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It was a tough weekend for the Princeton men’s water polo team last Saturday in Cambridge, as they dropped a heartbreaking 8-7 match to a strong Bucknell squad. Last weekend’s loss brings Princeton to a 13-7 overall record, while the Tigers dropped to 13th in the overall national poll after reaching ninth place in the national polls following back-to-back wins over George Washington and Navy.

The Tigers face a crucial weekend as they restart conference play in the NWPC. Princeton has gone 4-1 in conference matchups so far and needs to retain its high level of performance to qualify for postseason play. Princeton faces tough dual matches in the water on Saturday against Iona and No. 18 St. Francis-Brooklyn. While the Tigers have taken down both opponents earlier in the season, both are strong teams that will likely give Princeton a challenge. In particular, the Tigers squeaked by St. Francis 9-8 at Denunzio; since then, St. Francis has only gotten better, knocking off 8th-ranked Harvard and a strong Air Force squad. They’ll likely be a tough foe for the Tigers to handle in the water.

Princeton has proved to be one of the NCAA’s most dynamic and talented rosters in the water. All-American junior goalie Vojislav Mitrovic has been one of Princeton’s best ever, breaking the record number of saves in one game this year in a match against Air Force. As sophomore Michael Swart aptly puts it, when Mitrovic is at top form, the Tigers are very difficult to beat. Offensively, while the Tigers are overall a young team, Princeton has shown power and flair. While a relatively small team, Princeton has been able to count on consistent play from all its members.

Freshman Sean Duncan says, “This requires everyone to make contributions in the pool, as you can't expect the same six guys to play the whole game and us be successful. “ Duncan himself is a prime example of the pivotal role shared by many of the team’s younger members. He’s been named NWPC Rookie of the Week and has become one of Princeton’s most consistent threats at the goal. Duncan has stated the Tigers’ most pressing problem as maintaining focus and consistency when games stagnate and avoiding offensive errors and gaps in defensive play when not playing a dynamic offense; these have led to some of the last-minute, one-goal losses Princeton has suffered.

Overall, however, the Tigers have more than a good chance of regaining initiative with a solid performance this weekend. Their play, while occasionally sloppy, has always been edgy, high-energy, and innovative. With victories this weekend, Princeton stands a good chance to replicate its success last season.

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