Despite putting up an impressive performance early on in the Collegiate Water Polo Association title game on Sunday, the No. 11 women’s water polo team fell 11-10 to No. 13 Indiana in a heartbreaking last-minute loss.
The top-seeded Hoosiers (22-5 overall, 14-0 Western) and the second-seeded Tigers (31-2, 5-0 Southern) both came into Sunday’s game riding hot winning streaks, and the bout for the championship was incredibly evenly matched. The two squads were never more than two goals apart throughout the game.
The Tigers scored a goal at the halfway point of the fourth quarter to earn a 10-9 lead, but Indiana was able to wrestle away the advantage and scored an equalizer. Then, with barely a minute left on the clock, the Hoosiers’ Shae Fournier found the back of the net for what would be the winning goal. Princeton shot just one more time, but a save by the Hoosier goalie blocked the potential equalizer, and Indiana ran the clock out to emerge with the win and a playoff berth to the NCAA Championships, to be held next month in Los Angeles. Indiana’s trip to the national tournament will be its third in program history, with this appearance giving them the edge over Princeton’s two NCAA games.
“We started off really strong but then lost control of the game with turnovers and offensive mistakes,” senior utility Katie Rigler said, who was awarded the CWPA Southern Player of the Year award.
Senior Molly McBee led the team in goals in the matchup with a hat trick, while juniors Ashley Hatcher and Jessie Holechek scored two a piece. Rigler, sophomore Diana Murphy and junior Taylor Dunstan each recorded a goal as well. Dunstan also added three assists, and Hatcher and sophomore Pippa Temple recorded two. Defensively, sophomore goalie Ashleigh Johnson stopped nine Hoosier shots from finding the back of the net.
Princeton earned its spot in Sunday’s championship game for the third consecutive year after it breezed past Harvard 12-6 on Friday in the quarterfinals and defeated Hartwick 12-8 on Saturday. Despite the substantial difference in ranking against their opponent in the semifinals, the Tigers struggled to break free from what was a relatively tight scoring matchup. Princeton broke a 3-3 tie, only to find itself leading by just two at 5-3 in the third. The Tigers, however, finally broke free and scored the next three goals to widen the lead to 8-4, and from there Harwtick did not get closer than the final 8-6 tally and Princeton moved on to the championship to face Indiana, though its winning ways would stop there.
“It was a tough way to end the season but extremely proud of our team and the record-breaking season we had,” Rigler said.
It was record-breaking indeed — despite the defeat, Princeton’s 31-2 overall record this season provided the most wins and fewest losses in program history.
“We played our hearts out and there’s nothing more we could have done,” Murphy said. “This type of loss is sad, but it makes us all the more hungry for a win next season.”