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Life after Zimmerman wasn't so bad after all.
The Harvard men's water polo team came into the 1994 season with its best player from the previous squad, Jeff Zimmerman '94, lost to graduation. The team's leading scorer in 1993 with 98 goals and 36 assists, Zimmerman had most certainly been The Man on one of the rising teams in the East.
This past fall, however, The Man wouldn't be sitting at the two-meter point any more, waiting to plunk the ball into the net. How would Harvard survive?
Just fine, thank you. The Crimson bounced back with a 14-11 record, a third-place finish in the Ivy Tournament and finished seventh at the Eastern Championships--a tournament which the '93 squad didn't even qualify for.
Harvard's main thorns throughout the year were Brown and UMass. The water polo season consists almost entirely of a bunch of tournaments, so it is common for teams to face each other three times. That's exactly what Harvard did with Brown and UMass, and the Crimson ended up losing all six of those contests.
For the most part, the meetings were close--only two were decided by more than two goals, and one was in overtime--but Harvard could not win against these perennial Eastern powers. And third place doesn't even get a cigarette.
Though Harvard couldn't beat the top teams, however, it could certainly could whip the bottom of the barrel. There were the bi-annual decimations of MIT (two 15-1 scores), a sweep of B.C. (11-9 and 14-8) and wins over Yale (15-10) and Dartmouth (18-9) in the Ivy Championships.
So as the North Division Championships rolled around in late October, the Crimson was pretty much entrenched in the middle of the pack--a spot that would not have been good enough to make Easterns. A 10-8 loss to Army in the North Divisionals kept Harvard out of Easterns a year ago, and the team was determined not to be a repeat no-show at the prestigious tournament.
Harvard ensured that with a 14-8 opening-round win over St. Francis, a team that had beaten Harvard earlier in the year. That put the Crimson in the winners' bracket of the North Divisionals, which was good enough to make Easterns.
The tournament itself was a bit of a disappointment. Harvard, the host team, was seeded seventh and finished seventh, but hoped for a little more. In the first round Harvard faced powerful Navy, losing 19-10. That pitted Harvard against Queens in the losers' bracket, a team that the Crimson beat in its first game of the year.
But this time the New Yorkers would prevail, tallying twice in the final minute to win, 12-10. As a result, Harvard faced Villanova to fight for the seventh seed, a battle that the Crimson won, 12-8.
"We were hoping to finish in the top for," first-year Harvard coach Don Benson '88 said. "But finishing seventh is a big step forward from last year."
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