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Athlete of the Week: Hong and Hendrix Carry Offensive Attack

A player of any age can have the potential to lead a team.

At the recent CWPA Championships held at Blodgett Pool, both a rookie and an outgoing senior led the Harvard women’s water polo team to a sixth-place finish, stepping up for the team in the wake of a rash of injuries that left several other key players out of the pool.

The weekend tournament concluded a record-breaking season in which the No. 18 Crimson (24-10) won the most games in a season in its program history despite a season of trials and injuries.

Freshman attacker Kristen Hong recorded 12 goals, six assists, and four steals, while senior attacker Charlotte Hendrix recorded 10 goals, seven assists, and two steals over the weekend’s four games to pace the Harvard effort on the weekend. For their performances, the two were named The Crimson’s Co-Athletes of the Week.

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“I really enjoyed playing on this team,” Hong said. “I love playing with the girls, and they’re such great teammates in and outside of the water.”

The team bond, not to mention the players’ physical endurance, was put to the test when core members were left unable to play for some cruical moments in the season. Junior 2-meter Melissa Balding, junior attacker Michelle Martinelli, junior attacker Zoe Osborne, and freshman utility Colby Stapleton did not play during the tournament.

“We lost a bunch of people to injuries right before the big tournament,” Hong said. “It was definitely a lot harder on all of us because we didn’t have any subs. I don’t think we did as well as we probably would have with a full squad. But considering the circumstances, we did very well.”

Even facing the tiring prospect of playing without multiple substitution field players, Hong and Hendrix managed to produce for Harvard under pressure.

Hendrix and Hong duplicated each other’s performance—twice—when they each scored four times in wins over George Washington (8-19) and Div III champion Connecticut College (15-9).

Hong’s 12 weekend tallies upped her team-leading season total to 80, setting a program record for goals in a season, breaking Hendrix’s total of 71 set in 2013. Hong also recorded season totals of 35 assists and a team-leading 45 steals to contribute on both ends of the pool.

The Orinda, Calif., native garnered five CWPA Div I/II Rookie of the Week honors and was named the team’s Rookie of the Year at the team’s recent awards banquet.

While Hong enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign, she attributed some of her success to Hendrix, who led the team in assists with 56, in addition to tallying 52 goals and 30 steals on the season.

“[Hendrix] has such great awareness in the pool,” Hong said. “I learned so much from her.”

Hendrix has enjoyed an illustrious career with the Crimson, finishing with more than 100 combined goals and assists in her each of her freshman, junior, and senior years to pace the team. Hendrix has also led the team in assists for the past two seasons and was an CWPA All-Division I/II Second Team member in 2015.

The strength of the duo’s performances is a testament to the strength of the team, even when depleted late in the year.

“This team, they came in from day one in September and started working,” said sixth-year head coach Ted Minnis. “They made it through all the ups and downs with the injuries and everything. We had seven girls there at the end [of the tournament], and they battled for the whole time. They had no quit in them.”

Sophomore goalie and team MVP Cleo Harrington provided the defense with brilliant performances all season long, and for her efforts, was named to both the 2016 CWPA Div I/II Championship All-Tournament First Team and All-Conference First Team.

In addition to the accolades bestowed on her younger teammates, senior captain Yoshi Andersen was named to the All-Tournament second team—a year removed from being named to both the tournament and conference first teams as a junior standout.

“I’m just really proud of them and I’m proud of the season,” Minnis said. “It was a fun year.”

Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at bhu01@college.harvard.edu.

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