Water polo action saw Harvard (13-2, 3-0 Ivy League) take a convincing, albeit sloppy, 16-10 win over their cross-Cambridge rivals, MIT (3-8). The afternoon’s victory added the 13th tick to the Crimson’s flaming-hot 13-2 record and marked Harvard’s 20th consecutive win in the pool for this particular all-Cambridge match-up.
Despite the comfortable win and generous six-goal margin separating Harvard from the Engineers, the atmosphere on the Blodgett Pool deck was not one of joy, but rather frustration. The fans piled into the stands expecting a steamroll victory by a margin reaching into the double figures. Instead, spectators were treated with frequent shot-clock violations from both sides, multiple mishandles of the ball, and too many off-target throws to count. And to the dismay of Crimson water polo fanatics, it was Harvard that conceded the first goal of the match.
“The game definitely didn’t start the way we wanted it to go,” noted first-year attacker Alex James when asked to comment on the opening minutes of the match. “We were a little asleep in the beginning. We went out slow. They got one early on us, and we shouldn’t have allowed it.”.
In the second half, however, the Crimson managed to turn things around and take charge of the game. Dominant hole performances from sophomore centers Kaleb Archer and Mot Stothart, who each scored three goals, as well as four goals from junior attacker Alex Tsodaze, reignited Harvard’s play. Fuelled by confident perimeter ball movement, the Crimson whip-kicked itself back into a shape recognizable as an offensive system expected from the 14th-ranked team in the nation.
“We’ve got to stick to our system,” James offered. “When a ball swings, it’s so hard for the goalie to react. [We] run through the percentages, what’s best for the team, and what’s best for the system. Once we realized that the game turned around. The score showed that we were the better team.”
The scoresheet is an avid supporter of this analysis, suggesting that over half of Harvard’s goals were served by assists.
Regardless of the team’s hiccups throughout the match-up, James is not at all worried about the Crimson’s potential for aquatic dominance.
“We’re just climbing stairs one step at a time,” James said. “We’re roughly halfway through the season now, halfway up the staircase. We’re not playing our best polo yet and shouldn’t be playing our best polo yet because it’s still October. We still have a long way to go.”
Part of this long journey includes a packed, four-game weekend for the team as it hosts the Harvard Invitational Tournament. Harvard will take on Gannon University and Wagner College in Blodgett Pool this Saturday. The Crimson also plays Salem University and St. Mary’s on Sunday.
Harvard must reinvigorate its play this weekend and beyond as they seek to improve on its 4-1 Northeast Water Polo Conference record and chase other loftier goals — such as a national title.
James explains that this all serves to motivate the team to continue putting in maximum effort.
“One thing that keeps us going is our end goal,” James said. “We want to win the conference; we want to get to a Final Four. We want to win a National Championship. You’re not going to do that by not fully committing.”
He is confident that the team has what it takes.