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Harvard Women's Water Polo to Compete at CWPA Championships

Senior attacker Evan Tingler loads up a shot on net in Harvard's Feb. 4 game against La Salle University. The Crimson beat the Philadelphia team 18-7.
Senior attacker Evan Tingler loads up a shot on net in Harvard's Feb. 4 game against La Salle University. The Crimson beat the Philadelphia team 18-7. By Cory K. Gorczycki
By Mandy B. Brenner, Crimson Staff Writer

Following a seven-game series where it pulled out four wins, and after losing in overtime to Brown at a score of 12-11, Harvard women’s water polo will take its talent next to the CWPA Championships.

Before its game against Brown, with the Michigan matches as bookends, Harvard went up against No. 7 Princeton and No. 14 Michigan, losing to both teams in Blodgett Pool before defeating both Bucknell University and Saint Francis University with scores of 18-9 and 18-8, respectively.

Its loss to Michigan in the morning resulted in a vengeful comeback for the Crimson’s Senior Day match against Bucknell that night.

The Crimson was down 4-3 following the first quarter before the Wolverines pulled away at the half, stretching the distance between scores to 7-5 and ultimately winning the game with a score of 14-6. Harvard had six different players find the back of the net, with first-year Ruby Hodge from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., adding to her impressive stats.

When asked about her success during the game, Hodge said, “After taking a tough loss against Michigan for our senior weekend, our team was able to turn around our mindset completely. Of course, it was a hard game to lose, but we have been focusing on appreciating our team and experiences more than our wins.”

“This senior weekend really forced us to look at the bigger picture of the season outside of winning, which is the love for our team, teammates, and coaches,” she added.

Following its loss to Michigan, the Crimson came back stronger than ever that afternoon for its Senior Game, refining both its offense and defense. Senior captain Zoe Banks of Palo Alto, Calif. made ten saves alongside ten of the 19 goals being scored by seniors.

Both sophomore Erin Kim and first-year Heidi Heffelfinger hit two goals each. Juniors Annabelle Bisconti, Annabel Facey, Josie Mobley, and sophomore Kaity Greenwald each found the back of the net.

Hodge continued her hot streak with two assists, following in senior Brooke Hourigan’s footsteps who also had four steals.

“We have learned that we may lose some games we have worked incredibly hard for, but each loss has pushed us to grow together as a team,” Hodge said. “Overall, the senior weekend reminded us to appreciate each other and enjoy playing with this talented senior class for their last year. We came out on our senior day game just to play for fun and together.”

In the end, the Crimson left 19 goals in the pool. Fresh off its vengeful victory, Harvard carried this momentum into the following day in its game against Saint Francis University where, for the fourth time this season, the team scored more than 20 goals. Leading the charge was sophomore Dany Zapata who made the 20th goal of the game. Hourigan also had a hat trick, including two goals on penalty shots.

“I think we’re doing really well with our defense in these games and although communication is always something we’re trying to improve, we’ve definitely taken strides on our communication since the beginning of the year,” Zapata said.

“SFU was the last game we got to play before going up against our rivals Michigan on Sunday, so we wanted to use the SFU game to prepare ourselves for the even more physical Michigan team,” she continued. “Earlier that day against Bucknell, we got our 20th win of the season, which is an awesome achievement to get as a team, especially for our seniors who are going to be playing their last games of water polo over the next two weeks.”

In its last home game of the season against No. 7 Princeton, senior captain Grace Thawley’s second goal of the game, with 18 seconds left on the clock, pushed the game into overtime, encouraging a Crimson comeback late in the fourth quarter.

Even with Hodge’s hat trick and Bank’s eleven saves, following her recent honor of being on the Cutino Award Watch List, the Crimson was unable to keep the Tigers at bay.

“Our game against Princeton last weekend was a really big step forward from our initial matchup earlier this Spring. The team really had one another’s back through the whole game, and we didn’t let the ups and downs ever get to us in a way that would make it hard to bounce back,” Thawley reflected.

“The grit we showed was really inspiring — the strong mentality of my team is what put us in a place to succeed in that game,” she continued. “While it didn’t all go our way, many things did — we needed that confidence boost.”

History repeated itself when the Crimson faced off against Bucknell, Saint Francis University, and Michigan again the following weekend.

In both its games against Bucknell and Saint Francis, Harvard held strong with eighteen points in each game. In its second doubleheader, increased its record to 21-7, starting strong in the match against the Bisons with junior Sasha Constandse netting her first four-goal game of the season. Senior captains Thawley and Banks were crucial additions to the mix, with Thawley adding another hat-trick in the victory and Banks making five saves.

The Saint Francis’s match had its fair share of impressive stats, with seven separate Crimson members scoring their own pairs of goals. With scores and spirits high, the Crimson fought hard against the Wolverines but ultimately lost 15-8.

“We have now started to come together in a tight huddle [where] our coach will give a little speech, [and] we will end with a strong cheer saying ‘family’ or ‘together’, and then we will go out as a team to finish the game,” Hodge said. “Sometimes, it does not always go our way, like the Princeton game, but we were proud of our team for never giving up and fighting till the end.”

Going into this upcoming weekend against Brown, Zapata said “We’re really excited to play Brown this weekend — this is our last match before conference championships at Princeton and will determine if we go into conference ranked [as the] third or fourth seed, so it’s a very critical game.”

“We are putting the finishing touches on our offensive and defensive strategies, and making sure we’re in the best possible place going into these last 2 weeks of games,” the Colombia native added.

Brown has had a similar playing history to the Crimson, winning both games against Bucknell and Saint Francis but succumbing to Princeton and Michigan. This upcoming Saturday, the two Ivy rivals will face off in Bear territory, marking the last games of both teams’ regular seasons.

— Staff writer Mandy B. Brenner can be reached at

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