Led by nine Thomas Nelson goals, the 18th-ranked Princeton men’s water polo team has advanced to the CWPA Championship semifinals Saturday in a rematch with Navy at 5:40 p.m.
The Tigers (21-5) and Midshipmen square off for the third time this year after splitting the season series leading up to this point. In the last meeting, Navy spoiled Princeton’s hopes of winning the Southern Division Championship in its semifinal 12-10 victory.
The sixth-seeded Tigers opened Friday’s CWPA action with a 16-12 win over 11th-seeded Iona, followed by a comeback rally to upend No. 2 seed Harvard 9-7 in the quarterfinals to set up their date with the Mids.
The Tigers have never lost to Iona in program history and were not about to in 2013 to end their chances of capturing the league title. After jumping out to a 7-4 lead at halftime, Princeton maintained its control through the end of regulation outscoring the Gaels 9-8 despite Iona’s attempts to close in on the lead.
Nelson notched a game and season-high six goals versus Iona, before adding two of his three goals in the second half in Princeton’s late run to top the Crimson. The sophomore was a threat on all ends of the pool, finishing the day with seven steals and three assists.
Goalie Alex Gow made 26 saves, an assist and a steal over his eight quarters of work. The second season goaltender was peppered at points versus Harvard, but kept a composed defensive line and limited the Crimson to three goals on five shots on frame in the second half.
The Harvard matchup proved to be a thriller, seeing the Crimson hold the upper hand through the third quarter. Trailing 7-6 entering the fourth, Princeton tightened up its play and closed out the contest riding a 3-0 run to victory.
On a day where the veterans commanded much of the game it was freshman Curtis Fink to deliver the game-winning goal. In a six-on-five, he struck with 1:27 left in regulation to lift Princeton to an 8-7 lead.
Along with Nelson’s hat trick, All-Southern Drew Hoffenberg recorded a three-goal performance of his own versus Harvard to bring his total to four on the day. Kayj Shannon also had four goals Friday, while senior Kurt Buchbinder had three assists, two goals and a steal.
No. 18 Princeton: 4 – 3 – 6 – 3 – 16
Iona: 2 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 12
Goals: Nelson 6, Zhang 1, Fink 1, Shannon 3, Hoffenberg 1, Buchbinder 2, Kuprenas 2
Assists: Nelson 2, Butler 2, Hoffenberg 1, Buchbinder 3, Jeremic 2, Kuprenas 1, Gow 1
Steals: Nelson 3, Galainena 2, Wachtell 1, Butler 1, Shannon 2, Hoffenberg 1, Rafter 1, Kuprenas 3, Nakos 1
Saves: Gow 12
No. 18 Princeton: 2 – 1 – 3 – 3 – 9
No. 17 Harvard: 2 – 2 – 3 – 0 – 7
Goals: Nelson 3, Fink 1, Shannon 1, Hoffenberg 3, Kuprenas 1
Assists: Nelson 1, Buchbinder 1
Steals: Nelson 4, Galainena 1, Butler 1, Shannon 1, Buchbinder 1, Jeremic 1, Gow 1
Saves: Gow 14