Nov. 22, 2009
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The 12th-ranked Navy water polo team's quest for history fell one goal short in Sunday's CWPA Eastern Championship game as 18th-ranked Princeton rallied from a one-goal third-quarter deficit to hand the Mids a heartbreaking 5-4 loss.
Navy was looking to become the third program in CWPA Eastern Tournament history to win four straight CWPA Eastern titles, but Princeton started fast, then overcome a Navy run to dash those hopes.
"I want to say congratulations to Princeton on a strong effort. They really came to play today and it was a great battle the whole game," said Navy head coach Mike Schofield. "I'm proud of our guys and the season we had. We gave a great effort today. Just came up a little short."
The game was a role-reversal from last year's title game won by Navy, in which the third-seeded Midshipmen defeated the top-seeded Tigers, 9-6, in the title game.
Navy entered this year's tournament as the top seed, while Princeton was the third seed.
Navy dropped to 9-5 all-time in 14 CWPA Eastern title games. Navy's nine titles are the most in league history.
Princeton jumped out a 2-0 lead after one quarter and led 3-1 at halftime, before Navy started to rally in the second half.
Navy scored three goals in the third quarter's first four minutes to grab a short-lived 4-3 advantage. The Mids cut the lead to 3-2 when sophomore Kyle Wertz scored on Navy's only extra-man opportunity of the game at the 6:36 mark.
The Mids then got goals just 46 seconds apart from Luke Baldwin and Conor Handley to grab a 4-3 advantage with 4:06 to play in the stanza.
Princeton would tie the game at the 2:14 mark, then tallied a huge goal with just two seconds left in the third quarter to give the Tigers a 5-4 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Navy was not able to crack Princeton's defensive pressure, as the Tigers recorded 10 field blocks (shots that were blocked by defenders and didn't even make it to the goalie) and Princeton ended the Mids' season, 5-4.
Navy drew just one ejection on the afternoon, while Princeton drew eight Navy ejections. Navy converted its one extra-man chance, while Princeton went 2-of-8.
Stevie Ray, Wertz, Baldwin and Handley were the goal scorers for Navy, while senior Brett Rajchel recorded eight saves in goal.
Navy finished the year with a 21-9 overall record, its 28th straight win of winning at least 19 games. Navy will return nine of its top 12 scorers from this year to the 2010 season.
This year's senior class ends with a career record of 95-33, and became the fourth senior class in school history to win three Eastern titles (Classes of 1989, 1990 and 1991).
# GO NAVY #