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Women's water polo dominates Ivy rivals, falls to top-10 UMass

When Harvard and Princeton entered the water for their final game in this weekend's Ivy Invitational, the Crimson seemed ready to avenge its loss to the Tigers the weekend before.

Earlier this season the two teams met at the Princeton Invitational where Princeton's powerful offense led the Tigers to a 7-5 victory. In that game, however, Harvard was two starters short and Princeton had a home-pool advantage. Both teams seemed eager to rekindle a rivalry which culminated last season in a 7-6 Princeton win at the Eastern championships.

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This weekend Princeton travelled to Harvard's Blodgett Pool in Cambridge, Mass., and Harvard had its complete starting lineup intact. Nonetheless, Princeton toppled the Crimson, 6-4.

Princeton (6-3 overall, 4-0 Ivy League) ended the first quarter down 3-1 to Harvard (4-2, 3-1). But instead of letting Harvard's momentum control the game, Princeton, aided by a pair of four-meter blocks by sophomore goalie Goga Vukmirovic, rallied.

Both ends

Offensively and defensively, the Tigers outplayed Harvard. Senior captain Dimple Patel drew repeated ejections on Harvard players, forcing the Crimson into man-down situations. Junior Veronica Diaz and freshman Alina Brown threw themselves into enforcing a strict defense which shut down Harvard's two-meter players. Finally, with the score tied at four, Patel netted the fifth Princeton goal, leading the Tigers to victory and dealing Harvard its only defeat of the weekend. Brown scored with less than 30 seconds left to seal the win.

No. 20 Harvard and No. 19 Princeton are the only Ivy schools in the top 20 of the collegiate women's water polo rankings. Princeton's performance against Harvard is the type of effort the Tigers will need to make nationals, combining mental tenacity, teamwork and outstanding individual achievement.

Confidence

"This weekend was really important. The whole team gained confidence, and a little confidence goes a long way so we played better water polo overall," Vukmirovic said.

The Tigers also dominated the rest of the Ivy League over the weekend. Saturday, Princeton defeated Dartmouth, 8-3, and trashed Yale, 20-1.

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"We were a little sluggish coming out. We could have won 20-3 (against Dartmouth)," Patel said. "We had control of the ball and dominated the offense, but there were some problems putting the ball away."

Even Brown, whose club team had a strong 1997 season, couldn't do more than help exercise the Tiger offense, losing Sunday, 15-3. Despite the clear advantage, Princeton took the match seriously, using it as an opportunity to fine tune its offensive strategy and counterattack. Junior Emily Brown made seven team saves, leading the defense.

While the Tigers dominated their Ivy opponents, Princeton struggled in its only non-conference game of the weekend. Saturday night, Princeton fell to No. 9 Massachusetts, 10-2. UMass had also defeated the Tigers earlier in the season.

UMass scored four unanswered goals to grab a quick lead which Princeton simply could not overcome. One of the top teams in the National Collegiate Women's Water Polo New England Division, UMass will be a team to beat at Easterns in April.

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