The game wasn’t pretty, but the revenge was sweet for the Princeton women’s water polo team Sunday.
After breezing by George Washington and Hartwick in the first two rounds of the CWPA Championship this weekend, the Tigers advanced to the final, facing No. 11 Indiana, a team that had twice beaten them by one point this season. Like the earlier losses, Sunday’s match was decided by just one point, but this time it was Princeton that emerged from the pool victorious.
“We felt prepared for this game for so long, but I felt like we just didn’t want it enough [in previous games], and we knew this was the last opportunity as this group to face them,” goalie Ashleigh Johnson ’16 said.
Unlike Princeton’s 13-12 overtime loss to Indiana on April 10, the story of the day was tough defense and hard-earned goals. The Tigers got on the Hoosiers’ case early, disrupting their offensive flow and limiting their shooting opportunities. The tight defense led to numerous penalty whistles, but the Hoosiers failed to take full advantage of man-up situations in the first half.
“We just applied the right amount of pressure,” Johnson said. “Before, we dropped off of them too much and were just a little bit unaware, but we really pulled together and communicated and put the pressure on them, and they weren’t able to get many shots off.”
It wasn’t always easy to keep the pressure on — Johnson made risky moves a number of times, once drawing a penalty that led to an Indiana goal, but each of her 17 saves was necessary.
Princeton went into the second half down 4-3 but knotted it up 17 seconds into the third period. Indiana responded, after a foul on Princeton and a yellow card on head coach Luis Nicolao, with another go-ahead goal. Jessie Holechek ’15’s superb defense on the next Indiana possession kept it a one-point game. The Tigers capitalized on a power play and Holechek found Emily Smith ’18, who scored an authoritative goal at close-range to tie the game up as the third period ended.
Johnson and the defense went into lockdown mode in the fourth. Despite being called for a number of fouls, the Tigers fended off the Hoosiers, with Johnson making several point-blank saves and stopping several more long-range shots as Indiana grew desperate. In her final game at DeNunzio Pool, Ashley Hatcher ’15 gave Princeton a 6-5 lead immediately following an Indiana penalty. She notched her fourth and final goal of the day a short time later, after Johnson made a save and launched a swift counter-attack. Indiana put the pressure on with another goal, but the defense hung on for the 7-6 win.
Johnson, Hatcher, and Holechek, who had three assists, made the CWPA All-Tournament first team as Princeton earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. After a back-and-forth game in which her team rarely had the lead, Johnson said it took a while for her to realize her team was going to NCAAs.
“I actually didn’t even think about [the fact] that we were going to win until after the buzzer,” she said. “It was so surreal. My heart started racing after the buzzer went off.”
Women’s lacrosse completed its season sweep of the Ivy League Saturday, defeating Brown 14-8. Attacker Erin McMunn ’15 led the way with five goals and an assist as midfielder Erin Slifer ’15 scored three. Princeton will host the Ivy League Tournament starting May 1, when the Tigers will take on Harvard. Despite the perfect Ivy season, only winning the tournament will guarantee Princeton a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The softball team missed the playoffs after splitting a weekend series with Cornell, but they sent their seniors off the right way with a 3-1 win in the last game Sunday. Meredith Brown ’15 pitched five innings of scoreless ball in her last college game as Kylee Pierce ’18 drove in two runs.
Men’s lacrosse’s season hinges on next Friday’s first-round Ivy tournament matchup with Cornell after the Tigers lost to the Big Red 15-10 in the regular season finale Saturday. Led by attacker Mike McDonald ’15, who racked up three goals and two assists, the Tigers blanked Cornell while scoring five goals in the first quarter but allowed nine goals in a disastrous second quarter that sealed their fate.