After losing a 3-1 halftime lead last night and facing a suddenly hot Villanova team, the freshman-laden women's water polo team could have folded.
Princeton (1-0 overall, 0-0 Collegiate Water Polo Association) responded like veterans, however, and came back to score eight of the last nine goals to take a 12-5 victory at DeNunzio Pool.
The Tigers came back from a 4-4 tie and dominated the second half, pulling away with a surge over a Wildcat team that looked lethargic in the latter stages of the game.
"It's good to have the first game out of the way," head coach Luis Nicolao said. "We're looking to get some experience working together before the league season starts."
The freshman class comprised 11 of the 16 players to suit up for the Tigers and proved to be a decisive force. As a whole, the Class of 2003 tallied seven goals on the night. Driver Jenny Edwards racked up three goals in the game and helped spearhead a strong second-half surge. Freshmen drivers Devon Watts and Morgan Voeltz each notched one goal, while their classmate, two-meter Adele McCarthy, tallied a pair of goals on her own.
"The freshmen don't only bring a lot of energy to the team, but they also bring experience," senior goalie Goga Vukmirovic said. "Even though they haven't played on the college level, they've all played in good leagues already."
Sophomore utility Cassie Nichols was the Tigers' offensive leader against the Wildcats, with four goals and three assists on the night. Nichols is still the focal point of the offense in which she scored a school record 97 goals last season.
"Cassie is the catalyst of our offense," Nicolao said. "Everything in our offense runs through her."
Vukmirovic dominated in goal in the first half, recording six saves while only allowing one goal. The highlight of the half was a spectacular save by the senior on a Villanova penalty shot. The diving stop to her left kept the score at 3-1 going into halftime and held momentum on the Tiger side of the pool.
After the first half, however, Vukmirovic left with the flu and was replaced by freshman Jenny Hildebrand, who looked nervous in her first appearance for Princeton. After allowing three quick goals which tied the score at four, Hildebrand settled down in the net and took control of the game, saving seven of the last eight shots she faced during the game's final 10 minutes.
The Tigers are back in action Friday night at DeNunzio Pool against Indiana at 7:30 p.m.