PROVIDENCE, RI -- Camille Hooks (Fr., Beverly Hills, Calif./Harvard-Westlake School) took over the game scoring the final three goals of the game, including a buzzer beater to force overtime, as No. 13 Princeton University overcame a 5-2 halftime deficit to drop host Brown University 7-6 OT to reach the 2012 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship title game.
Playing in the hostile environment of their opponent at Brown's new Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, the Tigers (26-4) converted 13 Bears' ejections in five goals, including four in the second half and overtime, to rally back from an early hole to return to the CWPA Eastern title game for the first time since 2007.
Trailing 5-2 at the break, the Tigers came out with a defensive mindset as goalie Kristen Ward (Sr., Sacramento, Calif./St. Francis) kept the Brown shooters in check by stopping two shots, helping redirect the Bears to hit three posts and receiving three field blocks in the third quarter from Katie Rigler (So., Fullerton, Calif./Rosary) to not permit the deficit to grow to an insurmountable margin.
In addition, Princeton's offense came to life courtesy Brown ejections as Saranna Soroka (Jr., Redondo Beach, Calif./Chadwick School) converted a trip to the corner by Sarah Presant (So., Poway, Calif./Bishops School) at 2:52 into a point by firing a point blank blast past goalie Evan Cranston (Fr., Palo Alto, Calif./Castilleja) at 2:39.
Leading 5-4, the Bears (21-16) saw their lead evaporate quickly courtesy another pair of ejections as Cranston was ejected at 2:11 and Ashley Hatcher (Fr., Miami, Fla./Miami Country Day School) took advantage of the vacant cage for a man-up tally at 2:03 to pull the Tigers to within 5-4.
The back-to-back strikes elicited a yellow card to Brown head coach Felix Mercado at 2:03, shifted the momentum to the Black & Orange and set the stage for Hooks' heroics over the remaining 14 minutes of play to lift Princeton to the championship game.
Following a save by Ward, the Tigers' offense turned to Hooks who buried a centering pass with 1:44 remaining in the third period to even the damage at five-all and cap a 3-0 scoring run by Princeton.
The game remained tied until the six-minute mark of the fourth period as Emily McNamara (So., Winters, Calif./St. Francis) stuck a shot past Ward and into the back of the cage to return the lead to Brown at 6-5.
Down by one, the Princeton offense struggled against a reinvigorated Bears' defense as multiple field blocks and a save prevented the Tigers from balancing the scoreboard.
Trailing until the final minute, Princeton's title hopes appeared to be dimming with each ticking of the clock as Ward dumped the ball with 12 seconds left on the shot clock to give the ball back to the Bears with one minute remaining on the clock.
The play would prove crucial to the Tigers' final possession as it guaranteed Princeton would receive one final possession.
Brown ran the clock down to eight seconds and apparently was set to celebrate the win.
However, Ward passed the orb down the tank in short order to allow the Tigers' shooters to set-up on the wings as Hooks accepted a pass, pumped once, cocked and skipped a shot under the diving body of Cranston as time expired. Following a consultation among the referees and pleading from both benches, the goal was deemed good to bring on the first overtime of the tournament.
With both teams equal on the scoreboard, but Princeton possessing the momentum, the Tigers turned to their hot-hand as Hooks hang a shot over Cranston's shoulder at 2:07 following the ejection of Brown's Liz Rosen (Fr., San Anselmo, Calif./St. Ignatius) 2:31 during the first three-minute overtime period to net the eventual game-winner and give Princeton its only lead of the day.
Ward and the Princeton defense did the rest stiffling the Bears for the remaining five minutes of competition to hang on and advance as the Black & Orange improved to 15-0 against CWPA competition.
Arugably, the most important factor in the game was neither the players nor the ball, but the iron makeup of the cage as the two squads combined to dent the metal 10 times, including six ferrous assaults by the Tigers in a first half dominated by Bruno.
Brown wasted little time in taking the lead in the first quarter as Samantha Ryu (Sr., Santa Barbara, Calif./Cate School) converted on the ejection of Molly McBee (So., Palos Verdes, Calif./Palos Verdes) at 6:56 by lining an advantage shot into the cage at 6:45.
The margin grew to 2-0 37 seconds later as Madison Pepper (Fr., Baytown, Texas/Sterling) popped a shot over Ward's head at 6:08.
Following a man-up strike by Rigler at 4:55 off the ejection of Katharine Booher (Jr., Palo Alto, Calif./Castilleja) at 5:09 to halve the lead to 2-1, the Bears regained their pair of markers lead and shifted the mojo back in their favor courtesy another man-up tally. Brittany Westerman (Jr., Palo Alto, Calif./Castilleja) delivered the marker at 2:04 as she accepted a pass and buried the ball after Katlin Poladian (Sr., San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) was set off with an ejection.
Leading 3-1 after eight minutes of action, the Bears cushioned the lead to 4-1 at 5:45 with another advantage goal as McNamara turned the ejection of Kelly Gross (Fr., Danville, Calif./Carondelet) into another Bears' tally.
Princeton answered with a natural goal from Taylor Dunstan (Fr., New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan) with 3:12 remaining in the first half, but Brown closed the second quarter with an even-up bomb of their own as Pepper bombed a shot from the wings 21 seconds from the horn to make it 5-2 at the break and set-up Princeton's comeback.
A seven-time Southern Division champion, Princeton will make its fourth title tilt trip after three previous shots as the Tigers fell to Hartwick College (8-6 L in 2007) and Brown (11-10 L OT in 2001) after claiming the 2000 championship (6-4 W vs. University of Massachusetts).
Further, the Tigers can make history as head coach Luis Nicolao can become the first coach to lead both men's and women's programs to CWPA Eastern titles in the same year since CWPA Hall of Fame inductee Richard Hunkler achieved the feat in 1991-92 with the Slippery Rock University men's and women's teams.
The last institution to claim both crowns in the same academic year was the University of Massachusetts as CWPA Hall of Fame inductee Russ Yarworth guided the men to the 1991 title and Dan McCosker coached the Minutemen to the women's crown in 1992.
For Nicolao, the Princeton men captured the league crown in the fall courtesy a 10-7 victory over the United States Naval Academy at Harvard University as the Tigers will seek to sweep New England and claim both championships at fellow Ivy League institutions.
Game time for the title game is set for 4:30 p.m. against either No. 10 University of Michigan or No. 14 University of Maryland.
Brown, which finished second in the Southern Division to the Tigers courtesy a 9-8 title game defeat and had previously fallen to Princeton 18-8 in the regular season, will face the loser of the Michigan-Maryland semifinal in the third place game. Contest time is set for 3:00 p.m. at Brown's Coleman Aquatics Center.
|No. 13 Princeton University||1
Brown Goals: Madison Pepper (2); Emily McNamara
(2); Samantha Ryu; Brittany Westerman
Princeton Goals: Camille Hooks (3); Taylor
Dunstan; Katie Rigler; Saranna Soroka; Ashley Hatcher
Saves: Brown - Evan Cranston (7) ; Princeton - Kristen Ward (6)
Exclusions: Brown - 13 ; Princeton - 6
Advantage Opportunities: Brown - 3-for-6 ; Princeton - 5-for-13
Sprints: Brown - 6-for-6 ; Princeton - 0-for-6
Cards: YC - Felix Mercado (Brown, 2:03 - Third
Officials: Humberto Navarro, Val Vasilchikov
Princeton University goalie