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The No. 20 Harvard men's water polo team opened its Collegiate Water Polo Association season with two wins at MIT on Saturday, and sought to ride the Red Line back home to a 3-0 league start.
Unfortunately, No. 12 UMass was waiting at the other end. An eight-goal performance from junior Mike Foley derailed Harvard's plans of early-season perfection.
The Crimson (5-4, 2-1 CWPA) lost to UMass, 13-8, at Blodgett Pool in Saturday's nightcap. The loss, Harvard's third to UMass in this young season, completed a whirlwind three-game, two-venue day for Harvard.
"I'd say that the team was disappointed at the end of this one, but not at all disheartened," said junior Mike Crosby. "We played a stronger match against them than we did the other times, especially on defense."
Earlier, the Crimson breezed past Boston College, 18-5, and defeated host MIT, 17-13, at Alumni Pool.
UMass 13, Harvard 8
Two minutes later, however, UMass found the back of the net. In a sign of things to come, Foley flipped the ball behind his back and past junior netminder Gresham Bayne to tie the game at 1-1.
That goal ignited a 5-0 UMass run that spanned seven minutes. Four of those goals belonged to Foley.
Harvard scored two goals in the second quarter, including a penalty shot, but Harvard entered the half facing a 7-3 deficit.
"We made a few mistakes that played right into their hands," said Harvard Coach Jim Floerchinger. "UMass is a team that's very good in its counterattack and not as good in the half-court, but we didn't play at the right pace to take advantage of that."
Harvard's errors after halftime were far more basic. After Crosby converted a pass from Cheng to cut the deficit to three early in the third, a number of offensive miscues kept the Crimson from getting even closer.
Foley stole an outlet pass and scored again while the entire Harvard side set up for an offensive possession that never materialized.
Two minutes later, the Crimson was awarded a four-meter penalty shot, and Istvan Zollei found the back of the net.
Unfortunately for Harvard, the goal was negated because Zollei failed to release the ball on the whistle.
UMass capitalized on these miscues to outscore Harvard, 5-2, in the third frame to add to its lead.
"It was the third game of the day," Crosby explained. "After a while, it will get to you. They had played two other games as well, but got to rest their first-stringers more."
Conversely, Harvard's game with MIT had been an actual contest, so there was little opportunity to rest players.
As has been the trend in games against its in-state rival, Harvard began to show signs of life in the fourth quarter. Senior Grant Garrigues scored his second goal of the game off a touch pass from Fisher, who also had two goals in the contest.
Harvard's defense held UMass to a lone goal from Foley, and the Crimson outscored the Minutemen in the fourth, 3-1.
The Crimson can find some solace in the fact that, unlike in past fourth--quarter comebacks, the Crimson prospered against UMass' first string. In the past, UMass had pulled its starters once the game was in hand.
"This fourth was legitimate," said Crosby. "It'll be interesting to see what happens once we meet and it's our first game of the day," he added, alluding to the fatigue factor.
Bayne and sophomore Paul Tselentis split time in goal, and both performed well. Bayne racked up eight saves in the first half, and Tselentis stopped three shots in the second.
"That was planned, and I think it works well," Floerchinger said. "We've got two guys in goal who a lot of teams would love to have as their 'A' goalie, and we're lucky to be able to use them the way we can."
On Wednesday, the Crimson will take on Exeter and MIT. The team will then take head to New Jersey for the Princeton Invitational, where they will compete with the elite of the CWPA's Southern division
Harvard 17, MIT 13
MIT outscored Harvard, 5-3, in the second quarter to reduce the halftime deficit to three, but that was as close as they would get. Crosby scored four goals, while sophomore driver Mike Masterson contributed three goals and three assists to pace the Crimson.
Tselentis stopped 12 shots for Harvard.
Harvard 18, BC 5
Zollei scored four goals and Crosby had three, including a penalty shot, to lead a balanced and varied offensive attack.
Bayne collected 12 saves in goal.
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