The men’s water polo team won the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) Championship this weekend at home at DeNunzio Pool after defeating Brown 14–9 in the first round and St. Francis-Brooklyn 9–6 in the final round of the tournament. Princeton’s victory means the team will advance to the NCAA National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship, where they will host Fordham University at DeNunzio for the first round.
On Saturday, the Tigers faced off against the Brown Bears in the teams’ third match-up of the season. Princeton had defeated Brown 12–8 on Oct. 2 at DeNunzio Pool and 13–7 on Oct. 31 in Providence, R.I. This time around wasn’t much different, with the first half competitive and the second not so much. The Tigers took the lead in the first quarter, outscoring the Bears 3–2. The teams traded goal streaks in the second quarter, first with Princeton netting three, followed by Brown with three. The Orange and Black snuck one goal in before halftime, ending the first two quarters with a 7–5 lead. After the Bears scored early in the third quarter, Princeton pulled ahead and remained out of reach of Brown for the rest of the match, capping it off at 14–9.
After defeating Brown, Princeton automatically advanced to the finals and was met by St. Francis-Brooklyn. The two teams met twice before in the regular season. The Tigers beat the Terriers in Brooklyn, N.Y. 16–12 on Oct. 9 but later lost 9–7 at DeNunzio Pool earlier this month. Sunday’s tournament championship reflected how the two teams are evenly matched.
St. Francis-Brooklyn took the advantage early on, notching a three goal streak in eight minutes. The Tigers rallied to a 4–3 lead before halftime with points from seniors Mitchell Cooper and Wyatt Benson and first-year Vladan Mitrovic.
In the second half, the Tigers pulled ahead, notching four more goals to the Terriers’ one, bringing the score to 8–4. In the last eight minutes, St. Francis-Brooklyn scored two goals to close the deficit to 8–6, but it was futile. When the clock hit zero, the Tigers earned their sixth conference championship and qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Princeton will host Fordham, the winner of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference, on Saturday for the first game of the tournament. The winner of the game will advance to the second round for a match-up against University of California-Los Angeles. The top two teams in the country, University of California-Berkeley and University of Southern California, earned automatic placement into the tournament’s two semifinal matches, respectively.
Men’s water polo is typically dominated by West Coast teams, and this year is no different. Princeton and Fordham are the only two teams in the tournament that aren’t from California.
The last time the team won the NWPC was in 2018 when they defeated Harvard. The Tigers earned an NCAA berth that year but did not advance past the first round, losing to George Washington University in a brutal 14–13 loss in overtime. The last time Princeton hosted the NWPC was in 2016, when the Tigers defeated the Terriers 18–13 to take the third place slot in the conference tournament.
Tom Salotti is a Head Sports Editor at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.