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Polomen End Season on Down Note

Losses to Brown Keep Harvard Out of Easterns and Without Ivy Championship


There he was. Elevated over the water with his hand rocking like a lacrosse stick--back and forth, back and forth in hypnotic slow motion.

Finally the ball sailed off his fingertips, through the air as every head turned towards the goal and watched the ball bounce off the back netting.

The deathly silence was broken, the Brown crowd exploded. That would be the last straw for the Harvard men's water polo team--its season was finally over.

It just doesn't get harder than that. After a season embedded in a cloud of "what ifs" and "almosts", the Crimson was given a final dagger in the heart by losing its final game, 12-11, with no time remaining on the clock in overtime of the deciding match of the Ivy League Championships.

"It was a battle," Harvard coach Don Benson '88 said. "The finish was shocking--a most unbelievable and devastating way to have a season conclude."

If that wasn't bad enough, to lose to Brown of all teams was like pouring lemon juice on the open wound.

Just a week earlier, the Bears had destroyed the Crimson's hopes of an Eastern Championship berth with a 10-8 win at Brown.

Harvard wanted another shot at Brown, and it even disposed of No. 18 Princeton (13-8) in the semifinal round of the Ivy Tournament in order to get that prime payback opportunity.

Harvard went up early in the match, 3-1, off three goals by freshman Dror Bar-Ziv. Back and forth action persisted throughout the entire match, until Harvard broke free with a seemingly comfortable 9-7 lead going into the final quarter.

The Bears tied things up and sent the game into overtime where the ping-pong match persisted.

"It felt like a one-goal game back and forth," sophomore Mike Zimmerman said. "We played strong defense and had a very solid offense. We did everything pretty well as a team."

Zimmerman, the Crimson's leading scorer, did what he has been doing all season long, he took control and put the Crimson on top, 10-9, with only six seconds left in the overtime period.

Brown wouldn't die as it tied it all up at 10 and thus sent the game into the whirlwind second overtime where Harvard found the end of its rope.

The entire season flashed before the players eyes in that final second. Each game was a battle. With only 12 players on its roster to start the year, the Crimson was battling its own demons as well as its opponents.

"On many nights, we did not have enough people to scrimmage," Benson said. "There were a number of guys with not much collegiate experience. But we contended in every game."

Take one look at the schedule and you'll realize that the team did much more than that.

It beat nationally ranked teams (including two wins over Princeton); and when it couldn't find the exact recipe for a "w", it certainly gave teams a run for their money.

In spite of its youth, Harvard surprised many critics this season with its 15-8 record, but there is another story.

When the ball sailed into the back of the net, bringing the 1996 season to a bitter close, the real story was told on the faces of the players. For everyone, it was simply a battle--a character builder.

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