It was another successful weekend for the Tigers in the pool, as the women’s water polo team felled three CWPA rivals to move to a respectable 21-3 overall record, 6-1 in conference play. Currently ranked 10th in the national polls, the Tigers are poised for yet another remarkable season— coach Luis Nicolao has broken the 20-win benchmark an impressive five out of the last six seasons at Princeton.
The Tigers have been remarkably consistent all season. Anchored by formidable Olympic gold medalist goalie Ashleigh Johnson and powered by the dynamic offensive play of stars like junior utility Haley Wan, who has recorded an astounding 59 goals this season, and junior 2-meter Chelsea Johnson, Princeton has established itself as one of the toughest opponents in the NCAA to face in the pool, and it has yet to drop a match to a lower-ranked contestant, mustering out terrific victories against storied programs such as San Diego State and Ivy League rival Harvard. Their sole losses have come to USC, Arizona State, and CWPA rival Michigan, ranked first, fourth, and seventh in the nation, respectively.
The Tigers came off a 2-1 triple-header last weekend, where they defeated Bucknell and St. Francis before falling to Michigan. Staying steady at 10th in the national polls, the Tigers aggressively made their case as one of the nation’s elite programs with a string of three hard-fought victories this weekend.
Princeton opened with a decisive victory over another storied CWPA program, the Indiana Hoosiers. Despite having beaten Princeton in every encounter since 2015, the Hoosiers were stymied by Johnson’s 13 saves. Meanwhile, Wan led the blistering Princeton offense with 3 goals, followed by Chelsea Johnson and sophomore utility Lindsey Kelleher with two each. Down 9-4 in the second quarter, the Hoosiers never recovered and ultimately fell to Princeton 10-6.
The Johnson sisters and Wan would be the linchpin in another Princeton victory, this time over Ivy League rival Brown. Despite being unranked, Brown fought tenaciously and held the upper hard for much of the first half of the match. After 11 saves from Johnson, Brown’s Jessica Heilman and McKenna Miller ground to a halt, who combined for six of the Bears’ 8 points. Meanwhile, Chelsea Johnson, Wan, and junior 2-meter Sydney Cheong scored three points each, earning a tough 11-8 win for Princeton.
The Tigers’ toughest match, however, was yet to come, as Princeton struggled to hold off the 17th-ranked Hartwick Hawks, ultimately prevailing in a 13-12 thriller. Offensively, Wan and her record-setting season were once again the center of the story, as she recorded another hat trick. She was joined by Kelleher with three goals of her own, and by the middle of the second half, the Tigers held a seemingly insurmountable 13-8 lead. But Hartwick came roaring back, despite an impressive 14 saves from Johnson, and, with under a minute left to play, had climbed within 1 of the Tigers. Nevertheless, the Tigers remained cool and disciplined and emerged with a grueling but well-deserved victory.
As their season continues to roll, the Tigers set their eyes forward to a home duel against George Washington and then the vaunted CWPA championships, where they seek to continue making waves.