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Men's water polo earns automatic bid to NCAA Tournament

Just a year ago, the men of the Princeton water polo team found themselves heartbroken after a grueling loss to Brown to end the season, in the game that decided who would represent the CWPA in the NCAA Tournament. This time around, they found the sweet, sweet redemption for which they had waited so long.


Travelling to Cambridge, Massachusetts over the weekend, the No. 10 ranked Tigers (22-4 overall, 8-0 CWPA) earned the right to extend their season as they defeated all three of their opponents in the CWPA Championships. With the victory, they earn their first berth to the NCAA Tournament since the fall of 2011.

The team’s weekend opened on Friday night with a battle against long-time rival Bucknell (18-13, 4-4), whom they had defeated twice in tight matchups earlier in the season. The third time would not prove to be the charm for the Bisons, as their chance at a CWPA Championship title came to a halt that night in Cambridge, with the Tigers winning 11-7 on the day. Strong performances for the men from Nassau came from freshman utility Ryan Wilson and junior utility Jovan Jeremic, with three goals apiece on the game. Defensively, sophomore goalie Vojislav Mitrovic finished with 14 saves.

On the following day, the Tigers would battle against the hosts themselves, the No. 12 ranked Harvard Crimson (21-10, 9-3). Unlike with the Bisons, the Tigers had had mixed results against the squad now in front of them — the most recent meeting between the two teams had resulted in a 6-12 loss at DeNunzio Pool. The Tigers, however, rose to the challenge on the road. Senior center Tommy Nelson found the back of the net four times on the day, and Mitrovic made a season best 20 saves that day as the Tigers downed Harvard 10-8.

Lastly, the Tigers found themselves facing Johns Hopkins (21-10, 4-4) as their final obstacle en route to their ultimate goal. The Blue Jays would give the Tigers a run for their money — after heading into halftime down 3-1, they scored two straight to get the game knotted up. During this crucial time for Princeton, Nelson would come through once again, scoring three straight goals for the Tigers, in which time the Blue Jays could muster just one. While Johns Hopkins managed to come back to make the score 6-5, freshman driver Matt Payne sealed the deal, pushing the Tigers out to 7.

Ultimately, Princeton would prevail 7-6 over the Blue Jays, a particularly poetic score given that the Tigers lost by the same score to Brown in the CWPA Championships last year, which cost them their NCAA bid.

With their season extended, Princeton will begin the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 3, as they take on the University of San Diego in sunny Los Angeles.