No. 8 Princeton men’s water polo (21–5 overall, 7–0 Northeast Water Polo Conference) wrapped up their last two home games on their senior day this past Saturday, defeating No. 20 St. Francis-Brooklyn (16–8, 4–3 NWPC) and Iona (8–14, 1–6 NWPC). The two wins indicate the Tigers’ perfect regular-season home record for the first time since 2014.
The Tigers honored their eight seniors that evening, with five of them finding the back of the net in the second game alone. The Class of 2023 was a special group of seniors, most notably setting the program win record with 26 wins last season and picking up the 2021 NWPC Championship title.
“On senior day when I was a first-year, I distinctly remember thinking I had so much time left,” senior goalie Antonio Knez told The Daily Princetonian. “It’s incredible how fast it flew by.”
The Tigers took on St. Francis-Brooklyn for the first game of the day. The last time these two teams met was on Oct. 8, when the Tigers defeated the Terriers 11–8. In Saturday’s game, both teams played intensely from the very beginning, scrapping for the ball, scoring, and contesting shots when possible. By the end of the battle in the first quarter, the Tigers scored three goals, topping the Terriers’ two.
As the game continued to heat up, the Tigers went on a scoring streak, stretching the lead to 5–2. St. Francis–Brooklyn responded by closing the lead to 5–4. Thanks to a goal scored in the late second quarter by senior attacker Keller Maloney, Princeton increased their lead to two by halftime.
In the third, the Tigers added two more goals, coming from sophomore defender Vladan Mitrovic and senior attacker Yurian Quinones, respectively. St. Francis managed one goal, putting the score at 8–5.
The Terriers looked to match the Tigers as they scored early in the fourth, closing in on the lead, 8–6. First-year utility JP Ohl scored the ninth goal for the Tigers, followed by sophomore utility Isaac Rotenberg who scored the tenth goal as the clock was winding down. The Terriers responded with a goal of their own, but it was too late. With 17 seconds left on the clock, Quinones sealed the 11–8 win by completing his hat trick.
Although the team’s offense was a big part of the reason the Tigers won the contest, their defense should be credited as well. All the players were alert while on defense, stealing when they could. Leading the defensive initiative, first-year goalie West Temkin ended the game with 18 saves.
Later in the day, the Tigers beat Iona (8–14, 1–6) to make it a perfect 2–0 on senior day.
The first half of the game saw defensive dominance for Coach Dustin Litvak and the Tigers, who shut down the Iona Gaels with ease. Quinones scored once for the Tigers before sophomore utility Roko Pozaric made it 2–0. The quarter ended with Maloney converting on a penalty shot to make it 3–0 Princeton.
Quinones scored his 100th goal of his Princeton career to start the second quarter before junior center George Caras skipped the ball in the back of the net. Maloney then assisted Ohl to make it 6–0 Tigers.
Mitrovic scored on a man-up advantage for Princeton, and Caras scored his second goal of the game to make it an eight-goal lead at the half. Knez secured a first-half shutout of the Gaels, who couldn’t seem to buy a goal.
The third quarter saw first-year utility Logan McCarroll and senior utility Ryan Neapole score to make it 10–0. The Gaels would score their first goal 22 minutes into the game, with two minutes remaining in the third period.
McCarroll, who started both games after missing some time due to injury, took on a new role starting at center for the Tigers.
“It felt amazing to be back and contributing,” McCarroll said. “It was a new experience playing in a different role, but I want to do whatever is going to help us succeed and win games. We have amazing chemistry right now and we’re all doing whatever we can to achieve our goal [of attending the NCAA championship] in December.”
The last four goals for the Tigers came from senior attacker Nick Hovsmith, junior attacker Alex Roose, sophomore attacker Will Garlinghouse, and senior attacker Harry Moross.
Knez made 12 saves on the night and helped Princeton cruise to a 14–5 victory on senior day. Twelve different Tigers scored on the day to secure their seventh straight victory.
Things are certainly clicking for this program and the best is yet to come for this team. Knez put it best, saying, “We’re growing at an incredible rate. I’m really excited to see what this group will do in the next few weeks.”
Maloney reflected on the historic home season, telling the ‘Prince,’ “Any weekend it’s fantastic to come out with a clean record. To do it on senior day is more meaningful, especially in front of parents and family.”
He added that it felt like a “weird” day for the seniors on the team, citing that it was “emotional” playing his last game at DeNunzio Pool.
“Ultimately, what I’m going to miss most is not the facility itself but being a part of a group of incredible guys who push me to be a better person each day — mentally, physically, and emotionally,” he said. “Once I no longer get that privilege each day, then the sense of loss becomes more real.”
But for now, Maloney and the Tigers plan to get back to business. With the conclusion of the Tigers’ home season, the team will return to the road to finish the season, with three other matchups in the northeast left on the calendar.
“Our goal is to win a national championship,” Maloney added, “and for the first time ever, we’ve proved that we can compete for one.”
Le’Naya Wilkerson is a staff writer for the sports section at the ‘Prince.’
Hayk Yengibaryan is a contributor to the sports section at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached on Instagram @hayk_10_11. Please direct any corrections requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.