Nov. 20, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- No. 19-ranked Princeton used a 5-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and held off a late charge by Navy to hand the 15th-ranked Midshipmen a 10-7 setback in the CWPA Eastern Finals on Sunday afternoon on the campus of Harvard University.
The loss snaps Navy's eight-game winning streak and ends the Midshipmen's season at 24-7. The Tigers advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 and improved to 23-9 overall.
Princeton won both regular-season meetings with the Midshipmen before Navy turned the tables in the CWPA Southern Division Tournament finals. However, the Tigers got the upper hand this time around, and would give Navy three of its seven losses during the 2011 season.
It marks the second time in the last three years that Navy lost to Princeton in the Eastern Finals. In addition to this year's decision, Princeton defeated the Mids, 5-4, in the 2009 finals.
Navy was making its seventh straight appearance in the CWPA Eastern Finals, now 3-4 in those appearances with titles in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Navy is now 9-9 in 18 Eastern Finals appearances.
"We reverted back to the mistake-prone style that we thought we had licked about a month ago. We did not have our best game. Princeton did not make mistakes and deserved to win the game," said Navy head coach Mike Schofield. "We did not play our best and its unfortunate. The last month or so, we had really improved and were playing some really strong water polo, but it wasn't meant to be today."
Navy played catch-up all afternoon, falling behind 3-1 after one quarter with Navy's lone goal scored by Conor Handley. The Midshipmen would dominate the second quarter, but only drew to within one at 3-2 on a Kyle Wertz goal with 6:53 to play in the stanza.
Navy looked ready to come out in the third quarter and seize all momentum as the Midshipmen tied the game at 3-3 just 14 seconds into the frame on a Paul Pedrotty
netter, but the Tigers rattled off four straight goals, including three in a minute, 38-second stretch, to take a 7-3 lead after three quarters.
"We did not play well in the first half, but hung in there and tied it up right away in the third quarter. I thought that we were ready to roll and had some momentum, but we just gave up many soft goals on defense and got impatient and made bad decisions on offense," added Schofield. "Princeton gets a lot of credit. They made us pay whenever we screwed up."
Princeton moved the lead to 9-4 with 3:25 to play, when Navy started a brief rally, cutting the lead to two at 9-6 on a pair of Stevie Ray goals, the last coming with 2:18 to play. However, Princeton's Thomas Nelson stemmed the rally with a Tiger goal and a Wertz tally late in the game was all Navy could muster and the Mids fell by a 10-7 decision.
Wertz, Pedrotty and Ray finished the game with two goals each while Handley added the one tally. Anthony Gutierrez stopped seven shots in goal.
Kyle Wertz was named to the All-East first team for the third straight season while classmate Stevie Ray was selected to the second team, after being a first-team selection last year.
Wertz becomes the fifth player in school history to be named first-team All-East three times joining Lawrence Kough (1983-85), Tom Popp (1986-88), Luis Nicalao (1989-91) and Alex Ratcliffe (2003-05).
Navy finished the year with a 24-7 mark, its 30th straight year of winning at least 19 games. Several key players return, but head coach Mike Schofield is faced with the task of finding replacements for All-East performers Kyle Wertz and Stevie Ray and CWPA Southern Division Player of the Year Conor Handley. Just one of Navy's top-four scorers from this year, Paul Pedrotty, return for next year's squad.
"I am grateful for the 37 guys that reported in July and their effort all season. We went through some tumultuous times at the start of the year, but at the end of the year, we were a pretty cohesive group and were playing some great water polo. It's a shame that it had to end the way it did today, but this group should be proud of what they did this year," said Schofield.
# GO NAVY #