In a high-stakes situation, a hostile crowd was just what the doctor ordered for the Yale men’s club water polo team.
The Elis edged Williams 8-7 in the final match of the New England Club Championships in front of a boisterous crowd in Williamstown, Mass. to take the regional title Sunday. The Bulldogs’ finish qualifies them for the Men’s National Collegiate Club Championship at Notre Dame Nov. 19-21.
Garrett Morrison ’06 said that the crowd’s energy in cheering for the Ephs inspired the Elis’ performance.
“Our guys just wanted to make them shut up,” he said. “We saw all those people in there with purple T-shirts, just a sea of purple, and I think that really got us going. We got passionate about the game.”
Yale finished the first half against Williams with a 4-1 lead. But the cheering home crowd gave the Ephs momentum, and Williams only trailed 7-6 with one minute remaining in the game. Just 15 seconds later, Morrison answered at the other end for the Bulldogs. With only thirty seconds left, the Ephs still would not give up, scoring from seven meters out to make it a one-goal game. The Elis tried to run out the time, but a Williams player managed to steal the ball with 2 seconds left on the clock. But the final Eph attempt went directly into the hands of Yale goalie T.D. Smith ’07, giving the championship to the Bulldogs.
The match against Williams was the culmination of the Eli squad’s continuous improvement.
“We haven’t played that many games together,” Morrison said. “We’ve improved in every tournament, but we didn’t completely gel until [the game against Williams].”
Yale also defeated Tufts University, the Coast Guard Academy and Wesleyan University on its way to the title.
Throughout the tournament, the Elis relied on the play of their stingy defense.
“We played monstrous defense,” captain Daniel Connor ’05 said. “[Other teams] spent their entire shot clock trying to get the ball up the pool. We just totally shut them all down.”
Yale also won the New England tournament last year, riding the shoulders and legs of Will Reid ’04, Andrew Bassford ’04 and Doug Hausladen ’04. Reid garnered first-team All-American honors last year and Vaspard was All-American second-team. The repeat this year without the seniors’ presence came only because of the Bulldogs’ improved teamwork, Evan Smith ’07 said.
“This year, there’s just more responsibility,” he said. “Everybody took a greater role for the team, and everybody delivered.”
The Bulldogs now look toward the Men’s National Collegiate Club Championship in South Bend, Ind. They hope to improve on their third-place performance last year.
“We have big hopes for this team,” Connor said. “We have the sort of team play that will do real well. There’s nothing stopping us right now.”
With the team’s solid play over the weekend, both Connor and Morrison said they expect no less than a top-ten finish for the Elis.