On Wednesday night, playing at home in Blodgett Pool, the No. 20 Harvard women’s water polo team (13-10, 3-2 CWPA) fought its way to a crucial 8-7 win over Ivy League rival Brown (18-6, 2-3 CWPA).
“They’re always one-goal games,” coach Ted Minnis said. “We told the team before the game it was going to be a one-goal game, and it was a one-goal game. I thought we were really resilient to keep hammering away. ”
Though the Crimson defeated the Bears in the teams’ most recent matchup last spring, Harvard is only 3-6 against Brown over the last five years.
Nonetheless, the Crimson entered Wednesday night’s game with positive momentum after a strong weekend, going 2-1 in a trio of conference games, falling only to No. 7 Michigan. Last weekend, Freshman attacker Sofia Carrera-Justiz totaled seven goals and four assists to lead the Crimson attack. Also anchoring the Harvard offense, sophomore attacker Kristen Hong has scored at least once in each of the last nine contests.
Just 79 seconds into Wednesday’s game, Brown sophomore Carmen Rosas found the net, giving the Bears an early lead. With 3:39 left in the first quarter, co-captain attacker Zoe Osborne responded to Brown’s goal, tying the score at 1-1.
In the second frame, a pair of goals assisted by co-captain attacker Michelle Martinelli, the first scored by Carrera-Justiz and the second by Hong, gave the Crimson a two-goal lead. However, the Bears rebounded with two goals in the final three minutes of the half, to tie the score again at 3-3 going into the intermission.
Strong defensive play from both teams kept the game tied for most of the third quarter. Finally, with 2:16 left on the clock, Martinelli broke the stalemate with a powerful shot from straight on, but Rosas responded quickly for Brown, tying the game again with 33 seconds left in the third. However, determined to end the period with a lead, freshman defender Mathilde Ribordy found the back of the net with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the final stanza, picking up just where she left off, Ribordy tallied another goal a mere 20 seconds into the last period, giving Harvard a 6-4 lead. Not letting the Crimson get comfortable with the two-point advantage, the Bears scored, making it once again a one-point game.
Harvard and Brown continued to play a very evenly matched game. Sophomore defender Haley Bowe and freshman defender Lana Gorlinski tallied a late goal each for the Crimson. With 56 seconds left in the game, the Bears scored one more, closing the margin to 8-7. However, the Harvard defense stayed strong, preventing Brown from scoring an equalizing goal in the final minute of play.
Junior goalie Cleo Harrington was crucial to the win, totaling 10 stops in the net to mark her fifth game this season with a double-digit save total.
“We definitely had to grind for the win against Brown,” Hong said. “Coming into a rivalry game, you always know it’s going to be tough, despite whether or not you’ve been losing and winning against different teams. I’m just really glad that we were able to stick with our game and fight through.”
Wednesday’s win was a big one for Harvard. Both the Crimson and the Bears entered the evening with 2-2 records in conference play. This victory secures Harvard a third- to fifth-place seed going into the conference championship.
“I think we played really well defensively,” Minnis said. “We dictated the tempo and played our pace which was good. Now we’re really focused on getting our wins and getting the highest seed for our conference championships.”
The Crimson will play its final regular season games this weekend with a trio of CWPA matchups at Brown. On Friday, Harvard will take on No. 18 Hartwick before facing No. 14 Indiana and St. Francis on Saturday.
—Staff writer Rena Simkowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.