No. 20 Princeton University to Open Season this Weekend at Home with Princeton Invitational
PRINCETON, N.J. -- The No. 20-ranked Princeton University women's water polo team will open up the 2012 campaign this weekend hosting the two-day Princeton Invitational from Saturday, February 11 to Sunday, February 12.
The Tigers will face Colorado State University, Harvard University, Mercyhurst College and Villanova University to open the year.
Princeton, who entered the year earning a preseason No. 18 national ranking, are also tied-No. 2 in the CWPA Division I/II Poll.
"This weekend will give us a good sense of what the year has in store. It is always great to start off at home and not have to travel for the first round of games. We know every game we play this weekend will be a challenge for us and an opportunity to keep getting better. Our goal is to play everybody and use this weekend as a marker for what we need to do to get better," said head coach Luis Nicolao, who's entering his 14th season at the helm of the program
The nationally ranked Tigers, who lost eight players from last year, bring back an experienced group of nine veterans and welcome six true freshmen. The Princeton lineup boasts a group chalk full of talent ready to vie for the Eastern Championship.
"The expectation for this season, like every season, is to compete for the Eastern Championship. This year's league is very competitive and many teams have the potential to finish in first place. The league winner will be the team that works the hardest and is the most dedicated. We hope to become this team by making a commitment to excellence as individuals and as a team," explained the veteran head coach.
Princeton concluded the 2011 season with a fifth place finish at the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship and an 18-11 overall record.
"Last season we had a few bumps that we hope to have learned from. We fell short of our goals and everyone felt a little down. The returning players are back with a vengeance and the talented freshmen have brought an energy and enthusiasm that has rapidly impacted the attitude of this team," commented Nicolao.
Building off of last season is something the squad hopes to do under the tutelage of their veteran leadership. A trio of seniors in Kaitlin Poladian, Kristen Ward and Audrey Zak enter their final season ready to help leave their mark on the program and provide strong leadership in the defensive end of the pool. Goalie Ward is entering her fourth season in the cage, while Zak will also be starting her fourth season in center and Poladian adds depth defensively for the Tigers.
For the juniors, Brittney Zwirner, who holds the all-time record for most career goals with 86, returns to provide the offensive push for the Tigers. Classmates Rachelle Gyorffy is a strong lefty who will manage the right side of the Princeton attack and Saranna Soroka will cause matchup problems for opponents at two meters. Rounding out the third-year players is Laura Martinez, who will be another stalwart on the defensive end of the pool.
The sophomore tandem of Molly McBee and Katie Rigler, who scored a team-high 56 goals, return with a year of Division I experience under their belt and will provide leadership for the newcomers. The duo provided strong offensive output for the Tigers as rookies and will be looked to have another successful campaign.
Along with the returners, the lineup will see six fresh faces in the pool. An all-around well rounded group, the newcomers will be looked to make contributions on both the offensive and defensive ends. Princeton will look to Taylor Dunstan, Ashley Hatcher and Jessie Holechek to add to the team's scoring efforts, while CeCe Coffey and Camille Hooks will bolster the Tigers' defensive prowess. Kelly Gross will add depth to the lineup as a lefty and all-around threat.
Release courtesy Princeton Athletic Communications