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The Harvard women’s water polo team began its West Coast swing with a burst of energy, but faded late, dropping three of its final four matches.
In addition to the talent of the California squads, the Crimson (6-10) faced a style of play the team does not usually encounter.
“Play changes on the West Coast because the refs allow for much more brutality,” sophomore Tina Codini said. “Our game plan has to change likewise because we have to be prepared to be pushed around by teams with bigger girls, and play tougher ourselves.”
“It’s a harder fight to even get down the pool, set up, get fouls and so on,” she added.
Claremont Colleges Tournament
Harvard exploded at the Claremont Colleges Tournament March 22 and 23, winning three-of-four—one game more than the squad had won all season.
On the opening day of competition, the Crimson posted a whopping 19 goals in two games, edging Santa Clara 9-8 before outlasting Claremont-Scripps 10-9.
Sophomore Teresa Codini notched more than half of Harvard’s goals on the day, finding the back of the net on 10 occasions—seven in the victory over the Athenas.
Of those seven, Teresa Codini saved the best—and most important—for last.
With 27 seconds remaining and the score knotted at nine, she took possession, reached back and let loose, beating the Claremont-Scripps keeper and wrapping up the victory.
Despite the positive results, the Crimson should never have been in a position to lose either matchup.
Harvard, with far more talent than either the Broncos or the Athenas, lost its focus and consequently needed to struggle for what should have been easy victories.
“The two close victories were wake-up calls,” captain Tiana Peterson said. “We eventually came back in the third and fourth quarters to win, which I believe is a big team accomplishment. It’s not easy to come from behind, but this team is tenacious and doesn’t give up easily.”
The Crimson’s only hiccup in the tournament came when it fell to Arizona State in Sunday’s first game.
Harvard managed to hold its own with the Sun Devils throughout, unlike their previous meeting during the first weekend of the season. On Feb. 16, the Crimson lost 8-2.
This time around, Harvard trailed by just one with under a minute remaining, but the squad was unable to mount a charge great enough to bring the score level and ultimately fell 8-6.
“Sometimes our team lapses from the state of unity that allows us to be great,” Tina Codini said. “I think we can build through this though, so that eventually we can play four straight quality quarters together.”
Freshman Sarah Kennifer led the way with two tallies.
“We let them get ahead in the first quarter and weren’t able to recover the three-goal deficit,” Peterson said. “Again, we learned our lesson about coming out strong and ready to play.”
Roaring back, Harvard handily brushed aside Occidental College 13-5 to close the tournament on a winning note.
As in games past in which the Crimson faced off against a weaker opponent, Harvard varied its lineup and experimented with new formations and plays in the water.
The Crimson opened up a six-goal lead on the Tigers and never looked back.
Though freshman Arin Keyser was the primary offensive weapon of the evening, scoring four goals, five different swimmers scored at least one goal.
Revisiting another opponent from the beginning of its season, Harvard was unable to keep up with No. 11 California-Santa Barbara’s talent and lost 9-3.
Though the margin of defeat was almost equal to the eight-goal decision the Crimson dropped in its Feb. 15 season opener, the tone of the game was not entirely the same.
Earlier in the year, the Gauchos had been able to rest their top lines while still maintaining a distinct edge over the top Harvard formations.
On this occasion, however, the Crimson managed to keep pressure on UCSB for the duration of the game, preventing the Gauchos from removing their top line as before.
“Santa Barbara is an extremely strong team,” Tina Codini said. “We started off very strong against them and forced them to keep their A-team in to hold our scoring down.”
Kennifer, sophomore Stephanie Lee and Teresa Codini scored for Harvard.
The results did not improve as the Crimson headed to Pomona, losing 7-4 to the Hens.
Keyser again led the Harvard attack, scoring twice.
Rather than being overpowered, the Crimson fell on account of mental lapses.
“We were not mentally prepared to play our strengths against a team that could have been easily beatable,” Tina Codini said. “I think that if we strengthen our mental game that we can beat most any team on the East Coast.”
Returning to more familiar territory, Harvard traveled to Providence to take on Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) foes Brown (10-4) and Connecticut College, falling to the Bears yet again, but brushing aside the Camels with ease.
Against Brown, the Crimson initially made a strong showing and entered halftime tied at five.
“Brown was dropping off our outside shooters, which enabled us to score,” Peterson said. “Then they changed their defense and started being much more physical, pressing us extremely hard, and we weren’t able to adjust.
“They changed their offense into a double set, which we weren’t expecting and only fixed too late,” she added.
The Bears’ defense clamped down, shutting out the previously potent Harvard offense.
At the other end of the pool, the Crimson surrendered four goals, falling 9-5.
“Brown stepped up the intensity and brutality during the second half that we just didn’t fight through,” Tina Codini said.The team’s passion was restored against Connecticut, as Harvard whaled on the Camels, winning 10-2.
As against Occidental and in previous games against Connecticut College, the Crimson shuffled its lineup and rotated players into positions they do not normally play.
“It was fun because we got to bring the goalies out of the cage and into the field,” Tina Codini said. “[Junior goaltender] Elana Miller even scored a goal.”
Harvard returns to action Saturday at the ECAC Championships, hosted by Princeton.
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