Men's Water Polo: Princeton edges Navy for 3rd at Southerns
The No. 18 men’s water polo team sunk top-seeded Navy at this weekend’s CWPA Southern Division Championships to take third place over the No. 14 Midshipmen. It was the first time in Navy’s history that it failed to place in the top three at the Southern Championships.
The second-seeded Tigers began the tournament with a 16-7 win over Ohio’s Notre Dame College on Friday. With Princeton jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter, the No. 7-seed Falcons could not rally back. Sophomore center Matt Weber continued his offensive surge to score a team-best four goals, the fourth consecutive match in which he put at least four balls in the back of the net. Sophomore attacker Sam Butler was also key in driving the ball, notching five assists, two steals and a goal as well. The defense was marked by senior attacker Tim Wenzlau’s five steals, followed by sophomore attacker Drew Hoffenberg’s four; after starting 17 games in the previous season, junior Tyler Amina made a successful return to goal, making 11 saves in the win.
Princeton then went on to earn first place in its quarter of the bracket with a 13-7 win over Penn State, Behrend. The Tigers went on a 6-0 scoring run in the third quarter to take an eight-goal lead. Though PSUB outscored Princeton 5-3 in the fourth, it was not enough to stop the Tigers from advancing to the semifinals. Junior attacker A.J. Galainena scored a team-best three goals, with Weber and sophomore center Kayj Shannon following with two.
But in the semifinals, sixth-seeded Mercyhurst stunned the higher-ranked Princeton team with a 12-11 win. A solid offensive performance, one that included four goals from Hoffenberg and two from Shannon and Weber, put Princeton ahead 10-8 entering the fourth quarter. But despite the cushion and a total of nine saves by freshman goalie Alex Gow, the Tigers watched as the Lakers broke away on a 4-1 scoring run to secure their place in the final, bumping Princeton out of contention for a top-two finish.
Princeton and Navy, the top two seeded teams of the tournament, found themselves fighting for third place in their third meeting of the season after the Midshipmen were upset by No. 17 Bucknell in the semis. The Tigers had lost both of their regular-season games to Navy, with the last match ending in a one-goal loss in double overtime.
Yet on Sunday, Princeton came away from the first quarter with a 3-1 lead and widened that margin to 8-3 entering the half. Navy outscored Princeton 2-1 in each of the final quarters, but the Tigers held on to their early lead to take third place. Hoffenberg had a team-best four goals, while senior attacker Tommy Donahue followed with two; a different Tiger recorded each of Princeton’s seven assists. On the defensive end, Hoffenberg and freshman utility Jamie Kuprenas contributed three steals each and Gow saved 10 shots.
“It was our best win of the season so far,” Hoffenberg said.
Princeton’s victory comes after a 10-5 loss to Navy in the tournament’s title match last year.
In two weeks, the Tigers will play their last scheduled matches of the postseason at the Eastern Championships, which will be held at DeNunzio Pool. Expectations are high for Princeton following its first-place finish at the tournament last year — including a victory over Navy in the final — which gave the Tigers their second trip to the NCAA Championships in three seasons.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen that weekend over the years,” Butler, an East Coast native, said of Eastern Championships. “It’s important that we come out and play very well and execute, and some of the best games of the weekend are going to be on that Friday afternoon, so it’d be great if everyone came out and supported. I’m excited it’s at home.”
The reigning Eastern champions will look to defend their title starting with a match against Brown, seeded No. 2 in the northern division, on Friday, Nov. 16.
“We play our toughest opponent first, so we can prepare for them,” Weber said.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.