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Men’s water polo wins four of five games at Princeton Invitational

<h5>Roko Pozaric ’25 was named the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) Player and Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive week after his dominant performance this past weekend.&nbsp;</h5>
<h6>Nicole Maloney / <a href="https://goprincetontigers.com/news/2021/9/14/mens-water-polo-pozaric-earns-nwpc-weekly-honors-for-second-straight-week.aspx" target="_self">GoPrincetonTigers.com</a></h6>
Roko Pozaric ’25 was named the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) Player and Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive week after his dominant performance this past weekend. 
Nicole Maloney / GoPrincetonTigers.com

At the Princeton Invitational this past weekend, Princeton Men’s Water Polo played five games over the course of three days, notching wins against all but one opponent. In an interview with the ‘Prince’ following Saturday’s games, Head Coach Dustin Litvak pointed out that the Tigers only had “three days to train” in between their previous competitions and the start of this weekend’s invitational. “We had five games this weekend, so there was a short turn around.”

The No. 12 Tigers started the weekend strong with a 16–10 victory over the No. 14 California Baptist Lancers on Friday evening. After a 16–5 loss to No. 3 Stanford on Saturday morning, the Tigers came back with a 20–12 win against John Hopkins that afternoon. “This morning was a tough one,” Litvak said of the Stanford loss. “We’re tougher than what we showed this morning. It’s all about resilience.” 

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The first half versus Johns Hopkins on Saturday afternoon had promised a close game. Neither team was able to secure a lead of more than one goal. The score showed a tie game on six separate occasions over the course of the half. Often, Princeton would score a goal to take the lead, only for Johns Hopkins to score a few seconds later and tie the game. The Hopkins goalie made several impressive saves throughout the half. Each time Hopkins scored or saved, their teammates out of the water let out audible shouts and encouragement.

Hopkins scored with three seconds to go in the second stanza, tying the game at 7–7 going into halftime. Litvak later described the Tigers in the first half as “dead and quiet, both in the water and on the bench,” adding, “That’s not who we are.” 

“We have to be who we are regardless of who we’re playing,” Litvak told the team during halftime. He commented on the team's shortcomings during the first half, claiming “We can be better defensively.” The Tigers went on to make several steals and saves throughout the second half.

Hopkins scored a goal within the first minute of the second half to take the lead, but after a penalty shot from Princeton and two more goals from either team, the score landed at 9–9. However, the tide turned after first-year utility player Roko Pozaric intercepted the ball from Hopkins and swam in for a goal with 3:23 remaining in the third stanza. This kicked off the Tiger’s 8-tally run that went uninterrupted for about seven minutes. Princeton fans and teammates were audibly energized. 

“We talk all the time about energy,” Litvak says, commenting on the Tigers’ powerful turnaround. “By the second half, we tired them out.”

Hopkins broke up Princeton’s momentum, scoring with about five minutes remaining in the game. After another exchange of goals, Hopkins scored with 32 seconds remaining and junior attacker Alex Roose successfully shot back in the last second of the game. The final scoreboard read 20–12. 

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Litvak was excited by the potential he saw in Saturday’s game. “The strength of our team has always been in its depth,” he told the ‘Prince’. “It was good to get a lot of different people in the water today that don’t usually play.” Litvak highlighted the team’s several walk-ons, commenting: “They work really hard. They’ve earned it.”

The Tigers kept up their momentum into Sunday's games, defeating No. 16 Bucknell 18–10 and Fordham 13–6.

Rachel Posner is a senior writer for the Prince sports section. She also previously served as an Assistant Sports Editor. Rachel can be reached at rposner@princeton.edu.

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