Responding from multi-goal deficits throughout regulation, the sixth-seeded Princeton women’s water polo team gutted out a 12-10 overtime victory versus fifth-seed UC San Diego Sunday to earn a fifth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championship.
“Obviously I am really proud of the way the [team] hung in there and fought and we were able to get the win in the end,” said head coach Luis Nicolao. “We overcame a slow start and it was frustrating to begin with because our defense wasn’t playing well, giving up shots we normally don’t give up … We kind of settled down in the second quarter and we were able to get back in the game with our defensive effort. I always tell the [team] shots will come and go, but it’s defense you have to count on. We put ourselves in a hole by not playing good [defense] and were able to come back and win it by playing good [defense].”
Freshman Ashleigh Johnson had an outstanding tournament, establishing a new NCAA Championship saves in a tournament record with a combined 38. She eclipsed a seven-year record held by Loyola Marymount’s Rachel Riddell in 2005.
The goalie finished with 14 saves Sunday.
Sophomore Jessie Holechek lifted the Tigers throughout the match, keeping Princeton within range each time UCSD managed to add to its lead. The utility scored a team-high four goals, including the game-winner in overtime.
The first half saw the Tigers’ fending for control, but each time the Tritons were there with a response.
Brittany Zwirner opened with a long range shot from the left side to the far post, putting Princeton up 1-0 at 6:45 in the first. It would be Princeton’s only lead in the first half, as UCSD managed to take as high as a three-goal advantage before the Tigers went into halftime trailing 6-5 on a Holechek score.
Princeton continuously worked to corral the lead, but had to rally back from a 10-7 deficit with 5:39 left in regulation. Goals from Zwirner sandwiched by a Pippa Temple reverse shot tied the game up 10-10 at 2:43.
Zwirner finished with three goals, a steal and drew an ejection.
Overtime proved to be a defensive battle, but with 51 seconds left in the first extra period Holechek was there with the go-ahead goal.
She added an insurance goal in the second overtime period, scoring on a skip shot from 8-meters out with only eight seconds left on the shot clock.
Defensively, Camille Hooks tallied a team-high four steals and added a goal, while Temple had a pair of goals and Molly McBee tallied two assists and a goal.
Princeton’s (28-6) fifth place finish ties for the highest a CWPA program has finished at NCAAs during the eight-team tournament format. It is the highest finish in program history, as in the Tigers’ NCAA debut they earned sixth place in 2012.
Junior Katie Rigler was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team, representing the Tigers on the team the last two seasons.
No. 6 Princeton: 2 - 3 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 1 - 12
No. 5 UC San Diego: 3 – 3 – 2 – 2 – 0 – 0 – 10
Goals: Hatcehr 1, Hooks 1, McBee 1, Temple 2, Zwirner 3, Holechek 4
Assists: McBee 2
Steals: Soroka 1, Hooks 4, Dunstan 1, Zwirner 1
Saves: Johnson 14