Nelsonís Three Goals Guides No. 14 Menís Water Polo to 9-7 Win Over SCU
The 14th-ranked Princeton men’s water polo team opened the 2013 season employing a three-goal fourth quarter rally to top 16th-ranked Santa Clara, 9-7, Friday evening in DeNunzio Pool live on ESPNU.
The Tigers (1-0) continue Princeton Invitational action on Saturday with an exhibition contest versus Penn at 9 a.m. and Harvard at 5:30 p.m.
Sophomore Thomas Nelson led the offense with three goals, while adding a team-high five steals in his return to action after missing the 2012 campaign. In goal, Alex Gow had nine saves and a steal in his complete game victory.
Princeton experienced a defensive breakdown to open the game, leaving Gow in a one-on-one situation that lifted the Broncos to a 1-0 lead at 7:26. The game would see back-and-forth play for much of the first three quarters, as the Tigers worked through their season-opening jitters.
The Tigers responded to SCU’s early momentum push with a pair of goals from Jamie Kuprenas and a left-handed shot on the far post from Nelson to take a 2-1 lead at 6:28.
Princeton was unable to parlay its two-goal run into a further push before Santa Clara knotted things up. Possession continually transferred as both sides looked to garner control, but missed shots and saves by the goalies held off further activity on the scoreboard.
At 4:56, Hoffenberg sliced one into the goal to provide Princeton with a 3-2 advantage. The Tigers looked poised to make a multi-goal run, seeing several key steals and stops in front of the cage, but they were unable to capitalize on their offensive drives and concluded the first quarter tied 3-3.
The second quarter saw a two-goal run by Santa Clara to open things up and Princeton’s best chances to respond saw a shot deflect off the crossbar and a lob over the Bronco goalie’s head stopping just short of crossing the goal line.
Following their close misses, Hoffenberg and freshman Jovan Jeremic brought the Tigers back in it and tied the game, 5-5 at 1:54.
The goal marked the first of Jeremic’s career. Hoffenberg finished the game with a pair of goals, four steals, two assists and a field block.
As the first half wound down, Santa Clara took the final offensive possession. In another man-on-man drive for Gow, he lunged out of the water and prevented the Broncos from going into halftime with the lead by clobbering the ball off his chest.
In his return to action at Princeton, Nelson found a way to thrill the fans in DeNunzio. At 4:12 in the third, he corralled the ball on the right side with some distance from the goal and slammed in a no-look shot to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
As they had done all game, the Broncos managed to tie things up and turn that into another two-goal run.
Down 7-6 entering the fourth quarter, Princeton’s defense held a tight line and rejected every Santa Clara shot over the final eight-minute period.
On the other end of the pool, Kurt Buchbinder ignited a 3-0 Tiger run to put the game away. Nelson scored the game-winner with 6:51 on another memorable shot, this time with a Bronco defender tight on him he sent a behind the back shot in from the left side.
No. 14 Princeton: 3 – 2 – 1 – 3 – 9
No. 16 Santa Clara: 3 – 2 – 2 – 0 – 7
Goals: Nelson 3, Shannon 1, Hoffenberg 2, Buchbinder 1, Kuprenas 1
Assists: Wachtell 1, Butler 1, Hoffenberg 2, Buchbinder 1, Jeremic 1
Steals: Nelson 5, Galainena 1, Fink 2, Wachtell 2, Butler 1, Shannon 1, Hoffenberg 4, Buchbinder 2, Gow 1
Saves: Gow 9