After a wild Saturday morning drive to Brooklyn for the Eastern League Tournament, the Harvard men's water polo team didn't need any more unexpected excitement. But the day was just beginning.
"We got up at six, and we drove to St. Francis. We got totally lost and we showed up at 12:50 p.m. to play at 1 p.m. with no warm-up," co-captain Chip Hellar said.
After the already long day, the Crimson defeated MIT and Boston College and lost to St. Francis, in three high-scoring games.
Although the Crimson could not afford spare time to rid themselves of any post-car ride stiffness, the unexpected six-hour journey didn't faze the Crimson squad, as it immediately dismantled MIT, 21-12.
But the real excitement was just beginning.
Entering the next game against St. Francis, the Crimson players knew they were in for a battle. St. Francis is known to field players from Eastern Europe, where water polo has gained much more prestige than it has in the U.S.
By the game's end, the Crimson was both disappointed by its 28-19 loss and amazed at the extraordinarily large number of points accumulated by both teams in the game.
"The game against St. Francis was the wildest game I've ever seen," Hellar said. "Usually if someone scores above 15, it's a blowout. I've never been involved in a game like this."
In the end, St. Francis' ability to come through with more two-pointers made the difference in the outcome.
The Crimson rebounded with a 14-8 victory over Boston College in its final game of the day and was left with an array of emotions. Although frustrated and disappointed, the experienced squad is ready to put their mistakes behind them and work to improve for a successful season.
"We were frustrated by the loss (to St. Francis)," Hellar said. "They were a good team, but we really wanted to win. They beat us, but it wasn't easy for us to deal with. At no point did our team give up.
With seven seniors returning from last year, the squad is beginning to gel as a team.
"The things that we have worked on are beginning to show in the games," Hellar said. "I think we're starting to feel like a lot of the fundamentals are really coming together."
Now the Crimson is preparing for next weekend's Air Force Academy Invitational, where the squad will face off against three Top 15 teams.
If the Crimson can fulfill the loads of talent displayed by the returnees, along with its strong incoming freshman, the squad has the potential for a successful year.
"Without a doubt, I think this team is one of the best Harvard teams that we've had," sophomore standout Ed Chen said.
And now that the Crimson knows to expect the unexpected, it should be ready for anything.