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Men’s water polo opens conference play with three wins

Senior attacker and captain Pierce Maloney cocks his right arm back in preparation for a shot on goal as he's defended by a Harvard Crimson defender.
Senior attacker and captain Pierce Maloney has been a leader in and out of the pool for Litvak’s squad. 
Photo courtesy of @pwaterpolo/Instagram

Looking to win a third consecutive Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) title, the No. 6 men’s water polo team (14–2 overall, 3–0 NWPC) got conference play underway at Denunzio Pool over the weekend. On Saturday, they beat No. 20 Harvard (8–3, 2–1) 17–11 in the afternoon before taking care of business in the evening against MIT (6–5, 0–3) 14–7. Their final weekend matchup on Sunday afternoon against the No.17 ranked Brown Bears (7–3, 2–1) resulted in a 15–9 Tiger win. 

Caras and Ohl connection leads to a win over Harvard 


Against Harvard, it was a full team display in a 17–11 win. Harvard opened the scoring with a goal from utility James Rozolis-Hill. Rozolis-Hill, a reigning All-American, was a threat all game on offense, scoring five goals in the contest. 

After some missed chances offensively, it was Tiger sophomore utility Logan McCarroll who scored on a man-up play off a pass from first-year utility Finn LeSieur. However, the Crimson would look to threaten again with a goal off a five-meter.

But once more for Princeton, junior utility Roko Pozaric responded with a goal off a pass from sophomore utility JP Ohl. Pozaric led the team in scoring the past two seasons and is on track to do the same this year as he’s already produced a team-high 41 goals. Ohl, who has seen a much bigger role as a sophomore in head coach Dustin Litvak’s offense, has an impressive 32 assists on the year. 

“All credit to Dusty [Dustin Litvak] and my teammates,” Ohl told The Daily Princetonian. “Dusty and the coaching staff helped me improve tremendously and believed in me. My teammates do the hard part and put the ball in the back of the net.”

The next three minutes of the first quarter would be all Tigers. Ohl assisted a LeSieur goal before junior utilities Isaac Rotenberg and Mason Killion scored one each to make it 5–2 Princeton. The two sides would exchange goals to end the quarter with senior attacker Yurian Quinones adding his name to the scoresheet for the Tigers.

In the second quarter, Rozolis-Hill started the scoring for Harvard, getting his second goal of the game. Down 6–4, the Crimson came up with multiple stops defensively, but the Princeton defense stood strong, not allowing Harvard to get within one. During a Tiger man–up, Litvak called a timeout that would lead to Ohl’s first goal of the game to make it 7–4. After a defensive stop, McCarroll netted his second of the game with a quick shot off a pass from first-year utility Tigran Sennett.


With the score being 8–4 Princeton and two minutes remaining in the half, Princeton and Harvard did not show any signs of slowing down. Both sides earned two more goals to end the half, with Ohl assisting both goals to senior center George Caras. The last goal of the half showed Ohl’s athleticism as he got up high to feed the ball to Caras.

Coming out of halftime, Rozolis-Hill scored off a hat trick for the Crimson, but they would still be trailing by three. After some defensive stops, Harvard played a man-up, prompting a timeout by head coach Ted Minnis. Off the timeout, Rozolis-Hill would get his fourth goal of the game, cutting the lead to two.

After Harvard cut the lead, Princeton managed to respond immediately. This time, it was Killion who got his second of the game to make it 11–8 Tigers. In the next offensive possession, Ohl earned his fifth assist of the game as he set up Caras once more. Caras, who had a hat trick in the contest, had all three of his goals assisted by Ohl. The connection between the two in the pool has been a sight to see for Tiger fans. The last goal of the third quarter came courtesy of first-year attacker Will Swart. 

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By the time the final quarter rolled around, it was too little, too late for Minnis and Harvard. Pozaric scored his second of the game to make it 14–8. The next possession saw Pozaric assist senior attacker and captain Pierce Maloney for the Tiger’s 15th goal of the game. The 5–0 run would put the game to bed. First-year Kristóf Kovács was key in goal for the Tigers, making 13 saves in the contest. 

Rozolis-Hill scored two more to get to five goals in the contest, but goals from Ohl and LeSieur sealed a 17–11 Princeton win. The offensive consistency from the Tigers led to Litvak’s 100th win for the program and gave Princeton its first win of conference play. 

Litvak, who joined Princeton in the 2018 season, has changed the dynamic and culture of the program. He has transitioned them from a program that saw a conference championship as the peak of their season to a program that believes they can and will compete for a national championship.  

Cruise control against the MIT Engineers

The first quarter against MIT demonstrated the defensive resilience of Litvak’s squad. Princeton held MIT scoreless for the first quarter, taking a 2–0 lead with goals from junior defender Vladan Mitrovic and Ohl.

