Co-captains Harry Tafur and Colin Chiapello’s freshman season was disappointing, finishing seventh in the Northeast Water Polo Conference tournament in 2014.
The co-captains entered the program in the midst of coach Ted Minnis’s historic reformation, from only 12 wins in his first season to a program-best 27 wins last year.
From seventh to back to back champions, the two seniors are leaving conference play on top for the second straight year after toppling Princeton in sudden death overtime in front of a packed Blodgett Pool on Sunday afternoon. Now Harvard moves onto the NCAA tournament, where the team made the Final Four last year.
The golden goal came from standout freshman Dennis Blyashov, NEWPC rookie of the year, rookie of the tournament, tournament MVP, and first-team all conference.
“Blyashov is a great kid first and foremost. I love having him on this team and being part of our family,” Minnis said.
“He works so hard and is so passionate about everything he does in and out of the pool. He has a drive, a passion that you only see from special players. I’m just glad we have him for three more years.”
HARVARD 12, PRINCETON 11
The Tigers took command early, jumping to a 5-1 lead after just six minutes of play.
Blyashov scored the first two goals of the game for Harvard, but it wasn’t enough to dent Princeton’s early lead.
The Crimson played cool, and the team started to slowly chop away at Princeton’s lead. With only four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Harvard was down 10-8. It was a fight for every possession.
“This group is very calm and they always believed and they worked and they just keep working in every possession,” Minnis said. “If you worry about every possession and not the outcome then you’ll have some success and that’s what we do.”
A power play goal from sophomore Charlie Owens brought the Crimson within one, right before Harvard’s game-tying 10th goal with only 52 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Tafur struck first, but the Tigers answered with one of their own to force a sudden death overtime. Blyashov then delivered the game winner just inside the far post to win the title at home.
HARVARD 9, ST. FRANCIS 7
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