Men's water polo goes 2-2 against the Northeast's top clubs

by Greg O'Sullivan | 10/2/07 3:30am

Men's water polo notched two victories on Saturday against both Yale and BU, but fell twice on Sunday.
by Nat Smith / The Dartmouth

In the tournament opener against Yale, a dull moment was hard to come by as both teams scored early and often in the back and forth battle. From the start, Dartmouth seemed to be on the defensive, with goalkeeper Kyle Finnegan '09 stopping a number of point-blank shots to keep the game from turning in Yale's favor.

At halftime, the Big Green trailed 4-3. The teams rolled through the second half, back and forth. With one minute remaining, Dartmouth found itself down 7-6.

With the team facing a penalty shot, prospects of victory looked grim. Nevertheless, Finnegan was up to the challenge, intimidating the Yale shooter by ferociously splashing the water and making a great save on the subsequent shot. After a time out with 10 seconds to go, Dartmouth set up for one final play. The ball found its way to Porter Diehl '09, who held the ball about seven meters from the goal, and with two seconds remaining set up and unleashed a vicious shot that evaded the Yale defenders and goalkeeper and found the top right corner as time expired, tying the game at seven.

In the six minutes of overtime play, Dartmouth pulled away with a goal by Peter Laidlaw '07 as well as another score from Diehl. When play came to an end, the Big Green had pulled off a come-from-behind 10-8 victory.

A highlight of the tournament that stood out was the great crowd support the team had at each of its games.

"I'd say it was definitely the best fan support I've had in my past three years on the team," Finnegan said.

"It was an unbelievable feeling, scoring that goal and hearing my friends in the stands," Diehl said.

"I couldn't hear what they were saying, but the feeling was electric and it really helped motivate us for the overtime."

In its next game against Boston University, the team continued its success, with a rout of the Terriers. Dartmouth got out to an early lead and never looked back, which afforded them the opportunity to give playing time to every member of the team. When the dust, or rather the waves, settled, the final score was 15-3 and the Big Green looked like a team to beat going into day two of the tournament.

Sunday's games didn't match the success of the previous day. In its early game against Boston College, the team knew it was facing a tough opponent, having played the Eagles twice last fall, defeating BC in the regular season 12-11 but losing in the final of the New England Championships by the same score.

This year's contest was a scrappy affair, with numerous in-water scuffles, as one BC swimmer was ejected for punching a Dartmouth player. In the end, Dartmouth's shots simply would not fall, and the Big Green lost, 10-4.

In the final game, Dartmouth faced Middlebury, a team the Big Green handily defeated twice last season, by scores of 14-11 and 20-9. In fact, BU easily bested Middlebury earlier in the day; all oddsmakers would have had Dartmouth as the favorite. But instead the Big Green fell again, this time by a score of 10-6.

A number of players played well throughout the tournament, most notably Diehl with his clutch goal, Doug Nelson '10 in the heart of the offensive formation, team captain Neil "Coco" Willis '08 and Finnegan in net.

Despite their failings on day two, the team looks to bounce back during the rest of its regular and post-season.

"In all three of his games, Kyle played great, while in the BU game, Drew [Wenzel '08] stepped in and played well," Taylor Holt '09 said.

"We are still working hard in the hopes of winning the New England Championships and qualifying for Nationals," Diehl said.

Holt remains positive about the team's prospects. "We have only been playing together as a full team for a week," he said, "and these other schools have been practicing for a month and a half."

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