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Water Polo Battles in Final Home Games of the Season

In the last home games of the season, the men's water polo team will take on Iona and St. Francis.
In the last home games of the season, the men's water polo team will take on Iona and St. Francis. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Coulson Rich, Crimson Staff Writer

As October comes to a close, Harvard men’s water polo enters the final stretch of the 2018 season with two weekend matches against St. Francis (N.Y.) and Iona. This Saturday’s doubleheader comes after a 2-1 finish during its West Coast road trip at the Julian Fraser Memorial tournament in Santa Clara, Calif.

This season for Harvard (17-7, 5-1 NEWPC) has been a historic one, with the Crimson achieving its highest ranking in program history, reaching number seven in the CWPA polls at the end of September. The squad has also held control of the number one spot in the NEWPC standings, and will look to cement its position against conference foes St. Francis (6-12, 5-1) and Iona (6-20, 0-6).

One month ago the Crimson took on Iona for the first time this season, entering the contest as the highest ranked team on the East Coast. After a close first half featuring three lead changes, Harvard outscored the Gaels, 10-3, in the second half and come away with a 16-8 victory. Junior co-captain Austin Sechrest led the day with six goals.

Since then, the squads have trended in opposite directions. The Crimson has fallen in the national polls, sharing the 15th ranking with Santa Clara, but maintaining its first place mark in the NEWPC standings with the conference championship in its sights.

Iona has not improved its winning percentage since its last bout with the Crimson, but it will try to change that this coming weekend. Sophomore 2-meters Patrick Hudak was named last week’s NEWPC Player of the Week, and sophomore goaltender Michael Banks was also recognized as the Defensive Player of the Week. In last week’s contest against Connecticut College, the Gael’s keeper broke Iona’s single-game saves record, stopping an impressive 25 shots.

For senior 2-meters Grant Harvey, the last two home games of the season grant Harvard a chance to return to some of the success it had earlier this fall.

“We had a great September, and we’ve been struggling this October a little the season goes on you get distracted with school and midterms,” Harvey said. “This second push is all about refocusing ourselves, prioritizing our lives around school and water polo, and kind of getting down to the nitty gritty and going back to where we were in September.

Hours after the Iona game, the Crimson squared off with St. Francis, defeating the Terriers in a 15-14 thriller. Each team exchanged blows in the back and forth match, and each had to finish out with five players each. Grant Harvey was able to tally the final goal for Harvard, securing the victory.

The Crimson will look to its freshman attacker Alex Tsotadze to help carry the load on the offensive side this upcoming weekend. Harvey had high praise for the rookie from Menlo Park, Calif.

“By far our most consistent player right now is our freshman Alex Tsotadze, he’s been a super big help coming in as a freshman and being a consistent starter,” Harvey said. “He’s been a true source for a lot of our offense this year.”

Since the Harvard match, St. Francis has seen mixed-results in competition, winning four games but losing three in the same time span, and its record reflects this mixed bag. The Terriers have accumulated a 5-12 record overall, but after their last win at Iona, they sit atop the conference standings at 5-1, tied with the Crimson. Junior attacker William Lapkin will try to replicate the offensive impact he had in their defeat, where he posted four goals and five assists, as St. Francis tries to take control of the conference leaderboard.

In addition to the exciting matchups, Saturday night will be a sentimental one, as it is also Senior Night. Before their last game at Blodgett Pool, a ceremony will be held honoring seniors Harvey, Nick Bunn, Nathan Ondracek, and Anthony Ridgley for their contributions to the team.

“I’ve had a lot of great wins in this pool, I’ve had a whole lot of terrible losses, so I think going out on a win would be everything,” Harvey said. “No matter how the season ends there will be some rays of sunshine. Home is where you really want to be, and playing and winning in Blodgett, there’s no better feeling.”

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