No. 13 Princeton Claws No. 17 Brown 14-9 in Eastern Championship Semifinals
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Eric Vreeland (Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.) scored four goals and Mike Merlone (So., Atherton, Calif.) made eight saves to key No. 13 Princeton University to a 14-9 win over No. 17 Brown University in the semifinals of the 2008 Eastern Championship at the United States Naval Academy.
Princeton advances to face the winner of the semifinal between No. 14 Navy and No. 12 St. Francis College (N.Y.) at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 23 in the championship game with the league title and automatic berth to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship tournament on the line.
The title game marks Princeton's first appearance in the penultimate game of the Collegiate Water Polo Association season since the Tigers fell to the United States Naval Academy (9-6 L) at home in DeNunzio Pool. In the history of the league, the Tigers are 2-2 in Eastern title games, falling to Navy in 2003 (8-6 L at Navy) and 2006 and taking the 1992 and 2004 (3-2 W OT SD vs. St. Francis at Bucknell) crowns.
The Tigers never trailed against Brown building a 3-1 lead by the end of the first period and holding a 6-4 lead at halftime.
Douglas Wigley (Jr., Atherton, Calif.) opened the scoring for the Black & Orange with 4:43 left in the first period before Alex Edmunds (Sr., Los Angeles, Calif.) inched the margin to a pair of scores at 3:46 with a rip from the wing for a 2-0 margin.
Brown halved the lead at 2:31 with a marker by Mike Gartner (Sr., San Jose, Calif.), but the Tigers clawed back courtesy a successful penalty shot by Vreeland at 1:14 to put Princeton ahead 3-1.
The lead grew to 5-1 midway through the second period as Jeff Cole (So., Santa Barbara, Calif.) dropped in a goal at 6:27 and Vreeland finished on an advantage chance at 3:29, but the Bears came back with a pair of goals off exclusion scores by Gordon Hood (So., Carlsbad, Calif.) and Nico Fort (Sr., Miami, Fla.) at 3:08 and 2:09, respectively, to pull Brown to within 5-3.
Neither team was done scoring in the period as Wigley slipped through the Brown defense for a goal at 1:19 and Zach Levko (Jr., Wildwood, Mo.) flipped in an advantage score with 53 seconds left in the first half for a 6-4 Princeton lead at halftime.
The teams traded shots in the third to an 8-5 Tigers' lead before Vreeland went on a mini-spurt with even-strength tallies at 2:49 and 2:02 to give his team a 10-5 lead. Brown trimmed the lead to four with 27 seconds left in the period with a marker by Hood to make it 10-6 with eight minutes to play.
Brown pulled to within 10-7 with 7:04 left in the fourth period courtesy a penalty shot by Grant LeBeau (Sr., San Diego, Calif.), but the Bears could pull no closer as Princeton was able to hang on for the 14-9 win.
In cage, Kent Holland (Jr., Orinda, Calif.) stopped six shots for Brown as the Bears will face the loser of the Navy-St. Francis semifinal at noon on November 23 in the third place game.
The game raised Princeton's record to 3-0 against Brown this season as the Tigers previously knocked off the Bears 14-9 and 15-10 in the two teams previous meetings.
Princeton Goals: Eric Vreeland (4); Douglas Wigley (3); Mark Zalewski (2); Matt Hale (2); Alex Edmunds; Jeff Cole; Gregor Horstmeyer
Brown Goals: Gordon Hood (3); Mike Gartner (2); Grant LeBeau; Corey Schwartz; Nico Fort; Zach Levko
Saves: Princeton - Mike Merlone (8) ; Brown - Kent Holland (6)
Ejections: Princeton - 12 ; Brown - 6
Sprints: Princeton - 3 (1st - Eric Vreeland, 2nd & 4th - Douglas Wigley) ; Brown - 1 (3rd - Zach Levko)