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The Princeton women’s water polo team (4–4) kicked off its season at the Arizona State Challenge the weekend of Feb. 2, with interim head coach Rebecca Dorst filling in the big shoes of Luis Nicolao. The team faced four nationally ranked teams: Arizona State, University of California San Diego, Loyola Marymount, and University of Hawaii at Mañoa and finished the weekend 0–4. Recovering from the tough weekend, the Tigers hosted the Princeton Invitational during the weekend of Feb. 17. Finishing the weekend 3–1, the Tigers beat George Washington, Iona, and Villanova, but faced a tough defeat against the Chinese national team.

During the 2017 spring season the No. 9 Tigers (24–4, 7–1) reached the 20-win milestone for the fifth time in the past six seasons, which is a goal that this year’s team is striving to reach once again. They also advanced to the CWPA Championship Game where they fell to No. 7 ranked Michigan in a close game of 4–5. A championship appearance is once against hoped for as the Tigers welcome five promising athletes from the class of 2021.

The Tigers have a few strong returning players, including seniors Chelsea Johnson and Haley Wan. Wan finished the 2017 season with team highs of 67 goals and 41 steals and a team second-best number of assists at 33. Johnson finished with 45 goals, 27 steals, and 19 assists. Facing the departure of four athletes from the class of 2017, including goalie Ashleigh Johnson, who racked up 300 saves in her senior season, the class of 2021 has big shoes to fill. Stepping in as goalie and standing out amongst her teammates this season is freshman Marissa Webb. Webb currently has 82 saves while her teammate, freshman Maddie Pendolino, leads the freshmen in scoring with three goals, showing the positive impact that this class is going to have on the team.

When asked about what excites her the most this coming season, last week’s recipient of CWPA Defensive Player of the Week and Hero of the Week Webb explained that she is “so excited to grow together as a team and see what [we] can accomplish!” She stated that since the start of the season, the players have read part of a book by John Wooden every week about success and teamwork, which has been a way for them to bond outside of training and discuss the steps that they’re going to take in order to reach their individual and team goals this season. When discussing the role of goalie and filling in the big shoes of Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson ’17, Webb noted that the team has been very welcoming as well at adjusting well to her as the last line of defense. She also noted that the interim head coach, Rebecca Dorst, and the assistant coach, Derek Ellingson, have been making sure she knows her role as a defensive leader on the team. Webb continues to have a positive outlook on the rest of the season.

Looking forward, the Tigers have a tough schedule ahead of them, including No. 3 University of Southern California and No. 9 Michigan, as well as fellow Ivy League opponent Harvard. Currently ranked No. 20 in the nation, the Tigers’ quest to another championship appearance, and hopefully a win, will continue as they travel to Cambridge to compete in the Crimson Invitational. They will play No. 15 Wagner at 4 p.m. on March 3, as well as No. 18 San Jose State at 8 a.m. and University of Toronto at 10:40 a.m. on March 4.

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