The men’s water polo team is now 7-4 after picking up a 7-5 win against George Washington and a 9-6 victory over Johns Hopkins while suffering a 13-10 loss to Navy.
In Saturday’s game at George Washington, Princeton exploded in the first quarter to produce a lead of 3-1. By halftime, the Tigers held the lead at 4-2, and widened that margin to 7-4 by the end of the third. The Colonials would score the final goal of the match in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to break the two-point lead that Princeton had held from the beginning.
Sophomore center Matt Weber led the offensive drive with two goals. Following him with one goal apiece were sophomore attackers Sam Butler and Drew Hoffenberg, junior Kurt Buchbinder and seniors Tommy Donahue and Tim Wenzlau. Hoffenberg dominated the game with five steals and two assists, while Butler had one steal. Senior center defender Billy Tifft also added a steal, and junior goalie Ben Dearborn tallied 11 saves.
The Tigers did not find as much success against Navy later that same day. First half mistakes plagued the team, and after the first two quarters Navy ran away with a 8-3 lead. Though Princeton made a valiant effort to regain control in the second half of play, the Tigers’ seven goals to Navy’s five in the last two frames were not enough.
“Navy’s a team that’s very good at capitalizing on an opponent’s turnovers and mistakes, and that showed in the first half when we dug ourselves into a big hole,” Butler said. “In the second half we started cutting down on that and playing more of our own game, like smarter, and we started coming back, but by that time, it was too late.”
Wenzlau had a team best of three goals, with Hoffenberg following with two. Buchbinder, Butler, Donahue, Tifft and Weber each added one. Hoffenberg recorded three steals; Tifft followed with two; and Buchbinder, Donahue, freshman utility Jamie Kuprenas and freshman goalie Alex Gow all had one each.
Goalies Dearborn and Gow split playing time in the net evenly as Gow came up with nine saves and Dearborn had seven.
“Against Navy, we played a very up-tempo game that resembled a swim meet,” Weber noted. “This played to Navy’s advantage as they tend to be a better conditioned team than us. We should have slowed down our frontcourt offense to take Navy out of their preferred style of play.”
The game against Johns Hopkins the next day took a turn for the better for the Tigers. Though Johns Hopkins is known for its strange pool dimensions, Princeton managed to overcome a 4-2 deficit in the first quarter to even the score at 5-5 by halftime. Despite the Tigers’ unfamiliarity with the pool, Princeton put away the game in the last two quarters of play with a 4-1 scoring drive.
“In a normal pool, we usually attempt to work the ball around the perimeter until we can pass it to the center for either a goal or an exclusion,” Weber said. “However, we were unable to run this strategy in Hopkins’ ‘bath tub’ because its shallow water effectively took the center position out of our offense by enabling the center defender to stand while playing defense.”
Buchbinder, Butler, Hoffenberg, senior center Jack Ruth, freshman utility Bradley Wachtell and Weber each scored one goal. Sophomore center Kayj Shannon led with two goals while Tifft led the team in both steals and assists with three and two respectively. Gow played the whole game in net and recorded 11 saves.
The Tigers travel to California this weekend to play a set of four games, starting with No. 1 ranked University of Southern California on Friday.
“It’s hard to game plan against those teams,” Butler said. “They’re very big, fast, strong and intelligent. This weekend we’re going to go and try and play our best water polo and see how we stack up against the best teams in the country.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/25/31236/