Heading West: Men's Water Polo Travels to California for Five Games

Heading West: Men's Water Polo Travels to California for Five Games

Max Eliot is one of 12 players on the Harvard roster that hails from the state of California (Photo courtesy: Justine Agaloos). 

After seeing its nine-game winning streak come to an end Sunday, the men's water polo team will head west for five games in three days in the Golden State. The first four games of the weekend are part of the Gary Troyer Tournament. The Crimson then concludes the weekend with a non-conference game against UC Santa Barbara. 

Long Beach State    1 p.m.
Pomona-Pitzer 10:20 p.m.
Loyola Marymount   6:20 p.m.
Claremont-M-S 10:20 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara 3 p.m.

Please note: All times listed are EST.

Click here to visit the official tournament home page for the Gary Troyer Tournament. 

Last Time Out
The Crimson went 3-1 at the Bison Invitational over the weekend. Harvard knocked off Navy's B team, 15-11, Johns Hopkins, 9-8, and the University of Toronto, 16-8, before falling to Bucknell for the second time this season, 10-8, in the finale. Harvard is now 12-6 on the season and 4-0 in the CWPA Northern Division.

Nine In A Row
After losing to Bucknell in the opening round of the North-South Challenge, the Crimson reeled off nine straight wins before falling to Bucknell again in the final game of the Bison Invitational. During the span, which is tied for the second longest win streak in program history and one off the all-time mark established in 2001, Harvard averaged 13.4 goals per game, while only giving up 8.8 per contest. Defense was the key to the unbeaten streak as the Crimson averaged 12.4 steals and 10.1 saves per contest in the nine contests.  

Best Starts In Program History
At 12-6, Harvard is off to its best 18-game start to a season since 2002 when the team opened up 14-4, and the ninth best start in program annals. The Crimson's best start came in 1981 – the second year of men's varsity water polo - when the team began the season 16-2 en route to the program's top mark for wins with 22.

Rank    Best 18-game starts    Year
1 16-2 1981
2 15-3 1987
T3 14-4 1982
  14-4 1983
  14-4 1988
  14-4 2001
  14-4 2002
8 13-5 1985
T9 12-6 2000
  12-6 2012

Freshmen Phenoms
Freshmen lead Harvard in all three major statistical categories. Rookie Ben Zepfel has taken over sole possession of the team lead in goals after tallying 13 goals in four games over the weekend to increase his season total to 43. Classmate Blake Lee, who had led the team in scoring prior to the Bison Invitational, is second with 37 goals. The California native still leads the team in assists with 28 and is tied with fellow rookie Noah Harrison for the top spot in steals with 35. Harrison also ranks third on the team in both goals (30) and assists (19). Classmate Robbie Fluegge has also made an impact on both sides of the pool with nine goals, eight assists and 15 steals, while Colin Woolway has made 71 saves in goal. As a group, the freshmen have accounted for 62.6 percent of the goals (122/195), 52.3 percent of the assists (68/130), 57.7 percent of the steals (113/196) and 42.5 percent of the saves (71/167).

Rookies of the Week
Three different Crimson players have been honored as the CWPA Northern Division Rookie of the Week. Blake Lee is the latest to join the crowd after scoring seven goals, making eight assists and recording 12 steals in four conference games over the weekend to get the nod for the week of Sept. 24. Ben Zepfel won Sept. 17 after netting 11 goals and four steals in the North-South Challenge, and Noah Harrison received the honor Sept. 3 for contributing six goals, one assist and five steals at the Labor Day Invite.

Click here for Lee's release, here for Zepfel's and here for Harrison's.

Defensive Player of the Week
Junior goalkeeper Jimmy Field became the first non-freshmen to be honored by the CWPA this season, earning the Northern Division Defensive Player of the Week award for Sept. 24. In eight quarters over the weekend, the Hawaii native made 24 saves and one steal to earn the first player of the week honor of his career.

Click here for the full release on Field's defensive player of the week award.

Top Plays
In a new feature on, the Office of Athletic Communications will select the top 10 plays from each month. Watch the video below to see where water polo ranked on the list for September.


No. 10 Long Beach State
The 49ers head into the Claremont Convergence/Gary Troyer Tournament  ranked 10th in the country with a 12-3 record after going 3-2 last week. Long Beach State is led by junior Dan Matulis (43 goals) and senior Spencer White (36 goals). LBSU is also strong defensively with Balint Meszaros in net. The sophomore is making 10.81 saves per game and allowing just 7.70 goals. This is the first meeting between the two schools.

The Sagehens enter the weekend at 1-11 overall; however, that record is deceiving as all 11 losses have come to ranked opponents, including two to No. 1 USC and one to then-No. 2 UCLA. Pomona-Pitzer did pick up its first win of the season, defeating La Verne, 12-7, Oct. 3 to remain ranked No. 1 in the Division III polls. Junior Ryan Higgins is tops on the squad with 18 goals, and senior Mark Hudnall is second with 12 tallies. Junior goalkeeper Tyler Hill has made 59 saves while allowing 95 goals. Harvard trails the all-time series, 2-6, with the Sagehens winning the last four meetings, including a 10-9 win in 2010.

No. 9 Loyola Marymount

After going 3-1 at the SoCal Tournament, the Lions moved up to No. 9 in the country with a 7-6 record. In the four games, junior John Mikuzis led the way with 11 goals, four assists, four steals and four field blocks. He is now second on the team with 23 goals behind freshman Milutin Mitrovis, who has found the back of the net 32 times. The matchup will be just the second between the two schools after the Lions beat Harvard, 19-4, in their only previous meeting in 2008.

After finishing last season atop the Division III polls, the Stags are 2-12 overall. The squad just ended a 10-game skid by defeating Chapman, 13-8, Wednesday night. The Crimson and Stags have one common opponent thus far in 2012 – California Lutheran. Harvard defeated the Kingsmen, 13-5, at the Princeton Invitational, while Claremont-M-S lost in overtime to them, 12-11, at the Aggie Invite. In the all-time series, Harvard trails, 3-2, after dropping their last meeting, 13-6, in 2010.

No. 2 UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos are the highest ranked opponent on Harvard's schedule thus far in 2012, coming in ranked No. 2 with a 12-3 mark. The Gauchos are riding high after climbing four spots in the poll, following an 11-10 upset of previous No. 2 and 2011 national runner-up UCLA. Matt Gronow has paced the offense with 28 goals and 13 assists for 41 points on the year, while Evan Dellinger has contributed 23 goals and 11 assists. Myles Christian has played the majority of the minutes in goal for the Gauchos, making 72 saves and allowing just 41 goals in 6.75 games played. UCSB leads the all-time series 2-0, including an 11-3 win in their last meeting back in 2002.

Up Next
Harvard returns to conference play with a first-place showdown with Brown Oct. 11 at Blodgett Pool. If the Crimson wins, it will lock up the number one seed for the CWPA Northern Tournament and give the team an automatic berth to the CWPA Eastern Tournament.