CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – In its final regular season home game of the year, senior co-captain Yoshi Andersen delivered the game-winning goal with just over a minute remaining to power the No. 13 Harvard women's water polo past No. 20 Hartwick, 11-10, Thursday night at Blodgett Pool.
Balding and Andersen delivered back-to-back skip shots to open the game before Hartwick (13-8) got on the board midway through the period. Sami Strutner pushed Harvard's edge back to two, deking the keeper on a man-up situation and Nikki Daurio unloaded a shot into back of the cage to cap the opening frame as the Crimson held the upper hand at 4-1.
Harvard's attack continued to fire on all cylinders as Balding lobbed a floater in to start the second stanza, but It was Hartwick's turn to take the momentum as it tacked back to back goals to make it a two-goal game. Strutner ended the Crimson scoring drough by snapping the back of the net on a counter, but the Hawks got another right back at the end of the period, making it a 6-4 game in favor of the Crimson at the half.
The second half featured back-and-forth scoring, as Hartwick tried to claw its way back into the game, while Harvard fought to maintain the upper hand. Kristen Hong and Michelle Martinelli angled in skip shots to retake a four-goal lead, but the Hawks snuck one past the Crimson keeper before Zoe Osborne snuck one in. Martinelli delivered a lob shot to close out the period, but the Hawks tallied a pair in the final minutes as Harvard held a 10-7 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Hawks took control of the moment as they opened the fourth with a 4-0 run to tie it up with less than two minutes remaining. However, Andersen spun off a defender and fired home a backhanded shot into the back of the net, giving Harvard the lead with 1:17 remaining.
"It really was a team effort for the last play," said Andersen. "Ted drew up that play that we use a lot at the end of games because it gives us a lot of options. It just kind of happened that I was open in front of the cage and locked eyes with Zoe and she was able to put it into me. I knew that I had to get it off really quickly and just went with the backhand."
"I was proud of the way we settled down," said The Friends of Water Polo Head Coach Ted Minnis. "The momentum kind of started taking over, and Yoshi hitting that goal settled things down, and it was let's just go play some defense. I think that was huge."
Hartwick pressed furiously the final minute, but the Harvard defense was unwavering as it held on for its seventh-straight victory.
"It was so great," Andersen reflected on her last regular season game at Blodgett. "This year especially has been phenomenal, the team has put so much effort and has just been the best team that I've played with for sure. It's been a great run and I've been so happy with this year and it wouldn't have been as special with any other group of girls."
Harvard will head to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a trio of games against Indiana and Michigan April 9 before closing out the trip against Princeton the following day. The Crimson's contest against Michigan can be seen live on the Big Ten Network.