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Host W. Water Polo Grabs Sixth Place in Tough Easterns Field

The Harvard women’s water polo team forced Hartwick into overtime with strong defense and a game-tying goal from Teresa Codini, but the Crimson fell 9-5 to the Hawks in its final game of the Eastern Championships.
The Harvard women’s water polo team forced Hartwick into overtime with strong defense and a game-tying goal from Teresa Codini, but the Crimson fell 9-5 to the Hawks in its final game of the Eastern Championships.
By Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard women’s water polo team continued its string of impressive tournament performances this season, taking sixth at the Eastern Championships held this weekend at Blodgett Pool.

Entering the tournament, the Crimson (11-16) was seeded sixth in the strong, twelve-team field that represented the toughest competition the squad has faced all season.

Harvard 6, Villanova 4

Behind stellar goalkeeping from junior goalkeeper Elana Miller, the Crimson virtually shut down the Wildcats’ attack on Friday.

Posting 12 saves, Miller smothered Villanova’s offense, blocking and controlling the vast majority of shots hurled her way while safely deflecting most others out of harm’s way.

“It was one of the best games I’ve seen her play,” co-captain Tiana Peterson said.

Three of the four goals the Wildcats (10-20) netted came during man-up situations.

But Miller’s defense was formidable under all other circumstances, as the squad routinely shut down Villanova’s offensive sets and clamped down on attempted counterattacks—one of the Crimson’s trademark weaknesses.

“They didn’t have a fast team,” sophomore Teresa Codini said. “But they ran many people into sets, so we had to be aware of all the players in the school and to help back.”

On the afternoon, the Wildcats managed only two breakaway opportunities, each of which was thwarted by the time it reached the goal mouth.

“It’s something we’ve been working on the last two weeks,” Peterson said. “Our coaches have been bugging us, and we were determined to not allow any in this game. We have a lot of speed on this team, and there’s no reason we can’t swim back and stop anybody.”

The strong defense led to a dominating presence at the other end as well.

Miller wisely and precisely distributed the ball, igniting offensive thrusts across mid-pool.

“Second to blocking, she did a great job giving us counterattacks,” Peterson said. “All the counterattack goals that I had were in large part to Elana’s credit.”

Peterson scored twice, including the game-winner.

Receiving the feed from Miller behind the defense, Peterson went one-on-one against the Villanova goalie. Faking a shot, she drew the goalie out of the water before pulling the ball across her body and tucking it under the keeper’s arm for the goal.

“Goalies have a hard time moving laterally, so you can fake them one way and swim across the face of the goal,” Peterson said. “I can get across a lot faster than a goalie who is straight up and down. It’s one of the best things you can do instead of playing chicken with her.”

Freshman Arin Keyser’s second goal of the game iced the contest for the Crimson, preserving the two-goal margin of victory.

Princeton 11, Harvard 6

While the breaks tended to go in the Crimson’s favor against the Wildcats, the squad had no such luck on Saturday against the Tigers (22-7), against whom Harvard has historically performed poorly.

“Princeton beats us game after game, year after year,” Peterson said. “They’re like Brown.”

The Crimson has lost all five of its games against Brown this season.

Against the Tigers, Harvard had shots off the post ricochet into the goal mouth and not inside the cage, deflections sail wide and shots fly through the air only to be swatted down en route to the back of the net.

The Crimson attempted to isolate Princeton’s top two players, Adele McCarthy-Beauvais and Jenny Edwards, and force the rest of the squad to step up in order to win.

While the strategy worked in part, several times the skilled swimmers evaded their markers and found the back of the net.

McCarthy-Beauvais netted four goals, while Edwards rippled the mesh on two occasions.

“We were playing really great defense,” Peterson said. “But we mistakenly left [Edwards] open too often on the perimeter. That hurt.”

After keeping it close early, the Crimson began to fall behind as the second half wore on. Trailing by just a pair early in the third quarter, the Tigers blew the game wide open with a couple of counterattacks.

At the other end, Harvard hit rough seas as well, with a very physical Princeton squad manhandling Crimson swimmers as they attempted to establish position on the inside.

Interrupting attempted passes to the interior, the Tigers ensured that Harvard could not establish any fluidity in its offensive sets.

“Offensively, it was tough,” Peterson said. “I think we could have had the same problems we had all season. Our offense was just a little stagnant.”

