ALL HANDS ON DECK: Princeton University men’s water polo head coach Dustin Litvak (kneeling) makes a point to his players earlier this fall. Last Sunday, No. 8, Princeton defeated No. 18 St. Francis Brooklyn 13-8 in the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) championship game. The Tigers, now 26-5, will host Fordham on November 26 in the NCAA Opening Round Game 1. The victor will then face Southern California on December 1 in Berkeley, Calif., in the NCAA Opening Round Game 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
The Princeton University men’s water polo team pulled off a historic repeat, but there are bigger goals ahead.
Last Sunday, No. 8 Princeton captured the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) championship with a 13-8 win over No. 18 St. Francis Brooklyn in Providence, R.I. to repeat as conference winners for the first time in program history. The Tigers will open the NCAA tournament play by hosting Fordham in Opening Round Game 1 on Saturday at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will play Southern California on December 1 in Berkeley, Calif., in the NCAA Opening Round Game 2.
The trip to the NCAAs gives the Tigers, now 26-5, a chance to add to their 12-game winning streak that includes a win over once-No. 1 Stanford.
“The biggest thing for us is going to be staying healthy and staying hungry and understanding we have a great opportunity not just to win the conference this year but do something that’s never been done before and compete for a national championship,” said Princeton head coach Dustin Litvak. “That’s really motivating the guys.”
Princeton started the weekend with a 12-7 NWPC semifinal win over host Brown on Saturday followed by the strong performance in the title game against St. Francis.
In the final, Princeton jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead on goals by Ryan Neapole, Roko Pozaric and Yurian Quinones. Neapole scored another goal to start the second quarter, and the Tigers used strong goalkeeping from Antonio Knez to sustain their lead while getting goals any time St. Francis started to whittle away at Princeton’s advantage. Vladan Mitrovic, Joan Coloma, George Caras, and Keller Maloney also scored in a balanced attack.
“We knew if we played to our ability, we’d have a really good shot,” said Litvak. “I think we have a really deep team this year and that enabled us to rotate a lot of players in and out of games. And we only had to play two games this weekend instead of some teams having to play three. We’re just a little deeper than St. Francis. I think that paid off in the end. We expected to play well. We’re really happy for the guys that they were able to get it done and keep playing.” more