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This past weekend was a thrilling one for the Princeton women’s water polo team as CWPA conference play got underway at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. The No. 11 Princeton Tigers (17–7) took a full sweep of the season’s first league tournament, defeating the No. 13 Indiana Hoosiers (24–7), the St. Francis College Red Flashes (12–14), No. 12 Hartwick Hawks (27–9), and No. 9 Michigan Wolverines (27–8). The Tigers look to finish out league play this weekend at DeNunzio Pool with four CWPA matches to secure a top seed in the Northeast Water Polo Conference championship.

Coming into the weekend, the Tigers faced a tough uphill battle. A month ago, Princeton lost to Hartwick in a hard-fought heartbreaker, 13–12, at their home pool. That same day, long-time rival Michigan Wolverines crushed the Tigers 13–4.

However, this weekend, the Tigers were clawing for revenge. The team upset No. 13 Indiana, 10–8, led by three goals and three assists from sophomore attacker Amy Castellano.

After a 15–7 win against St. Francis Brooklyn later that day, Princeton recharged for the following day. The Tigers first took on Hartwick, and much like their first showing a month earlier, the teams fought back and forth the entire game, with neither team ever leading by more than one goal. With strong offensive outputs from senior utility Haley Wan, with four goals, and junior attacker Eliza Britt, with three goals, the team was able to hold off Hartwick to win 14–12.

Then came the sensational double overtime thriller against Michigan. Freshman goalie Marissa Webb had an outstanding game with 15 stops, shutting down Michigan’s forceful counter-attack many times. The teams entered overtime tied 7–7, but neither team was able to capitalize, leading to a sudden-death second overtime. A pass into set to senior center Chelsea Johnson proved fruitful. Johnson faked and rolled to score the Tigers’ eighth goal, smashing Michigan’s 20-game win streak and 24-game CWPA win streak.

Head coach Becca Dorst commented on the weekend’s performance and looked forward to next weekend.

“After this weekend, I think we were able to see that there are a lot of things we are doing well, but there are still things we need to fix. We went from being ranked as one of the lowest teams in our conference in the beginning of season to one of the top teams in one weekend; it will be hard to avoid the target we now have on our back, but I think that is also one of the best ways to test the character of our group… we get the opportunity to put it all on the line again [this weekend],” she said.

Britt added that she is proud of the team for this past tournament.

“I think last weekend’s success showed our team what we are really capable of, and it was the confidence boost we needed going into this weekend and post-season. No team is ever unbeatable, and our win over Michigan reminded of us of that,” she said.

Now 4–0 on conference play, on Saturday, Princeton faces George Washington at 11 a.m. and Brown at 7:30 p.m. The team finishes regular season play on Sunday with Harvard at 10:30 a.m. and Bucknell at 3:30 p.m.

The Tigers defeated George Washington twice 14–6 and 15–11 earlier this season, and took down Brown 13–7 as well. They have not yet played Harvard nor Bucknell.

“This weekend’s hardest opponent will probably be Harvard. The Harvard vs. Princeton rivalry runs deep, and even though we have not lost to them since I have been at Princeton, they always put up a good fight and show up to compete,” commented Britt on the Harvard rivalry for this upcoming weekend.

Dorst added that she believes the team has been developing well over the season.

“We are really settling into playing together as a group and that is something we will continue to focus on in the next three weeks… We have grown so much over the last few months. While we have definitely improved in the water, I think some of our biggest developments have come from the friendships and trust that’s come from outside of practice,” said Dorst.

Wan leads the Tigers in goals and steals with 52 and 48, respectively. Junior utility Lindsey Kelleher leads the team with 34 assists and is second on the team in goals, with 40. Johnson has the most ejections drawn, at 39, and is third on the team in goals. Webb holds 220 saves so far.

“This weekend is our last opportunity to practice against another opponent before championship season, so it will be important to execute what we have been working on in practice and take advantage of a high-intensity environment,” remarked Britt on going into postseason after this weekend. 

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