Fourteen. That’s the number of consecutive road games that the Harvard men’s water polo team played to start the 2016 season.
From Princeton, N.J. to Lewisburg, Pa., the Crimson traveled throughout the East Coast, posting 12 wins along the way. Finally, on Saturday, the team came home for a pair of matches against two Northeast Water Polo Conference rivals at Blodgett Pool.
No. 9 Harvard (13-3, 3-2 NWPC) ended up splitting the doubleheader, bouncing back from defeat against No. 14 Brown (12-6, 4-1 NWPC) with a strong performance against MIT (4-8, 0-5 NWPC).
“Those are two rivalry games, conference games,” coach Ted Minnis said. “I think that everybody knows each other. I thought we played pretty well defensively in both games.”
HARVARD 11, MIT 8
In the first half of this weekend’s Crimson-Engineers matchup, the two teams battled, trading scores and maintaining a high level of intensity.
“I think we were a little too in our own heads with the crowd because this was our home opening weekend,” junior captain Harry Tafur said. “Night games are always fun, and you saw that the stands were pretty filled up. I think that everybody was a little too concerned with the emotions of it all.”
These emotions extended until the end of the third quarter, when Harvard scored two goals in just over a minute to take the lead permanently.
Freshman attacker Charlie Owens ignited the late push with a difficult catch on a long cross-pool pass and a spectacular shovel into the net with his head under water. Captain Joey Colton tacked on another goal with two seconds left in the third quarter. The score put Harvard up 8-6, a lead the team would never relinquish.
Eventually the Crimson extended its lead to a comfortable 11-6 margin with just over four minutes left in the game. This definitive five-goal run gave Harvard its first home victory of the season after a jittery first half.
“I think we settled down at the half,” Tafur said. “We had a good talk with our coaches—they really focused us. Then we came out, we focused on our defense, and let the game go from there.”
MIT closed the gap with a late pair of goals, capitalizing on a suddenly flimsy Crimson defense. But the late rally was not enough, as Harvard went on to win, 11-8.
“A testament to MIT—they really fought for four quarters,” Tafur said. “We pulled out the win in the end, which is what we needed to stay in the hunt for good seeding in our conference play.”
BROWN 9, HARVARD 7
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