This weekend, the men’s water polo team traded Princeton’s increasingly colder weather for the California sunshine. The No. 16 Tigers traveled to Los Angeles on Friday to face No. 1 Southern California before heading to Santa Barbara to play four games in the annual SoCal Tournament.
The Trojans powered their way to a 22-5 victory, at one point scoring seven goals to Princeton’s zero in the third quarter. Sophomore attack Drew Hoffenberg and senior center defender Jack Ruth led with two goals, while sophomore center Matt Weber followed with one. Defense was heavily emphasized during the match. Princeton players tallied 11 steals, and freshman goalie Alex Gow extended his success from last weekend’s games and made all eight saves for the Tigers.
“Against a tougher team, we always have to make sure that defense is our priority,” Gow said. “If as a team we can run a solid defense, we can force them to take shots on our terms, which will be easier for me to block. Even our offense must be geared to making sure we are covered on defense.”
Princeton faced Stanford, another water polo powerhouse, the next day, and the No. 3 Cardinal dropped the Tigers 13-6. Senior attack Tim Wenzlau and Weber scored two goals each, with sophomore attack Sam Butler and classmate center defender Kayj Shannon both adding one. Gow recorded an impressive 17 saves and contributed three steals. Hoffenberg had five steals, the most of any Princeton player during the tournament.
Facing yet another top-15 team later that day, the Tigers suffered a 10-5 loss to No. 11 UC San Diego. Though the teams ended the first quarter tied at two, UCSD outscored Princeton in the next quarter 4-1 and held on to a strong lead for the remainder of the match. Butler led with two goals, followed by Shannon, Weber and Wenzlau each with one. Butler also added three steals in addition to Hoffenberg’s two. Ruth and Wenzlau had a steal each, and Gow ended with eight saves in the net.
But Princeton rebounded the next day with a strong 13-8 win over No. 17 Santa Clara to end a three-game losing streak. Both Hoffenberg and Weber scored three goals apiece, followed by junior attack Kurt Buchbinder with two, and senior attack Tommy Donahue, Shannon and Wenzlau all adding one. The rookie class proved to be valuable to the team’s success, as freshman utility Jamie Kuprenas recorded two assists during the match. Classmate utility Brad Wachtell contributed an assist, his third of the tournament, and Gow saved eight shots in 30 minutes of play. Buchbinder, Butler, Hoffenberg and Ruth all had two steals, and Wachtell had one.
The final match of the tournament was a heartbreaking 9-8 loss against St. Francis. The No. 19 Terriers jumped out to a 3-2 lead in the first quarter, a margin which St. Francis expanded to a 7-5 lead after the third. The Tigers scored three in the fourth, but the Terriers responded with two to secure the win. Hoffenberg, Weber and Wenzlau each scored two goals, followed by Butler with one. Rounding out the offense was Hoffenberg with a team-high three assists, and on defense, Butler tallied a team-high three steals. Gow made seven saves in goal.
With the season about halfway over, Princeton now sits at a record of 8-8. The Tigers will play their first set of home games since opening their season this upcoming weekend against a medley of teams, including conference heavyweight No. 15 Navy. Despite the even record, Princeton is more concerned about the end-of-season Eastern Championships.
“We have had a tough schedule thus far, which accounts for our .500 record,” said Gow. “Our focus on the season is winning Easterns, not on having a winning record. We need to make sure we fix the problems we have had both offensively and defensively in order to peak in time to make a successful run at Easterns.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/03/31356/