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Nothing seems to be going right for the Harvard men’s water polo team, which came up short yet again on Friday night, suffering a 7-5 loss to No. 5 MIT.
Harvard (1-11) came into the match as the underdog and had not seen a win since Sept. 20, but last year, the Crimson dealt the Engineers their only loss in MIT’s newly-constructed Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center.
The Engineers (15-3) had not lost since Sept. 26, including a shocking 10-9 overtime upset of No. 4 Brown.
While Harvard had scored 70 goals entering the game, MIT more than doubled that with 153. But after they dove into the pool together, the teams found themselves in a fierce battle.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Crimson trailed 6-3. With 3:46 left in the game, Engineer Bruce DiBello scored MIT’s fourth consecutive unanswered goal. Although it may have looked as though Harvard had given up, in the final minute, the Crimson showed that it was not finished just yet.
With only 31 seconds left to go, junior John Lynch fired a shot at the MIT goal that bounced off the left post, hit Engineer Grady Snyder’s head and sailed into the goal.
Then, in the final eight seconds, junior captain Rick Offsay put the ball into the left side of the net.
Harvard may have climbed out of the pool with a loss, but the players couldn’t help but be satisfied with the way they competed and eager for their upcoming rematch with MIT on Friday in Blodgett Pool.
“That was one of the better games we’ve played,” Offsay said. “Next Friday, we fully expect to beat them.”
Had the game been only 21 minutes long, Harvard might have had a better chance. MIT dominated the third quarter and took full advantage of the breakdowns within the Crimson game plan.
The Engineers scored three goals in four minutes, two of which came from Dan Jacobs within a matter of 60 seconds. Harvard struggled to stop him and watched as Jacobs, while fighting off a defender with one hand, whipped his other arm around his body and put the ball into the net without even looking.
The Crimson’s lone goal in the third quarter came from Offsay with 3:31 left after he was fed the ball by freshman Mike Garcia.
“There were just a few possessions where our team defense broke down and MIT scored,” sophomore goalie Robbie Burmeister said. “I think that our half-court defense was great. It was just those few breakdowns that came from MIT’s counterattack that really gave us trouble.”
Both teams started the game well. The Crimson and the Engineers shared the ball equally, but MIT was able to get on the scoreboard first, with Engineers Alexei Zykov and DiBello each tallying goals.
But the Harvard offense soon settled in and was able to fool the MIT defense with its passing game, enabling an open Garcia to score with 1:31 left.
In the second quarter, Harvard tied the game at two with a goal from Lynch.
The Crimson had failed to take advantage of the first scoring opportunity it was given when Jacobs was sidelined for an MIT penalty.
Harvard did not repeat its mistake when Engineer Kevin Amendt was ejected with 4:13 left in the half. Just 11 seconds later, Lynch fired the ball into the back of the net past the MIT goalie.
But the Engineers answered with a goal of their own to regain the lead before halftime.
One piece of good news for the Crimson was Burmeister’s return. He had been sidelined with a stress fracture in his shin, but was effective in his first game back and held off the strong MIT offense well.
All signs of injury are gone and Burmeister said he feels no pain while in the water.
In addition to being Harvard’s first home game of the season. Friday’s rematch is a league contest, meaning there is more at stake for the Crimson than just earning its second win.
After Friday’s performance, Harvard is confident it can beat the Engineers.
“That was probably one of the best, if not the best, games we have played this season,” Burmeister said. “I definitely think that when we play MIT again, the outcome will be different.”
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