The No. 10 Harvard men’s water polo made program history this weekend by capturing the Northeast Water Polo Conference Championships. The Crimson took down MIT, No. 12 Princeton, and No. 10 Brown in its path to victory.
This year’s team has depth that most of its opponents envy. Veteran staples like senior Noah Harrison and junior co-captain Harry Tafur have blended with freshmen to create a season that will stand out in Harvard record books.
Yet even among the amazing breadth the Crimson has displayed, co-captain Joey Colton stands out the heart and soul of this year’s team.
“He’ll make a good play for us on defense and then go down and make a big goal for us,” Tafur said. “Whatever we need, he can do it and he can do it better than most players in the country. He is a one-of-a-kind player.”
Colton has not only led his team to its best record since 2001, but also has steered been a key to the program’s first ever NCAA berth, which the team obtained after clinching the NWPC this past weekend.
His performance was only one in a chain of dominating play. His season stats boast 34 goals, 72 assists, and 24 steals, which makes him the second-leading point getter for the Crimson.
“As a team we played fantastic, but Joey really led us through the weekend with his play,” Tafur said. “Teammates doing any sport in general, when you see them giving their 110 percent effort and performing at such a great level, it inspires you to do the same. He this weekend just turned on the jets so to speak. He was a facilitator and a scorer.”
The two-time captain’s influence extends to far outside the pool as well.
“He is just one of the most loyal friends I have and he really just cares so deeply about the team and he really takes the reputation of this program to heart,” Tafur said. “As co-captains, he is a great friend and in a way a mentor.”
Harvard posted comfortable wins in the quarterfinal against MIT (14-8) and in the final against Brown (11-7). The tightest matchup came in the semifinals when the Crimson met Princeton again after falling to the Tigers in a heated 11-10 loss at home only two weeks earlier.
In the fourth quarter with Princeton leading by one, Harvard found itself in an all-too-familiar back-and-forth game for the third time this season. Calm, cool, and collected Colton answered the call, tying up the game at 13 with only two minutes left on the clock.
The senior then followed the goal up with another tally with less than a minute left to secure the victory and an NWPC championship appearance, the first in Harvard’s history as a varsity program.
The momentum continued into the championship game against Brown where Colton’s season-high six assists and pair of goals added to a lead that the Bears were never able to catch overcome.
In four seasons in Cambridge, Colton has racked up his fair share of accolades. He was the water polo team’s rookie of the year and led the squad in assists as a freshman. The Garden Grove, Calif. native was on the CWPA All-Northern team for the last two seasons and has led the Crimson in assists in each of his four seasons.
Colton’s performances this weekend, this season, and throughout his Harvard career have placed his team in a position to make even more history in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“By no means was it me doing anything amazing, it was no individual effort from me. It was a good job by the team playing hard defense,” Colton said. “I was fortunate to be in those positions but give those opportunities to anyone else on the team and I know they would have done just as well… It looks like I came in clutch or whatever way you want to say it but I can’t iterate it enough that it was the team doing their job and playing.”
—Staff writer Ginny Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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