The No. 13 men’s water polo team split the last day of the Princeton Invitational against Air Force and No. 1 UCLA. The Tigers defeated Air Force 15–13 in a tightly contested match before falling to UCLA 17–5. Princeton ended the invitational 3–2, with a second loss to No. 4 Stanford. The Tigers are now 6–2 overall for the season.
Princeton started the day with a match against Air Force. The Tigers jumped out to a strong start, scoring three of the first four goals. However, a rally initiated by Air Force’s Michael Miller tied the game at four apiece. In the second quarter, Princeton once again came out to a strong start, netting four consecutive goals. Despite the strong showing, the game remained tight with neither team building a definitive lead.
Seven different Tigers registered on the score sheet, with three players recording a hat trick. Senior Matt Payne, sophomore Casey Conrad, and senior Ryan Wilson led the Princeton offense with three goals each.
In their second match, Princeton faced off against the Bruins. However, this time it was UCLA that came out with a splash, scoring three straight goals to take a comfortable 4–1 lead. While the Tigers continued to fight, they could not close the gap. A shutout in the third quarter put the game out of reach for the Tigers. UCLA, 2017 national champions, demonstrated their strength with an emphatic 17–5 win.
With the loss, the Tigers fell to 6–2 in the regular season. In the 2017 season, Princeton held an impressive 22–6 record and equally noteworthy conference record of 8–2. Princeton’s only two losses in the National Water Polo Conference last year were to Harvard.
The second loss was particularly disheartening, as Princeton fell 12–11 in double overtime in a championship game that would have sent them to the NCAA tournament. Princeton had started the game with a 5–1 run. The Crimson pushed back, however, and two late goals in the crucial moment of the game helped them tie and force overtime, where they edged out the Tigers by one goal.
The Tigers are undoubtedly looking to avenge a difficult loss this season as they look for another successful campaign in the NWPC.
For now, though, fans of the men’s water polo team will have to hold their excitement as the Tigers face off against Wagner before officially starting conference play. The Tigers continue their season Sept. 19 in DeNunzio Pool.