Men's Water Polo Embarks on 2009 Season with Plenty of Experience

-Pictured: Bret Voith. Photo by

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Harvard men’s water polo team will look to reach the upper-echelons of the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) in 2009. The Crimson returns 16 players and welcomes two rookies and finished the 2008 season with a record of 5-12 overall and 3-4 in league play. Head Coach Erik Farrar and his squad placed sixth at the Northern Division Championship and eighth at the ECAC Championship last year.

The team stands ninth in the CWPA preseason poll. The Crimson is scheduled to play five teams ranked in the CWPA preseason Top 20 poll.

Harvard’s biggest strength will be its experience. The 2009 squad is made up of five seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and only two freshmen.

Senior co-captain Egen Atkinson, juniors Jeff Lee, Alex Thompson and co-captain Bret Voith will be the offensive threats for the Crimson. Atkinson was second on the 2008 squad in scoring behind David Tune ’09 with 23 goals while Voith was third with 22 tallies. Thompson and Lee contributed 17 and 16 scores, respectively. Other key returning players are sophomores Mike Katzer (12 goals), Luka Babic (11 goals), and seniors Thomas Bailey (6 goals) and Dan Furman (5 goals)

The Crimson will look upon senior Nikhil Balaraman and sophomore Alexandre Popp to replace John Connolly ’09 between the pipes. Balaraman appeared in five contests and recorded 39 saves while Popp appeared in three games making seven saves in 2008.

Harvard dives into the season on Sept. 5-6 when the Crimson takes on a trio of teams from California at the M.I.T. Invitational. The Crimson will face-off against Pacific and Claremont on Sept. 5 and Redlands on Sept. 6. Following the M.I.T. Invitational, Harvard will travel to Princeton, N.J. to play four matches in two days at the Princeton Invitational.

Harvard’s first CWPA match of 2009 will take place on Sept. 16 versus cross-town foe M.I.T at Blodgett Pool. The Crimson will return to Princeton, N.J. for the ECAC Championships beginning Sept. 18. The team will stay on the road as they play a league match at Queen’s (N.Y.) before heading west to Claremont, Calif. to take part in the Claremont Convergence. The Crimson will play four matches in two days while out west.

Harvard will return to Cambridge for six league matches. The Crimson will host Connecticut College, Brown, Iona, Fordham and travel to M.I.T before closing out the regular season at home against St. Francis (N.Y.). Harvard will host the Northern Division Championship at Blodgett Pool on Nov. 7-8. The top two teams at the Northern Championships will qualify to compete at the Eastern Championships at M.I.T, Nov. 20-22

The 2009 season marks Farrar’s sixth season at the helm of the Harvard men’s and women’s water polo teams. Joining Farrar on the sideline for the upcoming season will be Shana Welch. Welch joins the Crimson staff as an assistant coach after serving as the assistant coach of the men’s and women’s swimming teams at Bucknell for one season.