill climb as it begins non-conference play and enters the thick of a nine-game road series. Trying to dig its way out of a sub-.500 start to the season, Harvard will need to generate more offense than it has to date, notching just 2.60 goals per game through five contests. This middling scoring pace (39th in NCAA) pales in comparison to last year’s dynamic offensive team, who averaged over four strikes per game.
This weekend should also be a nice homecoming for Crimson skaters Henry Bowlby, Benjamin Foley, Jacob Olson, and tri-captain Jake Horton, who are all local to the Minnesota area.
Here's all the best from your favorite Harvard athletes this past week:
6. “Congrats to Eli Dershwitz for winning gold for the U.S. at the Senior World Cup in Algeria this weekend! #GoCrimson” - Harvard Fencing (@goHFTweet)
And I thought my trip into Boston over the weekend was a journey to a faraway land. Oh well. Congrats Eli!
5. “Walked through some ruins in Pompeii followed by a hike up a volcano at Mt. Vesuvius. Just arrived in Rome.” - Marc Mangiacotti, Men’s Track and Field Coach (@MarcMangiacotti)
You know what they say Marc, when in Rome, walk through some ruins or hike up a volcano or something.
4. “Don’t worry, do what you’re suppose to do and all will fall into place” - Rio Haskett, Men’s Basketball (@MohTG_)
As finals loom on the horizon, I think we could all take a page from Rio’s book and try to calm down.
3. “A woman at the train station thought I was 19. Am I at that age yet where I should be happy that I look younger?" - Amanda Sobhy, Women’s Squash Alum (@itssobhytime)
That’s a good question, Amanda. A better one might be why was a random woman at the train station trying to guess your age?
2. “Imagine if all unhealthy food was healthy and vice versa. So eating right would be pizza, gummies, ice cream and fries. And a cheat meal would be...kale lol #ifonly #maybeinheaven #rehabthoughts” - Jeremy Lin, Men’s Basketball Alum (@JLin7)
A true jack of all trades. He doesn’t just hoop, he obviously still thinks deeply about the big issues in his free time. Thanks for this Jeremy, it really got the cranium cranking.
1. “I want stroke me as my walkup song but I don't think that will go over well” - Elizabeth Shively, Softball (@LizAShively)
Why would that not go over well, Elizabeth? I can’t see anything wrong with that plan whatsoever.
Junior Eli Dershwitz, in the midst of an impressive career of fencing at Harvard, is also an established prominent figure on the international stage. No stranger to world competitions, the Sherborn, Mass. native recently set out overseas searching for more glory.
Dershwitz competed in the Senior World Cup Algeria from Nov. 3-5, where, out of 132 fencers, he captured a gold medal in the sabre category for the United States. The medal was his second career gold on the world circuit.
The result propelled him to a sensational ranking of 10th in the world by the International Fencing Federation. In addition, Dershwitz is the youngest of the top 25 sabre fencers in the world.
In the three-day competition held in Algiers, Algeria, Dershwitz beat Russia’s Veniamin Reshetnikov in the semifinals, 15-14, and Italy’s Enrico Berre, 15-9, in the finals.
Dershwitz’s impressive line of achievements stretch well before his time at Harvard. In 2012, he won a silver medal at the Junior World Championships. In 2013, Dershwitz won gold at the Sosnoweic Junior World Cup. In 2014, he contributed to winning a bronze medal for the United States at the Junior World Championships and won the gold medal at the Budapest Junior World Cup.
In 2015, Derschwitz captured the gold at the Junior World Championships and followed up with a gold medal at the National Division I Championships. In 2016, he was named to the U.S. Olympic Team a finished 19th at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He became the seventh fencer in Crimson history to compete in the Olympics; at the age of 20, he was the youngest on the American team. In March of that year, he won his first grand prix medal.
In 2017, Dershwitz competed at the World Cup in Madrid, where he won a silver medal; this was his first individual medal on the world stage.
Dershwitz’s career at Harvard has been equally illustrious. As co-captain of the fencing team, he has already acquired first team All-Ivy and All-American honors in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. In his freshman year, he finished with an 84-14 record, including an impressive 15-0 performance at the Ivy League Round Robbins, leading to the Crimson’s Ivy League Title victory. At the NCAA Championships, he finished third.
In his sophomore year, Dershwitz finished with a 69-10 record in the regular season and became the Men’s Sabre Ivy League Champion. He earned a gold medal at the NCAA Regionals Championship, which qualified him for the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA Championships, Dershwitz bested his previous year’s performance, becoming the NCAA Champion in men’s sabre, becoming the first individual to win a title for Harvard since 2007.
Junior guard Corey Johnson will be the Crimson's top three-point threat in 2017-2018.
In a series that began on Sunday and will continue through the Crimson’s season opener on Nov. 10 against MIT, men’s basketball beat writer Stephen Gleason will look at Harvard’s 13 nonconference opponents. Coming in at No. 4 is Vermont.
No. 13: MIT
No. 12: Holy Cross
No. 11: Fordham
No. 10: Manhattan
No. 9: Massachusetts
No. 8: Wofford
No. 7: Northeastern
No. 6: George Washington
No. 5: Boston University
2017-2018 Matchup: Tuesday, January 2 at Lavietes Pavilion (7:00 p.m.)
2016-2017 Record: 29-6 overall, 16-0 America East Conference
2016-2017 Matchup: Vermont, 82, Harvard, 71
Head Coach: John Becker (7th season)
Key Returning Players: sophomore forward Anthony Lamb (was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman and provides length along the perimeter, also averaged 5.5 rebounds a season ago); redshirt senior forward Payton Henson (averaged 11.5 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds, will have to step up in an undersized Vermont frontcourt); senior guard Trae Bell-Haynes (the team’s quarterback on both ends of the floor, a lot of big game experience, on a list by Jay Bilas, along with Lamb, as one of the nation’s most underrated players)
Stat to Watch: 84: the number of days in between losses by the Catamounts a season ago; Vermont lost to Butler in December before reeling off 21 straight victories
Overview: Vermont caught the eyes of the nation a season ago after its 21-game winning streak. The Catamounts have a chance to be even better this season as John Becker returns his four top scorers from a season ago. This team is one of the nation’s top mid-majors and is facing a challenging nonconference schedule that includes Kentucky, Marquette, and Yale. Its matchup with the Crimson may be the best between two New England teams this season.
—Staff writer Stephen J. Gleason can be reached at email@example.com.