The MIT women’s water polo team got a lesson in why to never count the Bulldogs out this past weekend.
MIT entered into double overtime against Yale and went up by a goal this past Sunday, but the Elis never counted themselves out and pulled out a thrilling 11-10 victory and capture the tournament in which they were competing.
The women’s water polo squad (11-1) traveled up the road to Wesleyan University to compete in the New England Divisional Club Water Polo Championships April 7 and 8.
Men’s captain Sean Nuttall ’01 also coaches the women’s team. Nuttall, who had never played water polo before coming to Yale, has competed on the men’s team for four years and has coached the women’s team the past two years.
“Sean usually comes one day a week, as well as to all of our tournaments,” co-captain of the women’s team Shira Saiger ’02 said. “It can be hard to focus sometimes since [co-captain] Rebecca Carlin ’02 and I lead three days a week, and we have a wide range of experience on the team, but it’s worked out really well this year.”
The Bulldogs were seeded No. 2 in the 10-team championship. MIT held the No. 1 seed and annual Eli rival Dartmouth was No. 4.
MIT presented a strong challenge for the Bulldogs in the final after doubling-up on the Big Green 10-5.
The Bulldogs stood up well to the top-seeded MIT squad, though. By the end of the third quarter, the Elis had an 8-5 lead.
Having led the entire game, the Bulldogs clung to a slim one-goal lead, 9-8, with only 32 seconds left in the final period. In a situation similar to the controversial goal on which the United States women’s water polo team lost to Australia in the finals of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, MIT evened the game, Saiger said. Following a foul, an MIT player proceeded to shoot and score a goal from outside the 7-meter line. The controversy arose because it was unclear whether the MIT player had hesitated before her shot. A player may only take a shot from outside the 7-meter line following a foul if she does not hesitate.
“The entire team was on the edge of our seats,” Carlin said. “We all had goose bumps when that shot went in. It was unbelievable.”
Regulation time ran out with the score knotted at nine, and the two teams went into an automatic double overtime — two three-minute periods. After a scoreless first overtime period, MIT took a 10-9 lead, which they held until 33 seconds remained. With MIT a man down — after an ejection — the Bulldogs successfully used the one-player advantage to even the score on a Saiger goal.
With the title still undecided after six minutes of overtime, the game went to an automatic sudden death, which was split into seven-minute periods, with the first team to score winning the championship.
The Bulldogs did not wait long to finish the game. Saiger netted her second strike of the overtime 1:24 into sudden death to give the Bulldogs the title, 11-10.
“Most teams would have given up against MIT,” Nuttall said. “It’s hard to keep up your courage and determination after what happened at the end of the game. Without doubting the girls at all, I thought we might have been done, which made the win all the sweeter. It was the culmination of our season.”
With the win, the Bulldogs qualified as the eighth seed for the nationals, which are May 4-6. The Bulldogs will most likely be the only team from the Northeast region, unless Columbia qualifies from the New York region. Twelve teams will compete, many of which will be from the West Coast. It is still undetermined as of yet whether the squad will travel to nationals since it is held during finals week.
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