Crimson Splits Final Stretch of West Coast Jaunt

Meredith H. Keffer

On Friday, rookie Devan Kennifer scored 10 goals against Cal State Monterey—the same amount as the entire Otters team.

Sunny California brought only good things to the Harvard women’s water polo team last week, as the team recorded two big wins and two close losses to finish up its last tune-up games before the start of conference play.

After a tough 20-2 loss to No. 1 Stanford, and then a tight win against unranked Sonoma State earlier in the week, the Crimson (7-9) came into the last four games of the week a little tired but ready to attack.

And attack they did.

In the four-game series, Harvard scored a total of 38 goals, proving that the team has what it takes to match up against some of the toughest competition in the nation.

“I thought it was a very successful trip,” Crimson coach Erik Farrar said. “We played some very good polo, learned some valuable lessons both on success and failure. The whole idea is to get everybody ready for what really matters, because that’s when we need to be sharpest, but I’m very pleased with where we are.”

Harvard hopes to take these new lessons into next Saturday’s games against Hartwick and Brown.

“I think we improved a lot from the beginning of the trip to the end,” freshman Devan Kennifer said. “We met some good competition that was good for our team. ”


In its last day of play before returning back to Boston, the Crimson attacked right from the start, grabbing a quick 3-1 lead over the Otters (7-23) Friday afternoon in Seaside, Calif. As Cal State continued to fight back, tying the game at five, the Harvard team, especially its freshmen, refused to relinquish the lead.

With three tallies from freshman Shannon Purcell, and one goal apiece from freshmen Lizzie Abbott and Monica Zdrojewski and junior Roxanne Pinto, Harvard made a splash going into the second half. The main force, though, came from the hand of Kennifer, who scored 10 goals—as many as the entire Cal State team.

“Our freshmen played very well, our whole team played very well,” Farrar said. “We did a good job of getting our centers involved and creating space for them. Everybody is doing well.”

Stealing the ball 20 times, the Crimson continued to put pressure on the Otters, outscoring Cal State, 6-1, in the final two periods. As the Otters continued to look for opportunities to climb back, freshman goalkeeper Laurel McCarthy made three saves, extending her own record to a perfect 2-0.

“We just had a factor,” Farrar said. “We figured out what they were trying to do and then locked down with our defense.”


Playing its second game of the day on Thursday, the Crimson had every right to be sluggish. But instead of giving the No. 11 Aggies (17-7) an easy win, Harvard managed to make a comeback in the second half after falling behind early, pulling the final score within two.

“The best game we probably played was against Davis,” Farrar said. “We didn’t shoot all that well, but it was a very physical game. They were just rolling all of their defense through, and we were going stroke to stroke with them. That was one of our best defensive games of the year.”

Trailing 4-1 going into the second half, Harvard scored twice with shots from Kennifer and Purcell, while co-captain and goaltender Nicola Perlman, who is also a former Crimson magazine chair, made nine saves in net.

“We need to do a better job of sticking the [goal] in the net,” Farrar said. “But that was a magnificent effort. They are starting to come together in a very happy way.”

Despite the loss, Harvard managed to hold Davis to only five goals, a special feat since the only other team to do so was No. 1 Stanford earlier this month.


Earlier in the day, the Crimson also found itself down in the first quarter, trailing the Division III Banana Slugs (11-12), 3-1. But with a barrage of shots from Harvard’s drivers, the Crimson went on a 4-0 run and took a 5-3 advantage. Although Santa Cruz tied the game, Harvard pulled away thanks to six saves from McCarthy in net and six goals from Kennifer.

“We stuck it to the Banana Slugs pretty deeply,” Farrar said.

In addition to Kennifer’s tallies, the Crimson saw two goals apiece from Zdrojewski and freshman Ita Barton-Kettleborough. Purcell and Abbott also had a hand in the action, each putting one shot in the back of the net.


Playing Pacific (7-17), Harvard found itself in trouble right from the start. As the Tigers scored the first seven goals of the game, and Perlman had to make save after save in the first half, it was not until the second quarter that the Crimson made it onto the scoreboard.

“We played somewhat sloppy and poor defense in the first half, but once we woke up, we came streaming on back,” Farrar said. “Once you give a team a lead, you can’t expect [a win] to happen.”

In the second half, Harvard increased the intensity, outshooting Pacific, 5-0. With Perlman anchoring the defense with eight saves, the freshman class began to shoot and score. Kennifer converted four shots, while Abbott and Zdrojewski scored one each. But in the final minute, Pacific maintained possession of the ball, leaving the Crimson one goal away from a comeback win.