Season Recap: Youth Movement, Veteran Leadership Guide Men’s Water Polo in 2008

Season Recap: Youth Movement, Veteran Leadership Guide Men’s Water Polo in 2008

The Harvard men's water polo team entered the 2008 season looking forward after finishing 13-16 overall the year before, earning two wins over nationally ranked opponents, including a, 9-7, victory over then-ranked No. 20 Johns Hopkins in the Eastern Championships.


The Crimson opened the regular season in familiar territory at the Cambridge Invitational at MIT. Harvard earned a dominating, 17-8, win over Washington & Jefferson, capped by a seven goal performance by senior co-captain David Tune and a hat trick by sophomore Jeff Lee. The following act for the Crimson was No. 20 Cal Baptist whom Harvard defeated last year, 14-13, in overtime in Stockton, Calif. The Lancers took down the Crimson, 16-10, to earn their redemption for last year's victory.


A few days later, Harvard went back to MIT to face the Engineers and came out victorious with a, 10-9, triumph to open the season 2-1 heading into the ECAC Championships held at Harvard's Blodgett Pool. Senior co-captain Jay Connolly earned his first win of the season in goal, saving seven shots on net.


In that three-game span at the Cambridge Invitational, Tune paced the Crimson with 10 goals, adding one and two against Cal Baptist and MIT, respectively.


Hosting the 2008 ECAC Championship this year, Harvard opened with another formidable foe looking for redemption, this time in then No. 20 John Hopkins. Tune posted two goals for the Crimson as the Blue Jays won the match, 12-2, in opening play of the championship.


Later that evening, Harvard faced Iona. Harvard won both meetings last year, outscoring Iona, 19-14, in 2007. The Crimson played close with the Gaels throughout the match, and was down only 6-4 at the half.  Harvard played solid defense through the first half and narrowed the gap, 6-5. Iona then surged to go ahead, 9-7, going into the final period. The Gaels never looked back, winning, 15-10. Sophomore Alex Thompson scored a hat trick and Tune, junior Egen Atkinson and sophomore Bret Voith each had two goals.


The Crimson closed the championship with a seventh-place matchup against Ivy League adversary Brown, who was ranked No. 18 at the time. Senior co-captain Jay Connolly made a valiant effort, making 10 saves on the evening, but the Crimson was unable to hang on, dropping the match, 14-6. Harvard finished in eighth place at the tournament.


After a 10-day break, the Crimson followed up with another match against Brown to open the month of October. The Crimson played a very well fought match at Blodgett Pool, sending the match to overtime at, 7-7. In the extra sessions, Brown scored three goals to Harvard's one, winning the overtime bout, 10-8. Voith led the Crimson with four goals, while Tune continued his stellar season with a hat trick. Connolly also made 10 saves in net.


Harvard then made its way out west to Claremont, Calif., for the Claremont Convergence, where the Crimson would face their highest ranked opponents of the year.  Harvard dropped both of it's matches out west, first to then No. 4 Pepperdine, 11-2, and also to then No. 6 Loyola Marymount, 19-4. Atkinson and Lee both tallied goals against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Connolly made 22 saves for the weekend.


The following weekend, the Crimson took a Sunday tour out to New York, playing at Iona and Fordham. Harvard again played close with Iona, led by Atkinson and Voith, who had five goals and a hat trick, respectively. Their efforts were not enough as the Crimson dropped a tough, well-fought match in New Rochelle, 12-10. The Crimson followed up with a matinee in the Bronx at Fordham. The road wear seemed to play a factor as the Crimson lost to the Rams, 14-6. Harvard distributed its scoring, as Thompson scored his second hat trick of the season and Tune, Voith, and newcomer Mike Katzer each scored a goal.


The Crimson returned home for two games at Blodgett with Connolly and Tune both playing in their final two matches at home. It was their time to shine and shine they did. Tune scored a hat trick against Queens and Connolly made four saves, allowing only two scores in a combined, 14-6, win over Queens with freshman Alexandre Popp. Junior Dan Furman and newcomers Evan Zepfel and Katzer both scored two goals against the Knights.

Against St. Francis (N.Y.), Harvard was not able to capture the final game at Blodgett for the season, dropping the match, 11-3. Tune, Voith and freshman Luka Babic were the lone goal scorers for the Crimson and Connolly stopped 15 Terrier shots that evening.

For his efforts that weekend, Tune was named Northern Division Player of the Week for his four goals and the Crimson win.

The Crimson then closed out their regular season against Connecticut College in New London. Harvard would go on to dominate the Camels, 19-13, and beat their previous benchmark of 17 goals scored against Washington & Jefferson.

With history on their side, Harvard was again looking for Cinderella upsets at the Northern Championships in Cambridge at MIT.

The Crimson opened up the Northern Championships in Cambridge at MIT against MIT Saturday morning and was a little shaky at first, down 3-1 at the half. However in the third, the Crimson had resurgence offensively and defensively, tying the score at, 4-4, after three periods. Both teams then went on two tally three goals in the fourth to send the match to overtime. After a valiant effort in regulation, the Crimson were unable to hang in overtime, falling to the Engineers, 9-7, in the opening round of the Northern Division Championship. Thompson scored three goals, while Voith added two tallies, four steals and assisted on three goals.

Harvard would not hang their heads long however, bouncing back against Connecticut College, 20-4, in another dominate effort over the Camels. Juniors Atkinson and Mitch Denti would both record hat tricks, while Lee would go on to score two. Co-captain Connolly played out of the net during the game, scoring his first-collegiate goal against the Camels.

In the fifth-place match against Fordham, the Crimson were poised, ending the first quarter tied, 2-2. Fordham then responded with four goals late in the second to go up, 6-2, and, 8-4, at the half. Harvard would close the gap to three goals, 9-6, after three but could not overcome the two-goal deficit in the fourth to fall, 10-8 to the Rams. In their final collegiate match, Connolly made eight saves and Tune scored a hat trick. Lee contributed two goals to the effort against Fordham.

In the last six games of the season, the Crimson boasted a, 3-3 record, after dropping eight straight and outscored their opponents, 71-53. Overall the Crimson finished the season at 5-12 and 3-4 in CWPA play.

Connolly with 150 saves on the year averaged 10.7 a game and tallied one goal in 14 appearances on the season.

Tune ended his season with 34 goals in 17 games. He was named COOP Athlete of the Week September 15 after scoring seven goals against Washington & Jefferson and Northern Division Player of the Week on October 21 after scoring four goals combined against Queens and St. Francis (N.Y.).

A San Rafael, Calif. native, Tune, also garnered CWPA All-Northern Division second team accolades for his output this last season.

With the Crimson only graduating two seniors, Connolly and Tune, the Harvard men's water polo team and head coach Erik Farrar look towards the future with six juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen currently on the roster. The healthy balance of experience and youth will look to boost the Crimson back to the upper-ranks of the CWPA.

Atkinson will return next season, after scoring 23 goals, to hopefully match the offensive output of Tune next fall. And junior Nikhil Balaraman and Popp will return to bolster the Crimson in net. Lee and Thompson will look to round out the future junior class for Harvard as well.