BERKELEY, Calif. – Harvard men’s water polo (27-6) continued its historic season with a 16-15 overtime victory over UC Davis (23-6) in a play-in game for the NCAA Championship on Thursday afternoon. The Crimson earned a berth into the NCAA semifinals with the victory.
Harvard played it its first-ever NCAA Championship in the opening play-in game against Bucknell, defeating the Bison in overtime, 13-12. Harvard will now look ahead to a matchup with No. 1 USC on Saturday, Dec. 3.
The play-in game between the Crimson and the Aggies marked the third meeting of the year after both teams split during the regular season.
UC Davis struck first, taking advantage of a Harvard penalty to go up 1-0 on the Crimson with 6:27 left in the first.
Harvard then erupted for four consecutive goals, as freshman Charlie Owens scored twice and seniors Joey Colton and Dan Stevens both found the back of the net to give the Crimson a 4-1 lead.
UC Davis managed to cut the deficit to one late in the frame, but a snipe from senior Noah Harrison extended the lead back to two (5-3) at the end of the opening quarter.
After a UC Davis goal to begin the period, Colton and Harrison each fired in a shot to increase the advantage back to 7-4. The Aggies responded by going on a 4-1 run, ultimately tying the contest at 8-8 right before the intermission.
The third frame began with goals from junior Colin Chiapello and freshman Austin Sechrest to put Harvard ahead, 10-8, but the Aggies managed to score two goals of their own to tie the game at 10-10.
Colton recorded his third score of the game to momentarily give Harvard the lead back, but two scores from UC Davis gave the Aggies their first lead of the game at 12-11 late in the third quarter.
Harvard wasted no time drawing even with UC Davis in the fourth, as Chiapello beat the Aggies keeper to make it 12-12 with 6:43 remaining. Harrison followed that up with a goal less than a minute later, and the Crimson held a one-goal advantage with just over six minutes to play.
The Crimson held the Aggies scoreless over the next couple minutes, but UC Davis tied the game back up at 13-13 with 3:47 to play.
Harvard immediately responded as Owens battled for a rebound off the post and went on to score to make it 14-13 with 3:24 remaining.
UC Davis once again tied the game at 14-14 with just over a minute to play, and neither team could take the lead for the remainder of regulation to force overtime.
In the first overtime, an early goal from senior Viktor Wrobel gave Harvard the lead, and it turned out to be the only score of the period. The Crimson took a one-goal advantage (15-14) into the second overtime.
After a defensive battle for the opening two minutes of the second overtime, Sechrest gave the Crimson a two-goal cushion with 55 seconds to play. The Aggies immediately answered with a score to draw within one with 46 seconds left, but a late steal sealed the 16-15 victory for Harvard and secured the Crimson’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA semifinals.
Colton, Harrison, Chiapello and Owens all registered hat tricks in the win. Sechrest added a pair, and seniors Dan Stevens and Wrobel tallied a goal, each. Junior Harry Tafur, Harrison and Sechrest all notched two assists against the Aggies.
Defensively, Harvard recorded 14 steals, led by Harrison and Sechrest with three swipes apiece. Sophomore goaltender Anthony Ridgley totaled nine stops, including a number of crucial saves down the stretch to preserve the win.