Monica Zdrojewski, who scored 60 goals last season, is part of a strong group of returning players for the Crimson (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard women's water polo team begins its regular season slate at the Iona Invitational Feb. 4. The Crimson will face the host Gaels at 10 a.m. and Villanova at 2:45 p.m., and will also see the New York Athletic Club in an exhibition match at 1:15 p.m.
The Crimson is coming off a 2011 season in which it finished 17-15 overall and placed sixth at the College Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship. Harvard was led by a pair of juniors, Devan Kennifer and Monica Zdrojewski, who scored 76 and 60 goals, respectively. Kennifer and Zdrojewski return for their senior season along with classmates Shannon Purcell, who led the squad in assists in 2011 with 50, and Lizzie Abbott (18g, 11a). The Crimson brings back 99% (329-of-332) of its goal scoring from a year ago.
To kickoff the new year, Harvard traveled to Eger and Budapest, Hungary for a nine-day training trip. The Crimson explored historical sites and the culture of Hungary and also practiced and played against club water polo teams from the local communities. To view the video recap of the Jan. 5-14 trip click here.
The Gaels, which received votes in the most recent CWPA poll, were voted as the preseason favorite in the MAAC after going a perfect 10-0 in conference play and 26-10 overall last season. Iona is led by All-MAAC first team selection Cecilia Leonard and last year's MAAC Rookie of the Year, Amy Olson. Leonard tallied 60 goals and 64 assists, while Olson scored 68 times and added 19 helpers in 2011.
Harvard owned a 9-0 advantage in the series history until Iona snuck past the Crimson, 15-14, in the ECAC Championship semifinal Feb. 26, 2011.
Of seven teams in the MAAC, the Wildcats were voted to finish sixth by the league's head coaches, ahead of conference newcomer Virginia Military Institute. Villanova finished 2011 with a 4-26 record.
Harvard leads the all-time series against Villanova, 13-2, dating back to 1994. The Crimson has won the last 10 meetings since 2000, including a 20-5 victory over the Wildcats at Blodgett Pool last season.
The Crimson will spend much of its February in Princeton, N.J. as the Princeton Invitational (Feb. 11-12) and MAAC/East Challenge (Feb. 25-26) are hosted by the Tigers. Harvard will play seven games at Princeton's DeNunzio Pool as part of the two tournaments, outnumbering the total number of contests the Crimson will host in Cambridge this season.