To say the Harvard men’s water polo team’s loss to Brown on Sunday morning was close would be an understatement.
Harvard coach Ted Minnis perhaps summed it up best.
“It’s a game of inches,” he said.
Inches were the difference for the No. 19 Crimson (15-6, 4-3 CWPA) as it fell to the Bears (14-5, 7-1), 15-14, in triple-overtime. Victory was within reach in the second overtime when co-captain Max Murphy hurled a shot towards the Brown goal, just nicking the post to keep the score tied at 14 each.
With neither team able to score, the game went into a third sudden death overtime frame, where Brown was finally able to put the game away with a goal by sophomore Yahel Murvitz-Lahav.
The sudden death thriller came on the second day of competition for the fifth Ivy League Championship tournament. All eight Ivy League schools came together to compete, with Brown hosting the two-day tournament. Though Harvard, Brown, and Princeton are the only varsity water polo teams in the Ivy League, their respective club teams represented the other five members of the Ancient Eight.
On the first day of the tournament, the five club teams played a round-robin style bracket, with the winner going on to face the loser in the varsity round.
On the second day of competition, the three varsity teams competed, with Harvard facing Brown, and Princeton facing Dartmouth, the winner of the club bracket. As Brown defeated Harvard, the Bears moved on to face Princeton in the championship match, which the Tigers took to claim their second consecutive Ivy League title. The Crimson faced the Big Green in the consolation match, and claimed third place overall with its victory over the Dartmouth club team.
HARVARD 15, DARTMOUTH 11
Despite being just an exhibition match and not counting toward its official league record, Harvard’s game against Dartmouth was a fight for honor within the Ivy League. By winning, the Crimson claimed third overall in the tournament.
Coming off of such a long game against Brown potentially impacted the Crimson in its game against the Big Green later in the day. Although the team was able to create a big lead in the first half, it began to slip away in the second half. The Crimson was up 10-3 at the end of the first half, but let Dartmouth get within four goals by the end of the contest.
“I wasn’t ever really worried about losing, but still, we are trying to become a championship-caliber team,” junior goalie Colin Woolway said. “Championship-caliber teams play their best at all times, and I don’t think we necessarily did that [against Dartmouth].”
BROWN 15, HARVARD 14
Although the Crimson was unsuccessful avenging two earlier losses to Brown this season, Sunday marked its closest match against the Bears to date, as the game featured three overtime periods.
In their previous two contests, Harvard and Brown were close through halftime, until the Bears ran away with the games in the second halves. The Crimson eventually fell by scores of 13-8 and 19-11 in each of the respective games. This week, however, the team was able to maintain strong play throughout all of regulation time, and Brown needed the additional three overtime frames to finally overtake Harvard.
“We definitely battled for the first four quarters with Brown, and that was something that we hadn’t done yet this year,” Minnis said. “We had a bad quarter in each of the two first games…so we did some good things to adjust and play well.”
The Crimson was able to outscore the Bears 3-2 in the final period and keep the game close until the very end. It was this final frame that had been the team’s Achilles heel in previous weeks as Brown ran away with victory.
Junior 2-meter Ben Zepfel, sophomore attacker Joey Colton, and junior attacker Blake Lee each contributed goals in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime.
The men return home to Blodgett Pool next weekend, where they have the chance to face off again against MIT and Connecticut College.
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.
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