Fresh off thrilling victory, No. 12 Princeton preps for No. 11 Harvard this Saturday
For the men’s water polo team, Harvard week has officially begun.
Returning home from the Mountain Pacific Tournament this past weekend, the Tigers have a few days without matches before taking on No. 11 Harvard this weekend at DeNunzio Pool. Princeton comes into the matchup having split its four games played out in Los Angeles. The Mountain Pacific Tournament was the most brutal stretch of games the Tigers will face all season, as Princeton played four games in three days against teams with rankings in the top 20 of the latest NCAA poll. While Princeton avoided some of the even stronger teams in the tournament, including No. 1 ranked U.C., Berkeley, the Tigers had their hands full with some tough competition and now get some much-needed time off before taking on their rivals.
There was never a dull moment in the weekend tournament as the Tigers played four thrilling games, capped off by a 15-14 comeback win against No. 13 U.C., San Diego. During their tournament run, the Tigers scored 42 goals, continuing their trend of impressive offense this season. Senior attackman Jordan Colina continued his outstanding individual season with another three goals in the final game, including the winning goal with 12 seconds left. Also posting an impressive performance this weekend was junior driver Matt Payne, who scored seven goals during the second day of play against Pomona-Pitzer and U.C., Santa Barbara. The two – along with the other individual efforts on display in the tournament – helped lead the Tigers to a 2-2 performance over the weekend in one of the toughest fields in which the Tigers have ever participated.
But with the weekend behind them, the stage is set for the team to take on Harvard this Saturday at 7 p.m. This will be the first of two definite matchups against the Crimson, with a third possibly coming in the NWPC Championships, depending on how both teams perform. Currently, the No. 12 Tigers sit one spot behind the No. 11 Crimson in the latest NCAA poll. Both teams know that the stakes of this game are very high; despite all of the highly ranked teams Princeton has already faced, this may be their most important match yet. This matchup will also help define the elite team in the northeast; currently the two teams are the highest and second highest ranked teams on the East Coast.
Looking to assert themselves over a bitter rival, the Tigers will rely on continued impressive offense to storm the Crimson early and often. Colina, Payne, and others will be called upon to demonstrate their skill and try to make scoring against Harvard as effortless as it has seemed in the past. Similarly, the defense will look to contain the three-headed attack by Harvard, comprised of sophomore Austin Sechrest (with 24 goals), junior Nick Bunn (21 goals) and freshman Dennis Blyashov (21 goals). The three have helped Harvard to their current eight game winning streak after starting the season with back-to-back losses to Stanford and Pepperdine. The Tigers – who have played and beaten more ranked teams this season than Harvard – may have the advantage when it comes to big game experience.
As is tradition with any Princeton-Harvard matchup, this game is bound to get bitter and gritty. With the current state of both teams, there is much more than usual on the line this year. This year's Princeton-Harvard game is about more than just starting the NWPC slate off with a win. The game is about determining who will be the team to beat this year. Get ready for one of the most wild, exciting, and important games of the season.