And while the even-strength offensive attack was unproductive, little was accomplished during kickout situations, either.

“We didn’t capitalize on and of our six-on-fives,” Peterson said. “In big games, you have to score on your man up opportunities.”

As the clock wound down, the Crimson attempted to counterattack quickly by sending defenders up the pool as soon as a shot was released in the hopes that they might catch the Tigers’ defense unprepared.

But Princeton defenders hung back and the gambles allowed the Tigers to tack on extra tallies, blowing the game open and sending Harvard to the consolation bracket.

“If they win, they win, so we had to try to create offensive opportunities and to try to push goals,” Codini said. “Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Harvard 9, George Washington 7

Eliminated from championship consideration, the Crimson set out to exact a measure of revenge on the Colonials (18-13), who had defeated Harvard in the season’s early going.

Against George Washington on Saturday, the Crimson immediately corrected a problem that had befuddled it against Princeton—scoring with a man-advantage.

In a back-and-forth contest in which neither side was able to establish a clear lead until the final stretch, Harvard led most of the way, but the Colonials stayed within one throughout.

Each squad clamped down on fast break opportunities, resulting in a slow, drawn out pace in which goals from set offenses were at a premium.

With the clock ticking down, Peterson notched her second game-winner of the tournament, scoring from the right side to seize the lead for good.

“I think in some ways when its your final tournament you play with a more relaxed attitude, leave nothing to be desired, nothing left on the court, you give it your all and have fun,” Peterson said. “I was trying to have a good time and do well at the same time. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself.”

With the tension mounting as George Washington frantically sought the equalizer, the Harvard defense held fast.

After Keyser drew a penalty shot off a foul in the middle of the pool outside the goal mouth, Codini found the back of the net to seal the victory and a place in the fifth-place game.

“I think we came a long way from the beginning of the season,” Peterson said. “It was the best teamwork we’ve had all season.”

Hartwick 9, Harvard 5 (OT)

Against Northern champion Hartwick (23-10) yesterday, the Crimson turned in its four most consistent and well-played quarters of the season, but when pushed into a fifth, fell just short of victory.

To force the overtime, Harvard relied on a strong effort at the back, playing first-rate defense against a squad with more weapons than the Crimson is equipped to handle.

“We played really great team defense,” Peterson said. “We covered all the counterattacks and our defense against that was fantastic, and that was weaker earlier in the season.”

Playing tenacious defense down low, Harvard dominated the inside positions and forced the Hawks to attack from outside.

The Crimson pressured the ball consistently from all sides, forcing ill-advised passes and shots rushed to prevent the shot clock from expiring.

“We constantly helped out and double-teamed,” Peterson said. “We made them use the entire shot clock.”

Harvard neither led nor trailed by more than one the entire way and, with 1:15 remaining, was on the verge of defeat.

But, in a six-on-five situation, Codini tucked the ball below the keeper’s arm and leveled the score at five.

Codini thrived throughout the tournament, despite the pain from a serious finger injury suffered during a game against Bucknell.

“I actually hurt it [again] in practice last Friday, and it had been hurting for this last week,” Codini said “But in the games the adrenaline rush makes it hurt much less.”

Hartwick immediately took to the offensive, looking to keep the game from extending into overtime.

Attacking the goal, the Hawks managed to sneak a shooter behind the Crimson defense.

But co-captain Michele Falkner raced back and, swimming around the shooter, swatted the ball, which fell harmlessly away from the goal mouth.

Unfortunately for Harvard, overtime did not go as well.

Attempting to decrease pressure in front of the cage, the Crimson defense collapsed inside, leaving the perimeter exposed.

“We were overcompensating, dropping back to protect to make sure the ball didn’t get to the center,” Peterson said.

Hartwick took advantage.

Sheri Johnson tallied three goals for the Hawks, each from the outside.

In all, Hartwick scored four times in the two three-minute extra sessions.

“Hartwick girls on the outside really stepped up big,” Peterson said.

On offense, the Crimson languished, unable to generate any momentum as the Hawks closed it out.

With few possessions resulting in fewer opportunities to score, Harvard’s attempts to attack were further complicated by Hartwick’s skill and elaborate play calling.

“Each possession, they threw a different defense at us, so we needed to adjust each time, and I think that hurt us,” Peterson said.

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at mcginn@fas.harvard.edu

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