PRINCETON, N.J. – Junior Tyler Kirchberg scored three goals, but No. 1 seed Brown University men's water polo fell to No. 3 seed Harvard University, 11-7, in the title game of the inaugural Northeast Water Polo Conference Championship on Sunday afternoon at Princeton University's DeNunzio Pool.
The No. 10 nationally ranked Bears (22-8) pulled within 7-5 early in the third quarter, but the No. 11 ranked Crimson (25-6) held off the Bears' rally to earn the NWPC's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
"We didn't play well and Harvard did," Brown head coach Felix Mercado said. "I have to give credit to Coach Minnis and his talented team. They deserved it today. We had a great year and plan on being back next year."
Kirchberg (Orinda, Calif.) paced the Brown offense with his hat trick while seniors Yahel Murvitz-Lahav (Tel Aviv, Israel) and Jake Wyatt (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) and juniors Rico Burke (San Mateo, Calif.) and Austin Hwang (Laguna Hills, Calif.) each netted one goal.
Murvitz-Lahav and Wyatt added two assists apiece while Burke, Kirchberg, and junior Tommy Bush (Lafayette, Calif.) tacked on one assist each.
Senior goalie Luke Weiser (Los Alamitos, Calif.) made eight saves with four stops coming in the third quarter, including a save on a 5-meter penalty shot.
Harvard started the game with a 3-0 lead before Wyatt stemmed the run with a power play goal with 4:52 to go in the first quarter. A goal from Murvitz-Lahav in between a pair of Crimson tallies kept Brown within 5-2 after one frame.
The Crimson pushed its lead to 6-2 priot to a goal from Kirchberg that made the score 6-3 with 5:22 to play until halftime. A 6-on-5 goal from Hwang prior to the end of the half cut the Bears' deficit to 7-4 at the break.
Kirchberg initiated the second half's scoring, pulling Brown within 7-5 less than two minutes into the third quarter. Harvard responded with a pair of goals to claim a 9-5 edge. Kirchberg found the back of the net again, and Weiser stopped a 5-meter penalty shot to keep the margin at 9-6 heading to the fourth quarter.
Harvard scored the fourth frame's first two goals to extend its advantage to 11-6 before a goal from Burke closed the game's scoring.
Brown – winners of three straight regular season conference titles – played in its 12th conference title game all-time. The Bears have now finished as runners up in conference title games seven times (1978, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2016).
The Crimson took the season series from the Bears 2-1. During the regular season, Brown and Harvard split with Brown winning 9-7 on the road on Oct. 8 and falling 9-8 (OT) at home on Oct. 29.
Harvard 11, Brown 7
Brown Goals: Kirchberg 3, Burke, Hwang, Murvitz-Lahav, Wyatt.
Brown Saves: Weiser 8.
NWPC Championship All-Tournament Team
Most Valuable Player: Noah Harrison (Harvard)
Rookie of the Tournament: Sean Duncan (Princeton)
Dick Russell Coach of the Tournament: Ted Minnis (Harvard)
Anthony Ridgley – Goalie (Harvard)
Yahel Murvitz-Lahav (Brown)
Rico Burke (Brown)
Botond Kadar (St. Francis Brooklyn)
Nikita Prokhin (St. Francis Brooklyn)
Marc Stauble (Iona)
Ryan Wilson (Princeton)