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Harvard Women’s Water Polo Making a Splash, High Hopes for the 2023 Championship

Senior Jaiden Miller fires a shot on net against La Salle on February 4.
Senior Jaiden Miller fires a shot on net against La Salle on February 4. By Cory K. Gorczycki
By Natalie T. Weiner, Contributing Writer

“The Harvard women’s water polo team is the cream of the crop in terms of talent, work ethic, motivation and drive,” said senior center Grace Thawley.

With an impressive 13-2 record, the Harvard women’s water polo team has had a fantastic start to its 2023 season. The Crimson are currently ranked #16 in the Week 8 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Poll and sit at #2 in the Ivy League, just below Princeton University.

In 2022, Harvard had the second-best season in program history, with a total of 23 wins and seven losses. The Crimson had four All-American selections as well, three of which have returned for the 2023 season: super seniors Evan Tingler, Zoe Banks, and Thawley

“Our team is really experienced and has been here for a lot of growth in the Harvard water polo program,” Banks said. “Our super seniors are a power to be reckoned with and are doing a lot to contribute to this season.”

The 2023 season marks Ted Minnis’ thirteenth year as head coach of the team. In 2022, Minnis was named the CWPA Coach of the Year for the second time.

“The women are working really hard in and out of the pool,” Minnis commented. “Watching film, getting after it in conditioning sets and in the weight room — I'm very proud of how much this team has grown over the last four weeks.”

After falling to the University of Michigan in the 2022 CWPA Championship, the Crimson are looking to claim the conference title this season.

“Our quote for the season is ‘commit to excellence’,” Banks said. “I think all of us are going in with the goal of bringing a good mindset to practice every day, working as hard as we possibly can every day, and seeing how far it takes us — we are coming together to commit to doing whatever it takes to win the championship.”

Senior Evan Tingler sets up the Harvard offense against La Salle on February 4.
Senior Evan Tingler sets up the Harvard offense against La Salle on February 4. By Cory K. Gorczycki

This past weekend, the Crimson held the Harvard Invitational at Blodgett Pool. It went 4-0, defeating three higher ranked opponents — Brown, Wagner, and CSUN — increasing its record to a perfect 9-0 at home. Harvard believes that its games against Wagner and Brown were two of its strongest performances so far this season.

“We lost to Brown last year, and I know the girls really wanted to bring the heat back — having a solid win against them was awesome,” Thawley reflected. “It was evident that we weren't just going through the motions — we weren't being robotic. We were focused on reading our options in the pool and in our offense.”

“Our defense was well prepared and we got a lot of stops. We didn't let them score a lot of goals. [Wagner and Brown were] two well-rounded games that proved to us that we're really improving,” the senior center added.

The Crimson will travel to Arizona State University this weekend to play in the ASU Invitational before heading off to California to face off against Berkeley, University of the Pacific, and Santa Clara University.

“This spring break is gonna be even more exciting after the success we saw this weekend. The team is fired up to continue to improve and show that we are capable of beating teams that are ranked above us,” Thawley said.

Banks added that, “What I take away from spring break empowers me even more for the rest of the season. We all learn a lot from every single game and practice that we have.”

After spring break, the team will compete in a series of Ivy games, four of which will be hosted at Blodgett Pool. Now at the halfway point of its 2023 season, the Crimson is determined to do whatever it can to claim the CWPA Championship title this season.

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