Mitrovic, who missed the Harvard match, started the second match of the day hungry to get on the scoresheet early. In the second period, the Tigers broke away, taking a 7–2 lead at the half. Caras, Mitrovic, McCarroll, Pozaric, and LeSieur would all score in the second period. 

In the second half, the Engineers applied some pressure, but they never got within striking distance. The Tigers cruised to a 14–7 win in the second match of the day. 

The only concerning part of the game was guarding the center position, which the Tigers struggled with on Saturday. MIT center Adam Ivatorov added six for the Engineers in the evening match. 

“Even though we won both games on Saturday, we weren’t able to contain Rozolis-Hill on Harvard and Ivatorov on MIT,” Litvak told the ‘Prince.’ “Those were the two guys we really wanted to be aware of at all times and they each scored [several] times in their games against us. If we are serious about our goals, we have to be more dialed in and we talked about that on Saturday night.”

Tigers shut down Brown’s Stothart, start 3–0 in conference play

Coming into this matchup, the Tigers had their hands full. Brown has one of the best centers in the country with Ilias Stothart. The 6-foot-2-inch sophomore from Los Angeles had 71 goals and 107 exclusions drawn last season and has shown no signs of slowing down in his sophomore season.

The Princeton defense, however, had other plans for Stothart. They limited the center to just one goal and zero ejections drawn. 

“The goal Sunday was to limit Stothart’s touches, swim him to the other two-meter line as much as possible, and make somebody else beat us,” Litvak said. “I thought we did an excellent job at that. Not only is Stothart a great scorer, but he also draws several exclusions and penalties each game. I thought we did a very good job limiting those as well. He scored once and drew zero penalties. It was a complete team effort.”

After Brown opened the scoring, junior attacker Gavin Molloy found McCarroll to tie the game at one all. Molloy had eight assists over the weekend and is up to 24 on the season. On the next offensive possession, a beautiful shot from Mitrovic put the Tigers up 2–1. 

Brown tied the game at two, but this would be the last time they were even with Princeton. The Tigers scored two straight goals from Caras and Pozaric to gain a 4–2 advantage with 2:29 left in the first quarter. 

In the second period, Maloney opened the scoring after Caras drew an exclusion at center. Pozaric scored again on the following possession, forcing a timeout from Brown head coach Felix Mercado. The next few minutes of the game saw both sides come up empty on the offensive end. Brown managed to get within two, but Pozaric completed his hat trick to put the Tigers up 7–4 at the break. 

Coming out of halftime, Pozaric picked up right where he left off, scoring the first goal of the second half and his fourth of the game. A goal from Mitrovic put the game out of reach for Brown early in the third quarter, forcing yet another timeout from Mercado. 

The second half of the third quarter saw both sides explode offensively. Princeton outscored Brown 4–3 in the final five minutes of the third to take a 13–7 lead heading into the final period. Quinones, Caras, Ohl, and McCarroll all picked up goals. 

The fourth quarter was not as entertaining as Princeton with the Tigers’ large lead. Pozaric scored his fifth goal, one shy of his career high, en route to a convincing 15–9 win against the No. 18 team in the country. This was Pozaric’s third game this season with five or more goals, with all three games coming against ranked opponents. 

Sophomore goalie West Temkin had a great game in goal, with 11 saves. Temkin, who is splitting games with Kovács, has 93 saves thus far this season. 

One of the big takeaways from the weekend was the Tigers’ success on their man-up plays. After disappointing in California, the team spent a lot of time refining their plays and it showed over the weekend as they converted over 50 percent of their power plays.

“We watched a lot of film this week, in particular, our man-up out in California,” Litvak said about his team’s man-up play over the weekend. “We keyed in on doing a better job with our post-movement as well as moving the ball a little more than we did. I thought we did a much better job this week in practice in both elements and it was nice to see that translate into the games. We still have work to do here but it was a dramatic improvement from the previous weekend.”

Next up for Litvak and the team will be a day-trip to New York City on Saturday, October 7th where they will continue conference play against Long Island University (3–9, 1–2) and Iona (6–8, 2–2). The games will be at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET. Both games should be rather comfortable wins for Litvak’s squad as they look to have another undefeated season in the conference. 

Following the short day trip, the Tigers will look ahead to a very competitive trip to California over fall break, where they will play some of the top teams in the country, including a showdown vs. No. 1 UCLA and a rematch with No. 4 Pepperdine

“Playing teams multiple times [is] a great test of how well training is going,” captain and senior attacker Pierce Maloney told the ‘Prince.’ “What is most important to us is that we improve at a rate faster than anyone else, and it will be fun to see just how far we can go in a relatively short time frame.”

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

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