Junior captain Harry Tafur recorded a hat trick in the NWPC Championship victory over then-No. 10 Brown (Paul Rutherford).
No. 10 Harvard vs. No. 12 Bucknell
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The No. 10 Harvard men's water polo team (25-6) begins play in the 2016 NCAA Championship with a play-in game against No. 12 Bucknell (23-4) in Cambridge Saturday, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. The game marks the first time any Crimson water polo team has competed in the national championship.
The opening-round game will be available to watch for free on the Ivy League Digital Network, as well as on Facebook Live.
Last Time Out
No. 10 Harvard men's water polo clinched a spot in the NCAA Championship tournament by winning three-straight games to capture the first-ever NWPC Championship. The Crimson defeated MIT, then-No. 12 Princeton and then-No. 10 Brown on its way to the title, also tying a program record with its 25th win on the season. Senior captain Joey Colton recorded a season-high six assists and junior captain Harry Tafur collected a hat trick in the championship as Harvard took down Brown, 11-7.
The Crimson won the inaugural NWPC Championship after earning the third seed with a 7-3 conference mark during the regular season. Harvard took down then-No.12 Princeton and then-No. 10 Brown, the top-two seeds in the tournament, after splitting the regular season series with each at 1-1. Harvard went back-and-forth with the Tigers throughout the contest, before Colton rattled in two consecutive goals to tie and then take the lead, 14-13, with less than a minute remaining. Harvard's defense secured the win with a steal in the final moments of the game. In the championship, the Crimson jumped out to a 3-0 advantage and led wire-to-wire, taking down the Bears, 11-7. Colton, along with seniors Noah Harrison and Dan Stevens, were selected to the NWPC Championship First Team, while sophomore goaltender Anthony Ridgley earned a nod to the NWPC Championship Second Team.
The 2016 Crimson is the first Harvard water polo team to ever play in the NCAA Championship. Harvard is one of seven teams vying for the national title, along with No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Cal, No. 9 UC Davis, No. 12 Bucknell and No. 17 Pomona Pitzer. The winner of the Harvard/Bucknell game will take on UC Davis for a spot in the final four, while Cal and Pomona Pitzer will play for the other slot in the finals. USC and UCLA already clinched their place in the final four which will take place on Dec. 3-4.
History in the Making
Along with matching the Harvard record for 25 wins and making its first-ever NCAA Championship appearance, the Crimson has set a number of other program marks this season. Harvard reached the No. 8 ranking in the CWPA National Poll (Sept. 21), marking the highest of all-time, while also recording a nine-game win streak (Sept. 4 – Oct. 1) to tie the second-longest in Harvard water polo history. The Crimson defeated a program-record 11 ranked opponents in 2016, and opened the year with a 12-2 start, the best ever to begin a season.
Colton helped lead the Crimson to the inaugural NWPC Championship title after recording six goals and 11 assists during a 3-0 weekend. He recorded two goals and at least two assists in all three games, including a season-high six assists in the championship game against then-No. 10 Brown. Colton now has a team-high 72 assists to go along with 38 goals on the year.
Senior Noah Harrison has been instrumental on both sides of the ball. Harrison has led the offensive attack all year, averaging 2.6 scores per game for a team-high 80 goals this season. He has now scored in eight-straight games, including four-goal performances against MIT and then-No.12 Princeton in the conference tournament. Harrison also amassed eight steals over the three games, adding to his team-leading 54 steals.
The Crimson has a number of options on the offensive end that can get the job done. Aside from Harrison, seven players have scored at least 25 goals this season. Junior Colin Chiapello and sophomore Nick Bunn both have eclipsed the 40-goal mark, while Colton and freshman Austin Sechrest have totaled 30-plus.
Last Line of Defense
Sophomore Anthony Ridgley continues to excel in net for the Crimson, totaling 26 saves to go along with four assists and three steals during the NWPC Championship run. He totaled 10 saves in both wins over MIT and then-No. 12 Princeton, before notching six stops and three steals in the win over then-No. 10 Brown. Ridgley has collected double-digit saves in 10 games for a total of 188 saves this season.
Bucknell enters the NCAA Championship with a 23-4 overall record, including 9-1 in the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference. Bucknell has won its last 11 games since a 13-11 defeat to the Crimson back on Oct. 16 at the Harvard Invitational. The Bison is making its first NCAA appearance since 1985 and its sixth in school history. Freshman Rade Joksimovic, the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, leads the Bison with 148 goals on the year. Junior Charlie Niehaus has taken care of duties between the pipes for Bucknell, amassing 276 saves over 27 appearances.
Ivy League Digital Network
The Ivy League Digital Network returns for a fourth season as the home for all live streaming and on-demand video content for each of the conference's eight institutions. Broadcast in full HD and featuring a live score bug and play-by-play and color commentary, the Ivy League Digital Network provides fans with unprecedented access to the Ancient Eight.
Multiple subscription options are available to fans, including school-specific and league-wide passes. The ILDN is also available on Apple TV and Roku. To learn more about the Ivy League Digital Network or to sign-up today, click here.