Lizzie Abbott and the Crimson hosts the Student Rewards game during the Harvard Invitational March 2-4 (photo courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After winning its last five games, the Harvard women's water polo team will host the Harvard Invitational at Blodgett Pool March 2-4. Harvard, which received votes in the most recent College Water Polo Association (CWPA) poll, will play two ranked teams in four games during the weekend, including No. 12 San Jose State Friday night. The tournament opener against the Spartans, a 7 p.m. matchup, is slated as the Harvard Student Rewards game and the first 50 students in attendance will receive a free Crimson t-shirt.
The Crimson (7-2) has tied its best start since the 1994-95 season, when Harvard opened 8-1 overall on its way to a 15-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament berth. The Crimson has started 7-2 five times since its last 8-1 start, including each of the last three seasons. Aisha Price leads Harvard with 31 goals scored, as the junior has tallied at least three scores in eight of the first nine contests this season. Senior co-captain Devan Kennifer follows with 24 scores in addition to a team-high 34 steals and 16 assists, good for second on the squad. Senior Monica Zdrojewski is one assist ahead of Kennifer, with 17 helpers. Freshman Ariel Dukes has served a majority of time in goal for Harvard, making 46 saves.
Last Time Out
Devan Kennifer converted a steal into the game-tying goal with less than 30 seconds to play in overtime and Shayna Price found the back of the cage in the sudden-death frame to give the Crimson a 14-13 win over Iona at the CWPA/MAAC Crossover Tournament in Princeton, N.J. Feb. 26. The Crimson, which won its fifth straight, avenged a one-goal loss to the Gaels in the season opener Feb. 4. Harvard also beat MAAC foes Wagner, 16-13, and Villanova, 15-1, at the tournament.
Shayna Price Earns Defensive Honor
Shayna Price was named the CWPA Southern Division Defensive Player of the Week Feb. 28 after an impressive weekend at the CWPA/MAAC Crossover Tournament in Princeton, N.J. Price registered 18 steals and added four goals and five assists to help the Crimson to a 3-0 record. The sophomore led Harvard on the defensive end of the pool, accumulating six steals in each contest. The six steals in a game is Price's season high and second most of any Harvard player this season.
No. 12 San Jose State
The Spartans (8-7), which enter the weekend ranked No. 12 by the CWPA, have played one of the most challenging schedules in the nation. San Jose State has played 13 games against teams in the top 20, including each of its last 10 contests. The Spartans have played each of the top two teams in the nation, falling to No. 2 Southern California, 14-6, and No. 1 Stanford, 11-6 and 13-5, in the month of February. Prior to Feb. 25, Senior Dani Curran, a three-time honorable mention All-America selection, led SJSU with 17 goals scored. Senior goalie Meagan Minson, another honorable mention All-American, had 73 saves and a 9.30 goals against average.
Harvard trails the all-time series against the Trojans, 2-0. The Crimson lost at San Jose State, 8-5, last season.
No. 18 Princeton
The Tigers (13-0) are off to an undefeated start and are ranked No. 18 in the CWPA poll. Sophomore Katie Rigler, a first-team All-Southern Division honoree a year ago, leads Princeton with 21 goals, while freshman Taylor Dunstan has paced the Tigers with 14 assists. A pair of seniors, Katlin Poladian and Kristen Ward, has split time in goal for the Tigers. Ward enters the weekend with an 8-0 record, while Poladian has a 5-0 mark.
Princeton owns a 27-11 advantage in the all-time series against Harvard. The Crimson fell, 9-6, at the Princeton Invitational Feb. 11 in the last meeting between the two teams.
Bucknell (7-6) has been up and down in 2012 as the Bison has won its last four to halt a four-game losing streak. The Bison went undefeated at the CWPA/MAAC Crossover with wins over Siena, Iona, Villanova and Wagner. Bucknell is led in scoring by senior Hallie Kennan, who has tallied 18 goals and 20 assists.
The Bison, which opened its season with a 14-5 loss to Harvard, leads the all-time series against the Crimson, 14-16-1. Harvard has won the last three meetings between the two teams, including two wins last season.
The Gaels (3-3) were 1-3 at last weekend's CWPA/MAAC Crossover with losses to Princeton, Bucknell and Harvard, before beating George Washington. Iona dropped out of the CWPA rankings after last weekend, after being ranked No. 20 previously.
Harvard and Iona have met twice already this season, splitting a pair of contests in February. The Gaels beat Harvard, 15-14, Feb. 4 before the Crimson avenged its loss with a thrilling 14-13 sudden-death overtime win Feb. 26. Harvard leads the all-time series against Iona, 10-2.
The Crimson travels to California for its spring break trip March 11-17. Harvard will play five games, including three against ranked teams, during the trip.