The No. 13 Tiger men's water polo team will kick off the
2012 season by hosting the three-day Princeton Invitational from Sept. 7-9 at
DeNunzio Pool. Princeton will play five games at the weekend tournament,
including a Friday 6 p.m. contest versus No. 3 California live on ESPNU.
For full tournament schedule,
please click here
Friday, Sept. 7 vs. Cal Lutheran @ 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7 vs. No. 3 California on ESPNU @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 vs. MIT @ 10 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 vs. Harvard @ 3 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9 vs. No. 2 UCLA @ 11:45 a.m.
To watch No. 13 Princeton vs. No. 3 Cal live on ESPNU, click here
Princeton enters 2012 prepared to defend its Eastern
Championship behind a veteran laden squad. Despite the Tigers' depth, a
challenging slate lies ahead with games versus some of the top teams in the
"Always our expectation is to get ourselves in the position
to win an Eastern Championship. I understand it's a long year, but we are
excited about the competitions we do have, including UCLA and Cal being out
here (this weekend), and we go to Southern California and play top teams
including USC," said head coach Luis Nicolao, who is entering his 15th season
at the helm of the program.
In 2011, Princeton went 22-10, 6-2 Southern en route to its third
Eastern Championship. The Tigers wrapped up the year with a third place finish
at the NCAA Championships.
"I think we have a great schedule this year. We are excited
to build off last year and look to continue the success we've had. Again, we
will take it one game at a time and we know that there are quite a few teams in
the east that can win (Easterns) this year and it is a matter of peaking at the
right time," explained Nicolao.
In addition to facing Cal and UCLA during the opening
weekend, this year's schedule features trips to Southern California to face reigning
National Champion No. 1 USC (Sept. 28) and a weekend at the SoCal Tournament hosted
at No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (Sept. 29-30). The regular season will wrap up with
the Eastern Championships, which Princeton will host from Nov. 16-18 and look
to earn the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Final Four.
"I think (this year's schedule) is great. The only way we will
get better as a team is by playing teams that are better than us. That East
Coast schedule is obviously a challenge, but we get to play three of the four
of the top teams in the country in the first month of the season - that's just
wonderful to play eye level and see what they do. No doubt that will help us as
a team," commented Nicolao.
The Tigers return 22 players this season, while adding three
freshmen to the roster. The mix of experience and talented newcomers will
assuredly bolster the Princeton lineup.
"We lost a really good class, but we have a nice class
coming back with some key members. (The team) really gained a lot of experience
after last year at Easterns and going to the Final Four, so there is no doubt
experience-wise we should do well. We have some good freshmen who will come and
help us right away and it is a matter of us playing well at the right time,"
The three newbies include two field players in Jamie Kuprenas and Bradley Wachtell, who will vie for minutes and garner experience
from their veteran teammates. Goalie Alex Gow rounds out the trio and he will
be there to bolster Princeton's play in the cage.
"Last year it was really hard for us (in goal) because Ben
(Dearborn) suffered with a nagging injury and he had to rest a lot. I think
this year, Ben and Alex give us some depth at the goalie position. If one is
having an off day, the other can play and they can feed off each other,"
In front of the cage, the Tigers will have the biggest hole
to fill at 2-meters with the loss of Jeff Cole and Mike Helou. Rising
sophomores Kayj Shannon and Matt Weber and senior Jack Ruth will look to come
in and play a bulk of Princeton's minutes.
The most depth will be in the perimeter, as several players
will be able to step in and it will be one of the keys to this year. The new
players will also be looked upon to dive in and keep the squad's depth at a
The offensive attack will look to again be headlined by
sophomore All-America Drew Hoffenberg. The attacker scored a team-high 47
goals, while adding 36 assists on the year. He enters 2012 as one of the top-10
players in the nation, as per NCAA.com's Players to Watch List.
"Drew is one of those players who just does it all for us. He
is so smart, aggressive and a team leader in the water, which makes everybody
around him better. I think Drew had a really surprising freshman year and no
doubt he's ready to have an awesome sophomore year," added Nicolao.
Undoubtedly the challenges will begin from the opening
weekend and will extend to the final buzzer, but the Tigers are ready to face
talented opponents and continue to grow as a program.
"We talk a lot to our kids about trying to keep things in
perspective. Take it one game at a time and if we work hard good things will
happen. We don't want to get too high or too low after a win or a loss, and we
really need to focus come November that we're healthy and playing the best polo
we can play. It is exciting Easterns will be at our pool, so it is the first
time in 10 years we are home for the Eastern Championships. Everyone is gunning
for us and hopefully we play well and have a good weekend," concluded Nicolao.
Scouting Cal Lutheran: Cal
Lutheran will kick off the new season at the Princeton Invite behind a 21-man
roster made up of returners, transfers and newcomers. The Kingsmen will be led
by 2011 All-America senior goalie Danny Mock, who had 189 saves last year,
while the offense will be bolstered by classmate Max Zappas following his
17-goal season. CLU currently is ranked No. 6 in the CWPA Varsity Division III
Top 10 Poll.
Scouting No. 3 California:
The third-ranked Golden Bears of California also open their 2012 slate at
the Princeton Invitational this weekend. Last year, UC Berkeley posted a 22-4,
7-1 MPSF record led by the offensive attack of graduated senior Ivan Rackov's
team-leading 70 goals. Cal's top returning scorer is sophomore Aleska Saponjic,
who had 30 goals for third-best. In goal, senior Justin Parsons returns after
tallying 206 saves and a 6.40 goals against average.
Scouting MIT: MIT is
currently ranked No. 7 in the CWPA Division III Top 10 Poll. The Engineers are
2-3 on the year, posting double figure victories over Yale (23-7) and Harvard
(19-7) to open the season before dropping their last three contests. Updated
statistics were unavailable for MIT.
Scouting Harvard: Harvard
heads to Princeton following a 2-1 outing at the MIT-hosted Labor Day Invite.
Victories over junior college squad Diablo Valley (14-12) and Yale (12-5)
sandwiched the Crimson's 19-7 loss to host-MIT last weekend. Three Harvard
players have scored five or more goals, with both freshmen Nathan Clement and
Noah Harrison leading the team with six goals apiece. Between the posts, goalie
Jimmy Field has 12 saves and counterpart Colin Woolway has six.
Scouting No. 2 UCLA: No.
2 UCLA heads east riding a 3-0 record, defeating all three season opening
opponents by eight goals or more. Sophomore goalie Stephen White has 25 saves
over three starts, as the Bruins handedly defeated their early opponents. UCLA
has seen contributions from several goal scorers behind a veteran offensive
line. Updated statistics from UCLA were unavailable.