If conventional wisdom proves right, the women's water polo team should occupy one of the top four spots in the Collegiate Water Polo Association's Mid-Atlantic division. So far, Princeton is upholding its reputation.
In the Tigers' first CWPA league games of the season, played at Villanova, the Tigers (14-6 overall, 3-1 CWPA) suffered only one setback, losing 4-6 to No. 11 Maryland, the top team in Princeton's division.
The Tigers faced little serious competition from the other teams at the meet. Princeton overwhelmed George Washington, 21-1, and also beat Richmond and Georgetown, to finish the first weekend of league play 3-1.
On the road
The Tigers then took their roadshow on an East meets West tour, competing in sunny California at the Claremont Invitational.
"Knowing that we could go to California where schools have long-running programs complete with scholarships and recruiting, and compete was confidence building for the whole team," freshman utility Katherine Kixmiller said.
Princeton placed fifth in the tournament, despite the loss of junior driver Celeste Henery, who is one of the team's high scorers.
In a non-tournament game, Princeton lost to No. 6 Southern California, 10-4. The Tigers came out slow, giving up four goals and scoring none in the first quarter. Princeton stepped it up with four goals in the final three quarters, but could not overcome the early deficit to win.
If the Tigers' game against USC is representative of things to come, the buzzword for the 1998 season will be 'defense'. When Princeton played its best, junior two-meter defenseman Veronica Diaz kept USC helpless inside. Her effort combined with sophomore goalie Goga Vukmirovic's seven saves, which held USC to 10 goals.
In tournament play, the Tigers lost, 4-1, to No. 10 California-San Diego. The low-scoring game was also decided defensively. Vukmirovic had 14 saves and four steals, but lapses in the Princeton defense allowed UCSD to net four quick shots from the two-meter position.
The Tigers had little trouble dispatching the rest of the teams at the Invitational. Princeton defeated Pomona-Pitzer, 6-3, and dispatched Redlands, 4-1 in two easy victories. Kixmiller and Diaz totaled four and three goals respectively in the two contests.
Princeton met No. 15 Indiana in the fifth-place match, a team the Tigers lost to 11-5 in their disappointing season opener. This time around, the game was "never in doubt," head coach Paul Nelson said. In the 5-4 Tiger win, senior driver Dimple Patel generated four offensive man-up situations which Diaz and Kixmiller were quick to take advantage of, netting three goals in the man-up situations.
And once again the defense shined. Princeton pressured the Hoosiers into making turnover after turnover.
"It shows how far we've come," Kixmiller said. "We're improving every game."
The Tigers also defeated both Loyola Marymount, 3-1, and bested Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 6-2, in non-tournament games.