Women's Water Polo: Johnson sets single-game saves record in season-opening loss
After scoring once in the first quarter, Cal again found the back of the net at the beginning of the second quarter to build a 2-0 lead. About five minutes later, junior utility Katie Rigler scored her first goal of the game to cut Cal’s lead to one. Princeton, however, found that margin widening after another long shot from Cal, but freshman utility Diana Murphy quickly responded with the first goal of her collegiate career to make it 2-3.
The Tigers were unable to maintain the one-goal margin, and Cal added another goal to leave Princeton trailing 2-4 heading into the half. Strategic passing from Princeton set the stage for Rigler to score her second goal of the game, again cutting Cal’s lead, but the Golden Bears responded to boost their lead to 5-3. Just before the end of the third quarter, the Tigers closed the margin to one, yet again off of a goal from sophomore utility Jessie Holechek. After Cal added another goal, sophomore utility Ashley Hatcher found the back of the net to make it a one-goal game for the last time. Cal would score its final goal with less than two minutes in the game, and Princeton finished the game 5-7 despite several impressive saves from freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson. Johnson, in fact, set the record for single-game saves, stopping 19 Cal shots to break Natalie Kim ’08’s record.
“I just think that I played up to what I thought they were, and I just played my best,” Johnson said, and noted that it felt good to make a difference.
The Tigers found much more success in the remainder of their games, sweeping day two. In their first game against Villanova, the Tigers overcame an early 0-1 deficit to win the game 15-3. Senior center Saranna Soroka and Holechek led the team in goals with three apiece. Hatcher and junior utility Molly McBee, along with freshman utility Pippa Temple, all contributed two goals each, and the trio of sophomore attack CeCe Coffey, freshman utility Kimi Klein and Murphy all netted one. Princeton dominated defensively as well — Hatcher recorded five steals, senior attack Laura Martinez added four and Soroka had three. Johnson shared time in the net with Holechek and McBee for a combined nine goals.
Princeton carried its offensive dominance into the next game, beating George Washington 20-6. Rigler again led the team in goals with four, while Soroka, Hatcher, Temple and Murphy contributed three each. McBee scored two and Klein added one. Martinez had yet another impressive defensive game with three steals, and Johnson and Rigler made a combined 15 saves.
In Saturday’s final game, Princeton saw the most offensive response from an opponent since Friday’s Cal game but held on to an early lead to beat Harvard 11-7. A huge part of the Tigers’ success is due to Johnson’s performance in the net, as she nearly tied her own new single-game saves record after making 18. McBee scored three goals, followed by Soroka and sophomore left attack Kelly Gross with two each. Hatcher, Rigler, Holechek and senior left attack Rachele Gyorffy all scored one apiece, and Soroka led the defensive effort with three saves.
Sunday’s non-varsity match against the New York Athletic Club was also a Tiger victory, as Princeton took the match 16-11.
Despite Princeton’s impressive performance at the games, Johnson noted that the team still has work to do.
“I think that there’s definitely room for improvement, but I feel like we have a real connection,” Johnson said. “Even though we’ve only been playing together for, like, two weeks, we know how each other plays. That’s a problem that a lot of other teams have, like they don’t communicate well and they don’t understand each other, but I feel like our team knows itself. We’re like a family already. We’ve bonded so much.”
The team will hit the road and travel to Lewisburg, Pa. next weekend to play in the Bucknell Invitational.
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