Princeton Men’s Water Polo Establishes Dominant Position in Conference Play| Oct 3, 2016
Ranked No. 14 in the national poll, the University’s men’s water polo team wasted no time in impressing observers, going 4-1 against fellow Collegiate Water Polo Association programs. Coming off a disappointing 1-3 stretch where the Tigers dropped narrow heartbreakers to the Air Force Academy, University of California,Davis, and University of California,Santa Barbara, Princeton quickly rebounded and regained its confidence.
Despite their losses, Princeton entered CWPA with an extremely talented and well-balanced roster this season. The exploits of junior Vojislav Mitrovic, an All-American goalie who recorded a stunning average of 15 saves per game in the Mountain West Invitational, had already earned national renown. But perhaps an even more surprising hero was sophomore driver Matt Payne, who scored at least three goals in three of the four games during the invitational. Also integral to the powerful Princeton offense has been freshman Sean Duncan, who has been named a Northwest Water Polo Club Rookie of the Week for two weeks already.
The Tigers faced their first conference opponent in the pool on Wednesday, edging out an aggressive and spirited St. Francis College team 9-8. While Princeton led 6-4 at halftime and carried a two-point lead with only five minutes on the clock, the Terriers fought hard and tied the score at 8 with only a little over three minutes on the clock. However, a well-timed goal by junior attack Jordan Colina, who led the team with four goals, salvaged the match for the Tigers and earned them their first conference win. Payne continued his streak of success with three goals, while Mitrovic was once again stellar at the goal, recording a Princeton record of 20 saves.
The Tigers furthered their success in two consecutive conference matches against Iona College and Ivy League rival Brown. Against Iona, Colina once again led the team in goals by scoring a hat trick that played an essential role in the Tigers’ 12-7 victory; sophomore goalie Ryan Melosini ably filled the shoes of Mitrovic, registering eight saves. The Brown Bears, ranked No. 15 in the nation, just behind Princeton, proved a more intimidating challenge, but the Tigers seized an early lead thanks to four goals from sophomore Ryan Wilson and another hat trick from the consistently dangerous Payne. Taking a decisive 11-5 lead against Brown in the fourth quarter, the stalwart Tigers held on to take an important 11-7 victory over a conference rival and ranked squad.
The Tigers’ final matchups of the week were against MIT and perennial rival and conference contender Harvard. Harvard, ranked No. 8, would take advantage of a slow start from Princeton, jumping to a roaring 4-0 lead. Undaunted, the Tigers fought back; six Princeton players registered goals in a ferocious comeback that gave Princeton a 7-6 lead in the fourth quarter, as Harvard’s defense struggled to keep Princeton in check. Ultimately, however, it was the Crimson who prevailed, with Crimson junior Colin Chiapello scoring the winning goal for Harvard, delivering Princeton a crushing 8-7 loss. Princeton would come back, however, to dismantle MIT 13-7 later that afternoon, with sophomore Michael Swart leading the Tigers with 4 goals.As the Tigers continue to gain maturity and experience in the pool, their national acclaim and ability to match up against tough opponents rise as well. Princeton will face the United States Naval Academy and George Washington University next Sunday in Denunzio.