Luis Nicolao is in the same unique position this time of year as he has been since he first came to Princeton as head men’s and women’s water polo coach 16 years ago.
The holiday season also means nearing the midpoint between the end of one season and the start of another.
Princeton’s men’s team went 22-6 this past fall and came within two goals of reaching the NCAA Final Four for the third time in five years. Princeton’s women’s team is coming off its own NCAA tournament appearance after finishing fifth nationally last year, and opening day for the 2014 season will be Feb. 8.
“I’m really excited about where both teams are,” Nicolao says. “I’m excited about coaching both programs for a long time. I think we’ve built something really special in Princeton water polo, and I’m very proud to be the head coach of both teams.”
Princeton’s women will feature sophomore goalie Ashleigh Johnson, one of the rising stars in the U.S. and in the world in women’s water polo. Johnson, who already has significant international experience, was an All-America as a freshman.
The women’s team will appear on ESPNU this spring when it takes on Harvard on Feb. 22.
As for the men’s team, Princeton fell 11-9 to St. Francis (N.Y.) in the Eastern championship game. The Tigers will return the bulk of the team for 2014 and is ready to make a serious run again.
“I can’t imagine coaching anywhere else,” Nicolao says. “Each season is its own opportunity and challenge, and I always get recharged this time of year. I’m looking forward to the coming women’s season, the 2014 men’s season and many more years of coaching Princeton water polo after that.”