The fourth quarter was winding down, and the Harvard women’s water polo team hadn’t scored for nearly a full period. In the span of three minutes, the Crimson had blown a 10-7 lead over No. 20 Hartwick; if the score held sway, the game was about to enter overtime knotted at ten.
Senior attacker Yoshi Andersen put an end to that idea, however. With a backhanded bullet, the co-captain shot past Hartwick’s backup goalie, sophomore Josette Santos, to put Harvard ahead with 1:17 remaining in the game. As the ball snapped the back of the net, the Crimson’s fans at Blodgett Pool exploded to their feet.
Sophomore goalie Cleo Harrington forced a crucial missed shot on the ensuing Hawks possession, as the Hartwick player arced the ball wide left in a close-range play, and No. 13 Harvard (19-4) forced one more turnover to seal the 11-10 victory over the visiting Hawks (13-8).
Andersen’s goal broke the scoring drought and gave the Crimson the conclusive lead in a game it never trailed.
“We ran a play that a lot of times we’ll run, because it gives us a lot of options at the end of the game,” Andersen said. “I guess they were focused on another part of the pool and so I was open in the middle. I locked eyes with [junior attacker Zoe Osborne], she passed me the ball, and then I just flung it back in there.”
The rest of the offense supplemented Andersen’s game winner with a frenzy of early goals. Junior attacker Melissa Balding scored three times to lead the Harvard attack, while sophomore attacker Sami Strutner tacked on another pair.
Freshman utility Nikki Daurio, freshman attacker Kristen Hong, junior attacker Michelle Martinelli, and senior attacker Zoe Osborne, who assisted on the winning goal, rounded out the scoring for the Crimson. Hong, the team’s leading scorer, also contributed a goal-saving steal.
On the other side of the pool, the defensive end did its part to help Harvard to another close win, by now a trademark of the team.
Harrington tallied eight saves, including one penalty shot, just days after receiving her third WWPA Division I/II Defensive Player of the Week honor of 2016. Several of the stops came in one-on-one situations. Admittedly she was helped out by a favorable goalpost—four Hartwick shots smacked the crossbar throughout the course of the game.
The Crimson came out of the opening sprint with sharp play, using accurate shots to take a 5-1 lead one possession into the second quarter. Balding and Andersen notched the first two scores in quick succession, providing an early cushion for the hosts.
“One of our team strengths is definitely that we come out to games fired up,” Andersen said. “I feel like that’s a pattern that we have. We fire each other up so we’re really in the zone as we go in there.”
The immediate lead had a long-lasting effect, as Hawks senior starting goalie Michaela Davies was pulled early in the second half.
After the first quarter, however, the Harvard offense slowed down, allowing the Hawks to pull back to 6-4 by halftime.
“We’re coming out of a long trip in California, short turnaround,” head coach Ted Minnis said. “I thought we came out and played pretty well in the first quarter. As the game went on, you saw that we kind of got a little tired.”
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