Offense was on display in both of the Crimson's games. (Zack Williamson)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard women's water polo closed the Harvard Invite Sunday with two games. The Crimson (11-5) fell to San Jose State (17-6) in the first game of the day and ended its homestand with an exciting victory over VMI (2-6).
Vs. No. 9 San Jose State
Harvard opened the day with an early morning match against No. 9 San Jose State. After falling behind 2-0 in the first three minutes, Zoe Osborne got the Crimson on the board with a great one-on-one finish on a fast break. The Spartans kept the pressure up the rest of the quarter building a 6-1 lead.
Hot hand, Charlotte Hendrix opened the second quarter with a close-range goal to start chipping away at the San Jose lead. Staring at a 10-2 deficit, Harvard was able to score two unanswered goals, while freshman Cleo Harrington made multiple key saves to cut the Spartan advantage to 10-4 heading into half time.
In the third quarter, Harvard's offense created great chances throughout the eight minutes, but San Jose State keeper Katelynn Thompson was strong, turning away the majority of the Crimson's shots. After three quarters Harvard found itself down 15-5.
Yoshi Andersen sparked the Harvard offense early in the final frame, starting a 3-0 run, cutting the Spartan's advantage to 16-8. The Crimson was able to find the back of the net four more times but it was not enough, eventually falling to San Jose State, 19-12.
The Crimson retuned to the pool in the afternoon to take on VMI. Harvard struggled early against the Keydets, falling behind 5-1 after the first five minutes. After a shift change the Crimson offense started to click. A goal from Alexis Del Toro and two from Sami Strutner cut VMI's lead to 5-4 at the end of the first.
Melissa Balding sparked the Crimson in the second quarter, scoring two straight goals to tie the game at 6-6. Harvard took its first lead after Del Toro finished a one-on-one opportunity thanks to a great pool-length pass from Ariel Dukes. Dukes also settled in well between the posts, turning away Keydet shots throughout the second period, helping Harvard going into half time tied at 7-7.
Harvard opened the second half with two quick goals. With the shot clock winding down, freshman Haley Bowe heaved a long distance shot that took a kind deflection into the back of the net as time expired. Balding and Hendrix worked a beautiful one-two pass combination to push the Crimson lead to 9-7. VMI weathered the early Crimson flurry and were able to level the score at 10-10 with a minute left to play. The 10-10 score line would hold going into the fourth quarter.
The Keydets struck first in the crucial final frame, finding the back if the net two minutes in. Stout defense from both teams held the score at 11-10, in favor of VMI, until Hendrix found the equalizer with three minutes left in the game. Hendrix then put the Crimson up late after strong close-range finish with 60 seconds to play, which proved to be the game winner as the Crimson came away with a 12-11 victory.
Harvard travels to the west coast next week for an eight-game slate over seven days, starting Sunday, March 15 against Sonoma State.