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The Harvard women’s water polo team steam-rolled through the competition at the Northeastern Championships before falling to No. 20 Brown 9-2 in the title game on Sunday in Utica, N.Y.
The Crimson (17-12) defeated Utica College 18-1 in the first game of pool play on Saturday. Harvard won its bracket by defeating Marist 15-1 later that evening.
On Sunday, Harvard took on the second place finisher from the other pool, Connecticut College. The Crimson defeated the Camels 11-5, earning a spot in the title game against Brown.
Harvard will take its 3-1 finish in the Northeastern Championships into next weekend’s Eastern Championships, where it will be seeded 10th and will face Iona in the first game on Friday.
BROWN 9, HARVARD 2
The Crimson had taken the two teams’ previous meeting 5-4 and had held the Bears to only eight goals in their last two contests.
Brown (17-7) had no intention of being contained by Harvard’s defense in this contest, as the Bears scored three quick goals to set up a fast-paced tempo.
Harvard sophomore two-meter Molly Mehaffey and junior two-meter Teresa Codini each tallied goals to pull the Crimson back to within one, 3-2.
But the Bears senior goaltender Keira Heggie pitched a shutout the rest of the way, recording eight saves for the contest while only giving up those two first quarter goals.
With the defense clamping down hard on the Crimson, the Brown offense—which scored 53 goals in the four game tournament—came alive, adding two goals in the second and three in the third to put Harvard away en route to the 9-2 victory.
“It sounds like we got our hats handed to us, but it wasn’t until the end of the third quarter the game began to get away from us,” Russell said.
The Bears had nine 6-on-5 advantages in the game and capitalized on five of them.
“They had twice as many 6-on-5’s as in the last matchup and a team that lives on offense loves those types of advantages,” Harvard coach Scott Russell said.
“The referees were anxious to ref a close game, and I think because of that we knew more calls would be made and they were,” sophomore driver Sarah Kennifer said. “Sadly, more of them seemed to go against us.”
Crimson co-captain Liz Anderson sat out most of Sunday after getting banged up in competition on Saturday.
“One of the things that did hurt us was not having Liz,” Russell said. “She does everything so well, and she leads the team in character, so not having her available hurt us.”
HARVARD 11, CONNECTICUT COLLEGE 5
In its two previous meetings with the Camels (4-8) this season, the Crimson outscored Connecticut College 25-3.
With a spot in the Northeastern Championships title game on the line, Harvard continued its dominance over the Camels as it pulled away for an 11-5 victory.
“We definitely have a lot of respect for them,” Kennifer said. “Their coach is so friendly to us and they always cheer for us [when we’re playing other teams]. So, it was nice to see them play so well against us, and I think the closer score shows how much they’ve improved.”
The Crimson led just 4-2 after one quarter of play and 6-3 at half, but took over heading out of the break.
Harvard scored two goals just minutes into the third frame, forging a commanding 8-3 lead and ending any threat from the Camels.
“With the score 6-3 at half, that game can still go any way,” Russell said. “But to come out tough and score those two goals was a big turning point for us.”
The Crimson traded goals with Connecticut College for the rest of the quarter, taking a 9-4 lead into the fourth.
Mehaffey and sophomore two meter Arin Keyser tied for the game-high in goals with four.
Codini led the team with three assists and tied with junior driver Diane Dewey for the team-lead in steals with four.
HARVARD 15, MARIST 1
The Crimson thrashed eventual third-place finisher Marist (9-17) in the second game on Saturday to secure the top spot in its bracket and avoid Brown until the championship game.
Harvard jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter and pushed that lead to 9-1 by halftime. The Crimson added three more in each of the final two quarters for the eventual 14-goal victory.
“To hang a 15-1 score on them was a great accomplishment for our team because they have some pretty solid players,” Russell said.
Sophomore Lydia Gardner had a solid game in net, allowing just one goal while recording nine saves.
“Lydia came up big for us against Marist, quarterbacking our defense,” Russell said. “Holding a team like that to only one goal is very encouraging.”
Despite the large margin of victory, the atmosphere surrounding the game was highly contentious, as play even had to be stopped at one point to separate hostile fans. The play in the water reflected the behavior out of the pool, as two players were removed for fighting.
“Their players were playing dirty and for a team that wasn’t scoring against us to play like that took us by surprise,” Kennifer said.
HARVARD 19, UTICA 1
The Crimson opened up the two-day tournament with a match-up against the third-seeded squad in its bracket, Utica (1-13).
Harvard almost had to find ways not to score as it racked up 10 first quarter goals. The Crimson added three more before half, taking a 13-0 lead into the break. Utica finally ended the shutout bid with a goal in the third, but Harvard added four more in the frame for a 17-1 lead.
“After scoring 10 in the first quarter, we just worked on a few plays and slowed the clock down a lot,” Russell said.
Nine out of the 12 players—two of whom were goalies—on the roster scored in the blowout.
“I think that’s the most telling statistic,” Russell said. “It’s representative of the fact that everyone on the roster got involved.”
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.
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