The last time the Harvard men’s water polo team and MIT faced off, the Crimson played convincingly, leading during most of the game and overcoming a late Engineer comeback to win. 10-8.
There was a complete role reversal when Harvard and MIT met again this Friday.
Despite a late surge, the Crimson (8-14, 2-5 CWPA) never held a lead in a 10-6 loss to the Engineers (9-7, 5-2) in the last regular-season CWPA match of the year. By defeating Harvard, MIT took the season series, 2-1, and the four-goal difference was the largest margin of victory in a match between the two teams since 2006.
“We never really came together,” senior Jeff Lee said. “Offensively and defensively we just weren’t clicking, [and] we just weren’t on the same page today.”
After winning the sprint at the start of the first period, the Engineers unloaded a number of shots on the Crimson until MIT’s Brian Gardiner found the back of the net a little over three minutes into the contest.
Harvard kept it close early on, answering shortly after with a score from junior Mike Katzer. But the 1-1 tie did not last for long the Crimson, as the Engineers scored again at the two-minute mark.
“We came out strong—usually we go down pretty quickly in the first two minutes,” junior Alexandre Popp said.
But in the ensuing two periods, the home team pulled away, scoring six goals while only allowing two.
“It just got out of hand,” Popp said.
Cheered on by the crowd, MIT took advantage of Harvard’s lackluster defensive effort, passing the ball with relative ease and taking a large number of shots.
“I think we were just playing lazy,” Lee said. “The defense just broke down a lot, and from that we got frustrated, so it just didn’t really come together.”
On the offensive side, things didn’t go much better for the Crimson, which was only able to muster three goals in the first three periods. The stifling play of the Engineer defense aggravated Harvard’s offensive woes and kept the squad from getting good shots.
“We just never really got any clean looks,” Lee said.
Popp blamed a part of the team’s troubles on himself. Though he saved a number of MIT shots, he didn’t—in his eyes—do enough.
“The mantra is every game make the blocks you should have and the couple extra to change momentum, and I don’t think I had the shots to change momentum,” Popp said. “That’s my bad as a goalie. You got to go above and beyond sometimes, and I don’t think I did that well today.”
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