Men's Water Polo: Bears upset Princeton in early-season tourney
The men’s water polo team took third place at the North-South Invite this weekend in Cambridge, Mass.
The No. 13 Tigers (5-3) picked up a 16-6 win in the opening match against Iona. Sophomore attackers Sam Butler and Drew Hoffenberg and sophomore center Matt Weber each contributed three goals, with junior center defender Connor Still joining them. Junior attacker Kurt Buchbinder added two goals, as did senior attacker Tim Wenzlau. Junior goalie Ben Dearborn made eight saves to help the Tigers come back from a 1-0 first-quarter deficit.
Princeton, however, was unable to carry the momentum of its win through to the semifinals against Brown later that day, losing 9-10 in an incredibly close match. The Bears, ranked No. 19, were able to overcome being down 6-5 coming out of halftime and went on to score three goals in the fourth quarter.
Buchbinder led the offense with a pair of goals, and Butler once again had a strong showing with one goal and three assists. Freshman utility Jamie Kupreanas had two goals, as did Weber, while senior center defender Billy Tifft recorded one. Wenzlau had a team-best three steals, and Dearborn added 12 saves.
“The loss to Brown Saturday night was obviously a big disappointment,” Butler said. “We failed to finish a few key opportunities in the first half, and that allowed Brown to get back in the game.”
But Princeton bounced back the next day to secure a 13-9 win over Bucknell in the final game of the tournament. The Bison and Tigers were matched at 4-4 going into halftime, yet both teams went on a scoring frenzy in the fourth quarter — Bucknell picked up five goals, while Princeton scored four goals with two minutes left on the clock.
The result was a marked improvement for the Tigers after the disappointing loss to Brown.
“We know we can play much better, and it showed Sunday morning as we rebounded very well against a solid, experienced Bucknell team,” Butler said. “We have some things to work on, but we’re starting to find our rhythm, and we’re very confident moving forward.”
Butler continued to dominate the offense with three goals and also added three steals, second only to Hoffenberg’s team best of four. Hoffenberg recorded two goals and assists as well, while Still, Tifft and Weber all had two goals apiece.
Wenzlau scored an assist and a steal, and junior attacker A.J. Galainena also had one goal. Dearborn contributed 11 saves and two steals to the defense, and fellow goalie and sophomore Brendan Byrne came up with a last quarter save to clinch the win.
Despite the loss to Ivy League competitor Brown, Tifft believes the main focus should remain the NCAA Championships and not the upcoming Ivy League Championships, where Princeton is seeded as No. 1 over both Brown and Harvard.
“I do not believe that the team has lost its edge on our Ivy League competition. In our game this past weekend we were missing some key players due to injury and illness,” Tifft said. “It is also early in our season, so our team is still clicking. Looking forward, we are looking to finish our shots and minimize our turnovers.”
Tifft pointed to prominent Eastern teams as Princeton’s “main competition,” including George Washington, Navy and Johns Hopkins, all of whom the Tigers will play this weekend. Princeton kicks off the first of its three matches on Saturday in Washington, D.C., against the George Washington Colonials.
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