Harvard Heads West for Five-Game Swing

Harvard Heads West for Five-Game Swing

Freshman Neal O'Hara (pictured) has been making more and more of an impact on the team this season has he logs playing time (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's water polo team will travel to California this weekend for a total of five games. The Crimson will first participate in the Claremont Convergence Tournament Friday and Saturday, and then take on No. 5 UC Santa Barbara Sunday in the Gauchos' home pool.

Schedule (All times Eastern)

3:40 p.m.               vs. Occidental College
10:20 p.m.            at No. 18 Pomona-Pitzer Colleges

4 p.m.                     vs. Caltech
9:20 p.m.               at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

Noon                      at No. 5 UC Santa Barbara

Past the Century Mark
With seven saves in Saturday's 10-8 win over MIT, junior goalie Alexandre Popp topped 100 saves for 2010 and now has 103 on the year. Popp made a season-high 21 stops on Sept. 25 in a four-overtime, 11-10 loss against Iona.

California Homecoming
This weekend's trip to California will be a homecoming of sorts for a majority of the men's water polo program. New head coach Ted Minnis and his new assistant Jessi Wood both hail from the Golden State, while 10 of the 15 players that make up the Crimson's roster call California home.

About Harvard
Harvard (4-8, 0-2 Collegiate Water Polo Association) is coming off a 10-8 win on Oct. 2 in a rematch against its Cambridge rival MIT. The Crimson fell behind early, 1-0, but scored two unanswered goals and never relinquished the lead afterwards. Harvard had to fight off a late comeback from the Engineers, just as MIT did against the Crimson to win the teams' Sept. 17 meeting, 7-6, but after leading 10-6 in the fourth period, the Crimson was able to come out on top, 10-8.

The team is led by its three seniors, Alex Thompson, Jeff Lee and co-captain Bret Voith. Lee and Thompson both lead the team in scoring (19 goals each) with Voith (16) not far behind. Thompson also leads the team in steals (22) with Voith (18) at second on the team. Voith has accumulated the most assists on the team so far with 16.

About Occidental
The Tigers (1-9) have struggled this season, but picked up their first win on Sept. 25, 7-5, against the University of La Verne. Occidental's last game came on Saturday in a 12-9 loss to Chapman University.

Harvard and Occidental have only met once before, with Harvard winning 9-3 in 2006 to lead the series 1-0.

About Pomona-Pitzer
This week the Sagehens (5-7) are the unanimous No. 1 team in the CWPA Division III poll for the third-straight week. Pomona-Pitzer is on a three-game winning streak that includes wins over national No. 12 St. Francis (N.Y.) and Division I Air Force. The Sagehens have played an intense schedule this season for a Division III team, taking on the likes of national top 10 teams California, UC Irvine, Stanford and Loyola-Marymount, as well as a number of other top 20 teams from the East and the West.

The Sagehens hold the all-time series advantage over Harvard, 5-2, and have won the last three meetings dating back to 2005. Those three games have been close though, with each of them being decided by three goals or less. Harvard last won in the series back in 2004, a 7-6 win in California.

About Caltech
The Beavers (0-6) have had a rough go of it as well in 2010, as they search for their first win of the year this weekend. Caltech has been outscored 120-34 this season and has given up 20 or more goals in five of its six games.

Harvard and Caltech have never played each other.

About Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (4-7) acts as the host of this weekend's Claremont Convergence Tournament, welcoming 24 schools to Southern California for the two-day event. As a team the Stags have gone 2-2 in their last four games, with their two losses coming to No. 15 Cal Baptist and No. 17 Concordia (Calif.).

The all-time series between Harvard and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is even at 2-2. The Stags won last season's game 10-9, which was the first meeting between the two teams since 2001. Harvard last won in the series in 2001, 11-2.

About UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos (7-4) have been one of the top teams in the country all season long, coming in this week ranked No. 5. UCSB split its four games at the prestigious SoCal Tournament last weekend, defeating No. 17 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 4 Stanford while falling to No. 1 Southern California and No. 5 UC Irvine.

Harvard and UC Santa Barbara have only played twice in their history, with the Gauchos taking both contests. The teams last met in 2002 in an 11-3 win for UCSB.

Players of the Week
Two Harvard players have earned Player of the Week nods, with seniors Alex Thompson and co-captain Bret Voith getting recognized already this season.

Thompson was named the CWPA Northern Division Player of the Week for Sept. 7 after leading the Crimson in scoring for two of its three games at the MIT Invitational. Thompson scored seven goals, notched an assist and had eight steals over the two-day tournament, including four goals in the 12-8 victory over Cal Lutheran.

Voith was chosen as Harvard's COOP Athlete of the Week for Sept. 14 after he had a solid weekend in the pool at the Princeton Invitational, leading the Crimson to a thrilling, 9-8, win over George Washington and near upsets of nationally-ranked Cal Baptist and Princeton. Voith totaled five goals, four assists and five steals in four games over the weekend, including three goals against No. 18 Princeton in the Tigers' home pool Sept. 11 in a televised game.

Up Next
The week will be filled with CWPA matchups as the Crimson returns home for its final home game of 2010 Thursday to host No. 20 Brown in a CWPA Northern Division showdown against its Ivy League rival. The team will then head to New York City Oct. 16 for a CWPA doubleheader, first against host No. 14 St. Francis (N.Y.) and a nightcap against Queens (N.Y.). The following day, Oct. 17, Harvard heads to New London, Conn., to play Connecticut College.