Although the 2009 season proved quite an upward battle for a young Crimson women’s water polo team — composed of nine underclassmen and just five upperclassmen — there’s no better way to finish a season than with a win.

Harvard, which hosted the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Eastern Division Championship at Blodgett Pool this past weekend (April 24-26), struggled in their first two games of the tournament as the contest’s No. 8 seed, falling at the hands of No. 1-seed Hartwick, 3-16, and No. 4-seed Indiana, 7-9. But in the tournament’s seventh-place game against Bucknell on Sunday (April 26) — in which Nicola Perlman ’09 recorded eight saves in goal and sophomore Patricia Smith tallied three goals for Harvard — the Crimson (12-16) were able to hold off a late game push by Bucknell, to record a 9-8 victory over the Bison. The win was the program’s first win at an Eastern Championship since 2005.

“It’s kind of the culmination of a long and eventful season. We’ve got a really talented young team. Did some great things over the year and had some spectacular disasters,” said Harvard head coach Erik Farrar. “It’s all a part of the learning process, and this weekend’s kind of a microcosm of the larger whole.”

With under a minute to go in the second quarter, Bucknell managed to even the game at six goals apiece, but to start the second half the Crimson quickly jumped out to an 8-6 lead. And, despite a late-game push, with 4:07 left to play, Devan Kennifer ’12, who was named Eastern Championship Rookie of the Tournament, tallied the Crimson’s ninth goal of the game for the game-winner.

“The kids played really well. We came right out, took it to them and established control,” said Farrar. “We kind of let off a little bit, and they clawed their way back in the game, … [but] we had to step up at the end. [We] needed to play 45 seconds of desperation defense and [we] did.”

That desperation defense was anchored by Perlman, who played exceptionally in goal to help the Crimson to victory in her final collegiate game.

“She’s really the poster child for what you can achieve if you have not only the natural talent, but the strength of mind and the work ethic to apply it and develop it. And she matured into a spectacularly good leader and a brilliant goalkeeper.”

Even though the Crimson’s youth may have showed at times this year, the win may have been exactly what Farrar’s club needed as they prepare for next season.

“This was important for a lot of reasons. You certainly want to send your seniors out with a win in your home pool in their last college game,” said Farrar. “The challenge for us all year — and certainly going forward — is finding the gear from the opening whistle. [In 2010], if we do that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”