CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The No. 12 Harvard men's water polo team faces No. 1 Southern California for the third time in program history on Thursday night at Uytengsu Aquatics Center in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson faces the Trojans at 7 p.m. PST / 10 p.m. EST and the game will be available online on the USC Live Stream.
What to Watch For
• Freshman Dennis Blyashov has dominated the offensive game for the Crimson this season, netting 93 goals so far. The Carlsbad, California native was named Northeast Water Polo Rookie of the Week three times this season (Sept. 4, Sept. 18, Oct. 2), Co-Rookie of the Week on Oct. 23, and NEWPC Co-Player of the Week on Oct. 16. At the conclusion of the regular season, Blyashov was named NEWPC Rookie of the Year.
• Senior captains Colin Chiapello and Harry Tafur have left a mark on the Harvard men's water polo program during their tenure. The pair makes up the winningest class in Harvard men's water polo history with 94 victories. This season, the pair has combined for 52 goals.
• In net, junior goalkeeper Anthony Ridgley has been a consistent force for the Crimson. Having played in 23 of Harvard's 31 games, Ridgley has totaled 182 saves. Ridgley most recently made 13 saves in Harvard's NCAA Tournament opening-round victory over George Washington. The Crimson defeated the Colonials, 15-13, in overtime.
Scouting Southern California
USC is 25-3 on the season, most recently defeating UCLA on Nov. 19, 7-5, in the MPSF Tournament title game. Freshman Marko Vavic currently leads the Trojans with 47 goals, followed by Blake Edwards with 44. In net, McQuin Baron has played 27 games, securing 238 saves while Will Rubschlager has played 10 games, making 35 saves.
Last Time Out
Harvard is coming off a 15-13 overtime victory over George Washington in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last Saturday. Freshman Jackson Enright netted the game-tying 13th goal with 43 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Senior captains Harry Tafur and Colin Chiapello make up the winningest class in Harvard men's water polo history. In the pair's four years with the Crimson, the class of 2018 has collected 94 victories, six more than the previous record of 88 set by the class of 2017.
The freshman class has made an immediate impact for the Crimson this season. The quartet has combined for 150 goals, 102 assists and 96 steals. Blyashov currently leads the Crimson with 93 goals, while classmate Bruno Snow is second on the team with 44 assists and second on the team with 33 steals.
A Winning Record
This is the fourth season in a row that Harvard has recorded more than 20 wins. The Crimson has 24 wins so far this season, its second-largest amount of victories after earning 27 wins in 2016. In 2015 the Crimson collected 21 victories and prior to that, earned 22 wins in 2014.
Consistency in Net
Both goalkeepers, junior Anthony Ridgley and sophomore Nikhil Suri, have split time in net for the Crimson this season. Ridgley has totaled 182 saves while Suri has made 101. Ridgley is coming off a successful game against George Washington where he secured 13 saves - two shy of his personal best of 15.
In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Harvard won its two play-in games to secure a spot in the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Crimson defeated Bucknell, 13-12, in overtime, before taking down UC Davis, 16-15, also in overtime. The Crimson came up short last year against USC in the Final Four, losing to the Trojans, 19-4.
Harvard won all three of its games that went to overtime this season. Harvard defeated Brown, 11-10 in OT back on October 7. More recently, Harvard defeated St. Francis (N.Y), 12-11 in overtime for the NEWPC Tournament title and this past weekend Harvard defeated George Washington, 15-13 in overtime in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
2016 NCAA Tournament
In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Harvard won its two play-in games to secure a spot in the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Crimson defeated Bucknell, 13-12 in overtime, before taking down UC Davis, 16-15, also in overtime. The Crimson came up short last year against USC in the Final Four, losing to the Trojans, 19-4.
The winner of Harvard vs. USC will move on to face California on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 8:15 p.m. PST, in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.