From Nov. 2 to Nov. 4, the men’s side was in Carlsbad, Calif., for the Gifford Collegiate Championship, which was hosted by UCLA. Harvard was the only Ivy League school to enter the tournament, and the team competed against top national competitors, including No. 5 Stanford and No. 25 South Florida.
Harvard men’s water polo is another team that often travels across the country to participate in tournaments.
This year, the team made a trip out to the West Coast to compete in the Santa Clara Bronco Invite. Playing in California and matching up with Golden State teams like San Jose State, Santa Clara, Fresno Pacific, and UC Davis gave the Crimson a chance to mix things up and play a different style of water polo.
Men’s water polo typically travels to California once a year, alternating between venues in Northern and Southern California, depending on the year.
“The California tournament is always refreshing for our team in general,” junior Dan Stevens said. “A lot of us are from California. It’s nice to get back outside, playing in outdoor pools and playing against California teams.”
According to Stevens, traveling as a team to face non-conference opponents away from Cambridge also has a positive effect on the team’s bonding and morale.
“When we went 5-0 [in Santa Clara], I think that a lot of that was a product of increased team chemistry and us coming together as a unit,” Stevens added.
The change of scenery certainly worked well for the Crimson this season. Before the California trip, Harvard was struggling to find its rhythm and was at .500 with a 9-9 record. The five wins at the Santa Clara Bronco Invite sparked a winning streak that extended to 10 games at its peak.
“I think that tournament is when our defense started coming together, and when we hold teams under 10 goals, we’re undefeated [for the season],” Stevens said. “Holding a team to two goals, especially a good team like Santa Clara, was a huge step for us in the right direction.”
Though Harvard teams’ typical schedules are defined by the school’s standing as a member of the historic Ivy League, contests against teams from outside the Ancient Eight can be just as competitive, if not more so. The Crimson teams often step onto the same court or field as top Division I programs in the nation, determined to demonstrate Harvard’s athletic clout outside the Ancient Eight.