Water polo denied trip to Nationals

They say those who fail to study history are bound to repeat it. For the Williams water polo team, the problem was not so much failing to study history and not studying the right part of it.

Just like last year, Williams entered the New England Championships as the second seed needing an upset in the finals to reach nationals. Just like last year, the third-seeded team derailed that run in the semifinals.

Williams spent the last two weeks devising a defensive scheme to shut down top-seeded Yale’s dominant hole men, but never got to use it.

Yale handed Williams its only loss of the season, 9-8, in overtime two weeks ago. But Dartmouth, Williams’s old nemesis, prevented the Ephs’ chance at revenge by beating them 10-9 Saturday afternoon in front of a packed house.

That crowd cheered, chanted and heckled 10 minutes before the opening whistle until after the game ended on a controversial no-call in front of the goal when Geoff Allen ’01 spun his defender and swam the ball straight in at the cage. The defender climbed over Allen’s back and knocked the ball away, but the referee ruled that Allen was in the process of shooting and thus fair game.

It was a back-and-forth game from the outset. Dartmouth jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but Williams clawed back to a 6-4 in the second quarter before Dartmouth took the momentum back with a two-point shot from 12 meters out.

Hole guard Tom Pickard ’01 was his usual laconic self after the game. “Dartmouth came to play,” said the co-captain They outswam us early and we got tired. They hit their shots, we didn’t. They kept the ball away from our better players. In the end, it could have gone either way.”

After the loss to Yale at the Wesleyan tournament, players and officials were predicting that Williams’ 30-meter course, the only one in the division, would be an advantage to the speedier, better-conditioned Ephs. Dartmouth had been practicing twice a day since losing to Williams at home early in the season, and was able to match Williams up and down the pool. The next morning Williams players, after holding off Tufts 12-7 for third place, sat in the stands and watched Dartmouth take advantage of Yale’s poor conditioning in a 10-3 romp.

For the second year in a row, Williams split its two games against Dartmouth, but sits at home while the Green Team heads to nationals. Williams already has work to do for next season. In addition to the typically trying recruiting season and the difficult transition to swimming, a discussion on whether or not to hire a coach looms on the horizon. The fact that the captains run the team has traditionally been a point of pride for Williams water polo. But many observers, including one eminent official, thought that the lack of an authority figure on the bench was the difference this weekend.