It’s been a fantastic season for the Princeton women’s water polo team, and they look like they’re not ready for the fun to end.
Playing at DeNunzio Pool on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers (30-3 overall, 12-1 Collegiate Water Polo Association) secured their spot in the championship bracket of the NCAA Tournament. They dominated the Wagner Seahawks (25-9, 10-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) to the tune of 12-2, never even for a moment letting up on the visiting team.
Surprisingly enough, the Tigers had to play in an atmosphere one might have expected from a road game. Wagner fans were abundant and raucous on Saturday, cheering at every chance they could get.
Those chances, however, were few and far between. The Tigers ended the first period already up 5-0, with senior utility Ashley Hatcher, freshman 2-meter Chelsea Johnson, junior utility Pippa Temple and freshman utility Emily Smith getting on the board. Johnson had a particularly good opening period, with two goals.
The onslaught just continued thereupon. Smith would pick up two goals in the second period to complete her hat trick. Hatcher and senior utility Taylor Dunstan got in on the action in the second period as well to bring the score to a whopping 9-0 by the halftime.
While the Tigers' defense was clearly very strong throughout this game (junior goalie Ashleigh Johnson had seven saves by halftime), it appeared that the Wagner players were quite hesitant to put up shots during the game. Whether intimidated by Johnson or just not trusting in themselves, they didn’t seem able to take advantage of the few opportunities afforded to them.
The second half started out the same as the first. Hatcher opened up by completing her own hat trick, as she got deep into the Seahawks’ defense, outhustled the goalie and one of the defenders and turned around to put in the shot. That play in itself might have defined the day for the Tigers — they just looked stronger, faster and more focused than their opponents. The last two goals on the game came from senior utility Jesse Holechek, concluding the fantastic performance.
Resting on their laurels, however, will do the Tigers little good as they prepare for next weekend. To advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships, they will have to defeat the hosts and reigning champions, the Stanford Cardinals.
While the foe may be daunting, the results from the Tigers’ last four games means that they look incredibly promising going into next weekend. Particularly important for them — if they are to remain successful — is to continue the aggression. Power plays were a large part of the Tigers’ ability to run away with this game and were a large reason they were able to take down Indiana to win the CWPA Championship.
The Tigers have been in awesome form in the postseason so far. Tiger fans can only hope that the best is yet to come.