Defense was the name of the game this weekend as the Harvard men’s water polo team (6-6) faced off against three teams in New York and New Rochelle, N.Y. After a tight 12-11 loss on Saturday to St. Francis Brooklyn (7-4), Harvard swept Fordham (6-6) and Iona (2-8), 11-4 and 22-13, respectively, on Sunday.
“Our defense was definitely something we did a pretty good job of and that I was happy with,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said. “When you come to New York, it’s three different kinds of pools, and you’re changing what you’re doing at all times offensively and defensively. Overall, I thought we played well.”
HARVARD 22, IONA 13
The Crimson leapt ahead to a 4-0 lead over Iona in the opening minutes of the first quarter with a pair of goals from captain Ben Zepfel, and one apiece from senior attackers Noah Harrison and Blake Lee. By the end of the game, Harrison and Zepfel netted career-highs in scoring with eight and seven goals, respectively.
On the other end of the pool, the defense supplemented the offense’s 22-goal attack by allowing only four goals in the first half.
“We did a great job on the perimeter, which allows our two-meter defenders to do a better of job of being able to not worry about the ball moving around from side to side,” Minnis said. “It allows them to do what they do best.”
HARVARD 11, FORDHAM 4
In its first game on Sunday, the Crimson limited the Rams to a shooting percentage of just 14 percent on 28 shots, holding them to a season-low four goals.
“One thing that I was very proud about with our morning game wasn’t just the margin of scoring, but the fact that we held the other team to just four goals,” junior two-meter Dan Stevens said. “I think our defense was phenomenal in that game. We had some great goalie play by Anthony Ridgley, our freshman, and our defense overall was very, very solid.”
Ridgley made a career-high 11 saves in the win—matching the number of times Harvard found the back of the net.
Aggressive offense solidified the Crimson’s victory, as freshman attacker Nick Bunn found the net early in the game. Harrison then netted a hat-trick in the second quarter, and five different members of the team scored in the second half.
ST. FRANCIS 12, HARVARD 11
Despite facing a 5-1 deficit at the end of the first quarter, Harvard managed to rally its way back against the Terriers in its first game of the weekend. A hat trick from Lee helped the Crimson to tie the game, 9-9, at the end of the third quarter.
Harvard jumped ahead with two more goals in the fourth, but St. Francis responded with two of its own to even the score at 11 with under three minutes to go. Then with just three ticks left on the clock, Terrier junior Bora Dimitrov came up with the dagger, propelling his side to a 12-11 win.
Despite the late blow, the Crimson’s renewed defensive stronghold limited the Terriers to just seven goals over the final three quarters, and Stevens believes that set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
“I think something we can take away from that game is to be a lot more consistent with our game plan,” Stevens said. “A lot of times we would deviate from that, especially early on. We actually came back from a 5-1 deficit in the first quarter, and a lot of that was just because we stuck to the game plan and we had much stronger defense going forward after that deficit.”
Senior goalkeeper Colin Woolway recorded 10 saves and three steals in the game. Lee and junior attacker Joey Colton scored four and three goals each, but that wasn’t enough to fend off the Terriers, who have yet to lose a game at home this season.
“I’m not happy because we want to win; that was our goal coming in, and we didn’t achieve that goal,” Minnis said. “But there were some good things, we showed some resilience going from 5-1 to 5-3, so I think there was some positive[s] that we can definitely take away from it.
“But ultimately we don’t do this to lose.”
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