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The Harvard women’s water polo team held its own against challenging competition this weekend, taking fourth place at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship, hosted by Princeton.
Hartwick 8, Harvard 5
Beginning against tough intrabracket competition, the Crimson (7-13) squared off against No. 16 Hartwick in its opening match, the first of two preliminary games.
The Hawks (17-9), who participated in last year’s NCAA tournament, were simply a cut above Harvard, winning 8-5 despite a top-notch Crimson effort.
For Harvard, the game was a highlight of the season, as the squad finally managed to avoid lapses throughout the contest.
“The game against Hartwick was probably our best game of the year,” Harvard coach Jim Floerchinger said. “We put together four quarters of good, consistent play. Some of the shots just didn’t fall.”
Unfortunately for the Crimson, the best teams can create chances independent of their opponents’ mistakes.
Precisely placed shots spelled doom for Harvard, and, though the Crimson remained within one for most of the game, risky play geared towards drawing level left the Harvard flank exposed, allowing the Hawks to pull away as the game drew to an end.
Harvard 8, Bucknell 5
The second of the round-robin opening matches proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for Harvard, as the team avenged an early-season defeat at the hands of Bucknell, but lost one of its stars in the process when sophomore Teresa Codini broke her right index finger.
“There was basically a girl on the Bucknell team, they were wrestling and the girl took her finger and snapped it,” co-captain Tiana Peterson said.
Codini’s finger, clearly swollen after the altercation, kept her from competing in the remainder of the weekend’s events and places her status in doubt for the rest of the season, pending medical evaluation.
“It really forced the rest of the team to step it up offensively and start making some big shots,” Peterson said. “We all need to be making big shots and being aggressive. But it always hurts the team to have one less dominant player in there.”
The Crimson had been fixated during the week leading up to the tournament on exacting revenge on the Bison (10-13) for a one-goal loss suffered during the first Brown Invitational.
With the offense clicking all game long—both before and after the injury—Harvard moved the ball fluidly and won 8-5.
The victory catapulted the Crimson into the elimination rounds, where it faced host Princeton—a strong, deep team, with each shooter a legitimate scoring threat.
Princeton 10, Harvard 7
Without Codini, Harvard initially played the Tigers close, staying within one goal for the duration of the first half. Princeton exploded out of the gate after halftime, however, running off three straight goals to expand the lead to four.
After a timeout, the Crimson fought its way back into the thick of things, but never drew even, falling 10-7.
“[We] battled back in a situation against a team that had had their way with us in the past,” Floerchinger said.
Brown 6, Harvard 2
Eliminated from title contention, Harvard faced familiar Ivy foe Brown.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, familiarity hasn’t exactly been an advantage, as the squad fell to the Bears for the fourth time in as many attempts this season.
Harvard played Brown as tough as it has all season long over the course of the first half, holding the Bears to just a single goal, but managing only one of its own.
Codini’s absence and the cumulative effect of having logged so many minutes over the course of two days eventually took hold, though.
“The team was just extremely exhausted from playing the best teams on the East Coast,” Peterson said. “We did alright in the first half, but just being really tired, we just fell apart. We regressed into some of our weaknesses. Our offense fell apart and that led to some goals on the other end.”
Brown’s five second-half goals were feebly answered by just one from the Crimson, resulting in a 6-2 final and a disappointing second day for Harvard.
But the ECAC Championship marks neither the end of the postseason nor the last time the Crimson will see either Hartwick or the Bears, as all three squads will compete Friday at the Northern Championships, hosted by Brown.
“We are just an inch away from beating Brown or Hartwick,” Peterson said. “We can taste it. It’s just these two-minute lapses. We’re due.”
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.
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