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Men's Water Polo Heads to Eastern Championships this Weekend

Harvard faces Bucknell in the opening round of the CWPA Eastern Tournament (Photo courtesy: Justine Agaloos). 

Scene Setter
The Harvard men's water polo makes it second consecutive trip to the Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Division Championships under third-year head coach Ted Minnis. By virtue of the Crimson's fourth-place finish at the Northern Division Championships Nov. 3-4, Harvard is the Northern's Division fourth seed and opens play against the Southern Division's No. 1 seed, Bucknell. The Crimson travels to Princeton, N.J. for the 41st playing of the three-day tournament.

About the Field
The eight teams in the event all qualified for it by virtue of their performances at the respective CWPA Northern and Southern Division championships. St. Francis toppled Brown at the Northern Division championships to earn the No. 1 seed, while Bucknell edged upstart Mercyhurst to win the Southern Division crown and earn the South No. 1 seed. Joining those four teams are the US Naval Academy, Princeton, MIT and Harvard.

Championship Berth on the Line
For seven of the eight teams in the field, their 2012 season will draw to a close; however, the champion will qualify for the NCAA Men's Water Polo National Championships, Dec. 1-2 at the McDonald's Swim Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. The women's national championship will be held in May at Harvard's very own Blodgett Pool.

Schedule of Events

Friday, Nov. 16

Game 1

11:30 a.m.

South No. 1 Bucknell vs. North No. 4 Harvard

Game 2

1:00 p.m.

South No. 3 Princeton vs. North No. 2 Brown

Game 3

2:30 p.m.

South No. 4 US Naval Academy vs. North No. 1 St. Francis

Game 4

4:00 p.m.

South No. 2 Mercyhurst vs. North No. 3 MIT

Saturday, Nov. 17

Game 5

1:30 p.m.

Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2

Game 6

3:00 p.m.

Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4

Game 7

4:30 p.m.

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2

Game 8

6:00 p.m.

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4

Sunday, Nov. 18

Game 9

10:00 a.m.

Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6

Game 10

11:30 a.m.

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

Game 11

1:00 p.m.

Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8

Game 12

2:30 p.m.

Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8

 

Watch it Live
Fans can watch every game of the Eastern Division Championships for a fee at the CWPA website. 

Related Video: CWPA Stream

Last Time Out
Harvard finished 1-2 at the Eastern Division Championships after entering the tournament as the third seed. The Crimson topped Fordham, 10-8, in the opener behind four goals from John Holland-McCowan and three from Ben Zepfel. In the semifinals against St. Francis (N.Y.), Harvard came up just short as the Terriers pulled away in the fourth quarter to win, 17-14. The third-place game saw a match-up with cross-town rival MIT, and it was tight the entire way. After jumping out to a four-goal advantage in the second period, the Crimson allowed the Engineers to battle back and send the game to overtime. In the first two overtime sessions, it went back-and-forth before Blake Lee tied the game back up with 14 seconds remaining to send the contest to sudden-death overtime. It took two periods, but the Engineers were able to score with 1:44 on the clock to eke out a 15-14 win.

Last Year at Easterns
Harvard made the trip to the Eastern Championships for the first time since 2007 and posted a 1-2 mark to finish in seventh place at the event. The Crimson fell to No. 1 seed Navy in the opener, 20-5, before succumbing to a late Bucknell rally, 13-11. In the seventh-place contest, the Crimson toppled Iona, 13-10, behind a hat trick from Mike Katzer '12.

Third Times a Charm
Freshman Ben Zepfel picked up his third Collegiate Water Polo Association Northern Division Rookie of the Week award Nov. 5 for his virtuoso performance at the Northern Championships. In three games, the Newport Beach, Calif. native contributed 10 goals and seven steals for the Crimson to up his season totals to 70 goals and 34 steals. The Corona del Mar product previously won the award Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.

Related Article: Ben Zepfel Claims Third CWPA Northern Division Rookie of the Week Award

Racking Up the Awards
In addition to Zepfel's three Rookie of the Week nods, the Crimson have won five other Rookie of the Week awards, one Defensive Player of the Week honor and one Player of the Week award. Noah Harrison (Sept. 3 and Oct. 8), Blake Lee (Sept. 24 and Oct. 22) and Robbie Fluegge (Oct. 29) have also earned the newcomer weekly honor, while Harrison claimed the Player of the Week honor Oct. 8, and Jimmy Field picked up the Defensive Player of the Week award Sept. 24.

Top of the Class
Following last weekend, a class of 2016 member leads the squad in every statistical category. Ben Zepfel tops the team in goals with 70, Blake Lee leads in assists and steals with 54 and 58, respectively, and Colin Woolway ranks first in saves with 156. Overall, the rookies have accounted for 59.5 percent of goals (197/331), 59 percent of assists (128/217), 60.6 percent of steals (194/320) and 51 percent of saves (156/306).

Johnny On The Spot
Sophomore John Holland-McCowan has taken his game to another level this postseason. In five postseason games, he has registered 12 goals and five steals to account for just over a quarter of his season tallies and just under 25 percent of his steals. His best game came against Fordham when he delivered four goals and a steal in the Crimson's win.

About Bucknell
The Crimson and Bison have met twice already this season, and Bucknell has emerged victorious both times.  In the first meeting, the Bison prevailed, 11-3, in game one of the North-South Challenge; however, the loss trigged a nine-game winning streak for the Crimson, tied for the second longest in school history. Bucknell snapped the streak, beating the Crimson, 10-8, to conclude the Bison Invitational. Stefan Aleksic leads the offense with 92 total points on 45 goals and 47 assists, while Brian Barron and Jack Else are tied for tops in goals with 52 apiece. In net, Matt Napleton has started all 28 games, making 302 saves while allowing 249 goals.