Princeton University Opens 2011 Season This Weekend with Princeton Invitational

Princeton University Opens 2011 Season This Weekend with Princeton Invitational

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The 2011 Princeton University women's water polo season gets underway this weekend when six teams compete at DeNunzio Pool in the Princeton Invitational. Princeton enters the season looking to build off its third-place Eastern finish a season ago.

Princeton returns an experienced group of 14 players this season after losing three players to graduation a season ago. The Tigers were 20-10 last season and 5-1 in the CWPA Southern Division season. Princeton was finished second at Southern and placed third at Easterns after defeating Hartwick in the third-place game following a loss to eventual CWPA champion Michigan in the semifinals.

Princeton enters the upcoming campaign without Phoebe Champion, Helen Meigs and Carolina Ardila, all 2010 graduates. All three are in Princeton's top-10 for career goals and are top-six in assists. Champion was a two-time All-America and Southern Most Valuable Player, while Meigs was a two-time All-Southern player.

"There's no question that we will miss those three players," said Head Coach Luis Nicolao. "All three were tremendous players for us and helped us sustain a high level of success over the past years."

Princeton will look to its entire roster, the 14 returnees and three newcomers, to fill the void left by that departure. "This year, we will be a deeper and more balanced team," said Nicolao. "Anytime you lose a dominant player, everyone else on the team is forced to come together and stand up."

On the offensive side of the pool, the Tigers will look to Saranna Soroka to play in the middle and run the Tiger offense from the set. Soroka appeared in all 30 games last season off the bench, but emerged as the Tigers' 2-meter in the latter half of the season. She finished the year with 24 goals, six assists and 12 steals, while drawing 45 ejections.

Soroka will work to feed a perimeter that will include the likes of Cari Levine, Brittany Zwirner, Lauren Brunner, Rachele Gyorrfy, Molly McBee and Katie Rigler. Zwirner leads all returning Tigers season with 50 goals last year while coming off the bench as a freshman, along with 10 assists and 33 steals. Brunner is Princeton's leading active scorer with 104 career goals entering her senior season, including 38 last season.

Levine and Gyorffy are two players that will see their roles increase this season as both are now fully healthy. Levine played in all games last season after injuries hampered her freshman and sophomore campaigns. She had 17 goals, eight assists and drew 34 ejections last season. Gyorrfy played in just 19 games last season because of illness. This year as one of the few left-handed players on the Tiger roster, she'll work to run the offense from the right side.

Sarah Hutchison, Cayley Bowles and Laura Martinez will also figure into the Princeton offense. Hutchison will be a key part of Princeton's counter-attack offense to create scoring opportunities for the Tigers, while Bowles will be counted on in situations of setting her teammate up offensively. Martinez is another player that has the potential to contribute in some big games over the course of the season.

The Princeton defense will again be anchored by goalie Kristen Ward and defenders Tanya Wilcox and Audrey Zak. Ward emerged as Princeton's starting goalie as a freshman and has grown in the role. She was 18-9 last season with 241 saves in the Tiger goal. Playing in front of Ward will be Wilcox and Zak. Wilcox was the team's starting center defender last season and anchored the Princeton defensive set, while Zak also saw significant time in the role, playing off the bench. Julie Phillips, Sierra Schelegle, returning following a year off, and Katlin Poladian are all role players that will all add depth on defense.

Princeton will add three freshmen to the mix this season in McBee, Rigler and Erin Glenn. McBee and Rigler will play in several roles during the season and both have the potential to be impact players for the Tigers for years to come.

Glenn, along with junior Grace du Pont will strengthen the Tigers' goalkeeping. Du Pont converted from being a field player to a goalie last season when Princeton was left with just one goalie, and proved to be a solid goalkeeper with a 2-1 record and 52 saves in 12 games played.

Princeton will face its usual tough schedule, but faces a new wrinkle as divisional play has been eliminated. The CWPA originally had three varsity divisions-South, North and West-but lost several of its members to the new Division III league, leaving 12 schools remaining. The 12 schools were split into two divisions, Southern and Western, but there will be no league standings or schedule. Each team will play each other if possible and seeding for the 12-team CWPA Eastern Championships will be based on the results during the regular season.

Princeton will meet two of those teams on Saturday on its first day of the season, hosting George Washington and Brown at DeNunzio Pool. Princeton will also host Colorado State and Pacific as part of the Princeton Invitational. The complete Invitational schedule can be found here. All four Princeton games can be watched on

Release courtesy Princeton Athletic Communications

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