The women’s water polo team has exorcised the demons of last year. But the hard part, it seems, is yet to come.
A thrilling victory over the University of Indiana Hoosiers last Sunday gave the Tigers (29-3 overall, 12-1 Collegiate Water Polo Association) a spot in a field of 10 teams now vying for the NCAA Championship. After losing the chance at such a spot last year to Indiana in the final round of the CWPA Championship Tournament, this opportunity must come as extra sweet for the Tigers.
On Saturday at 1:00, the Tigers will compete in a play-in game against Wagner College (25-8, 10-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) to see which of the two teams will travel to compete in the final bracket, which will consist of eight teams. The Tigers have the home field advantage and hope to repeat the success of last weekend.
Of course, the battle will only grow harder if Princeton can get through this initial round. Should the Tigers defeat the Wagner Seahawks, who were champions of the MAAC this year, they will have to face the Stanford Cardinals, winners of the NCAA Championships last season. Moreover, the battle will be made doubly hard given that the Cardinals will be hosting the final bracket of 8.
Despite this uphill battle to the championship trophy, the Tigers look like they have the tools to compete with anyone, based on their performance of last weekend. Senior utility Ashley Hatcher and junior goalie Ashleigh Johnson will be threats any scouting report would have heavy details on. Johnson, who was named Most Valuable Player in the CWPA Championship Tournament, has a save percentage of 72.5 in the tournament itself. She has shown she can step up in huge moments, as she recorded 17 saves against Indiana in the tournament, which is especially impressive given how many power play opportunities the Hoosiers had.
Hatcher, for her part, has been a killer on the offensive end this season, as she’s amassed 78 goals in her 28 appearances so far. She too has brought her A-game when her team has really needed her, scoring 4 goals in the game (the Tigers scored only 7 total). Her efficiency has also been a marvel — she’s had a shot percentage of 59.5 on the season, and shot 66.7 percent in the game against Indiana.
Their threats certainly don’t stop there. Freshman utility Haley Wan has had an excellent rookie season, putting up 33 goals on the season, including a goal against Indiana in that crucial victory. Other players to watch out for will be senior utilities Jessie Holechek, who accompanied Johnson and Hatcher with All-CWPA First Team honors, and Taylor Dunstan, who was All-CWPA Second Team and player of the game in the Tigers’ 15-2 romp against George Washington.