Hoffenberg & No. 19 Princeton University Top No. 15 Navy 10-7 for 2011 CWPA Eastern Crown

2011 Eastern Champion  - Princeton University
2011 Eastern Champion - Princeton University

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Drew Hoffenberg (Fr., Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./The Bishop's School) topped off his first Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship in a big way as Rookie of the Tournament, Most Valuable Player and a First Team All-Tournament selection, in addition to scoring three times in the title game, to key the No. 19-ranked Princeton University Tigers to a 10-7 victory over No. 15-ranked the United States Naval Academy at Harvard University's Blodgett Pool in the 2011 Eastern Championship game.

The first student-athlete in league history (men/women) to earn both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards at the same Eastern Championship, Hoffenberg scored once in the first period and twice in the fourth period, including the eventual game-winning tally with 6:53 left in the final period of play as the Tigers claimed their third Eastern title in the last six years.

The 1992, 2006, 2008 and now 2011 Eastern Champion, Princeton never trailed in the game opening up a 1-0 lead with 6:11 left in the first period as Tim Wenzlau (Jr., Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) cranked a shot into the cage.  Hoffenberg expanded the margin to 2-0 less than three minutes later as he outsprinted his defender, accepted a pass and stuck a shot into the middle of the netting with 3:35 left in the opening frame.

Navy responded with a strike by Southern Division Player of the Year Conor Handley (Sr., Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) at 3:09, but Matt Weber (Fr., Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) put Princeton back in front by two before the conclusion of the period with a tally at the 40 seconds mark.

In the second period, Navy dominated play but could only manage a marker by 2009 CWPA Eastern Championship Rookie of the Year Kyle Wertz (Sr., San Diego, Calif./Westlake) to close the gap to 3-2 at halftime.

Navy appeared poised to turn the tide of the game and reel off a barrage of scoring as Handley won his third consecutive sprint and hit Paul Pedrotty (Jr., Coronado, Calif/Coronado) who lined a shot past Tigers' goalie Ben Dearborn (So., Palo Alto, Calif./Sacred Heart Prep) 14 seconds into the new half to knot the game up at three-all.

However, the Orange & Black turned red hot rattling off four straight strikes to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead entering the fourth period of play.

Chris Cottrell (Sr., Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar) ignited the run by spinning around his defender and dumping a shot past Navy goalie Anthony Gutierrez (Jr., Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) at 5:18.  Sam Butler (Fr., Falls Church, Va./George Mason) added to the spread by connecting on a blast at 4:57 before Tommy Donahue (Jr., Annapolis, Md./St. Mary's) put a stake in the heart of his hometown institution with a goal at 3:40 to make it 6-3.

Prior to the conclusion of the period, Kayj Shannon (Fr., Los Angeles, Calif./Harvard-Westlake) contributed Princeton's seventh score of the afternoon at 1:03 via a man-up opportunity off the second personal foul by Handley.

Princeton refused to let-up on the throttle against the Midshipmen as Hoffenberg heaved his second tally of the afternoon across the mouth of the cage with 6:53 left in the fourth period for the eventual game-winner.

Handley's second personal foul in the second period would come back to haunt Navy with 4:40 to go and down by five as he received a misconduct and exited the pool to take one of the Mids leading scorers out of the field of play.

Navy attempted to climb back into the game as Pedrotty converted on a man-up chance at 3:57, but Hoffenberg answered for the squad from the Garden State with a natural goal at 3:25 to keep Princeton in front by five at 9-4.

Needing a comeback for the ages to not see its season come to an end, Navy tutrned to Stevie Ray (Sr., Baytown, Texas/Ross S. Sterling) who buried man-up and even-strength goals at 3:07 and 2:18, respectively, to slice the margin down to 9-6.

With the momentum shifting in favor of the Midshipmen, Princeton sealed their fourth Eastern title (1992, 2004, 2009, 2011) in seven championship game appearances (1992, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011) courtesy a missle by Thomas Nelson (Fr., Walnut Creek, Calif./De La Salle) that eluded Gutierrez and returned a four-goal lead (10-6) to the Tigers.

Refusing to go down silently, the Midshipmen tacked on one final score as Wertz tossed in his second marker of the afternoon with 52 seconds to go for the 10-7 final.

"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."

Overall, Hoffenberg was the only Princeton scorer to find the cage more than once in the contest as eight different Tigers got in on the action.

In cage, Dearborn recorded eight saves to earn his first Eastern Championship game victory, while Gutierrez stopped seven shots in taking the loss for the Mids.

The game marked Princeton's first appearance in the Eastern title tilt since capturing the 2009 championship across town at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against Navy via a 5-4 final score. 

Princeton had previously lost the last time they faced Navy, falling 10-5 in the Southern Division Championship game at home in New Jersey. It marked the only loss during the season against Navy as the Tigers took 11-9 and 10-9 victories in overtime against the Blue & Gold in non-championship Southern Division regular season play.

In the history of the Princeton program, the Tigers are now 4-3 in title games with victories in 1992, 2004 (3-2 OT SD vs. St. Francis at Bucknell University) and 2009, with losses to Navy in 2003 (8-6 L at Navy), 2006 (9-6 L at Princeton) and 2008 (9-6 L at Navy).  Notable in the history of both program's Eastern tilte game appearances is Navy has still never defeated Princeton in a neutral site CWPA Eastern Championship title game.

Navy was making its seventh consecutive appearance in the Eastern title game as the Midshipmen captured the 2006-08 crowns and fell to Princeton University (2009, 2011) and St. Francis College (2005, 2010) in the other four title tilts.  In the history of the league, only two other programs have appeared in seven consecutive championship games, Brown University (1981-87) and the University of Massachusetts (1993-1999).  No team has made eight consecutive title game appearances.

Navy is also now 9-for-16 in Eastern Championship games in the history of the CWPA downing Brown (1986, 1987, 1990), University of Arkansas-Little Rock (1988), St. Francis (2000, 2007) and Princeton (2003, 2006, 2008), while falling to Brown (1984), Slippery Rock University (1991), University of Massachusetts (1994), Queens College (2002), St. Francis (2005, 2010) and Princeton (2009, 2011).

For Princeton, which earns the league's automatic berth to the four-team National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship on December 3-4 at the University of California, the season will last for at least two more games.

For the rest of the league, September can not come soon enough with eyes on capturing the  opening sprint of a new season with a chance to dethrone the Tigers at home in New Jersey at the 2012 CWPA Eastern Championship.

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th -- Final
No. 15 Navy 1
No. 19 Princeton University 3 0 4 3 --

Princeton Goals: Drew Hoffenberg (3); Matt Weber; Thomas Nelson; Kayj Shannon; Sam Butler; Chris Cottrell; Tim Wenzlau; Tommy Donahue

Navy Goals: Stevie Ray (2); Kyle Wertz (2); Paul Pedrotty (2); Conor Handley

Saves: Princeton - Ben Dearborn (8) ; Navy - Anthony Gutierrez (7)

Exclusions: Princeton - 7 ; Navy - 8

Advantage Opportunities: Princeton - 1-for-8 ; Navy - 1-for-7

Sprints: Princeton - 1-for-4 (4th) ; Navy - 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Cards: YC - Navy (Head coach Mike Schofield, 1:03 left in 2nd); YC - Princeton (Head coach Luis Nicolao, 4:53 left in 3rd); YC - Navy (Asst. coach Mladen Stanicic, 1:46 left in 4th)

Officials: Alex Stankevitch, Michael Goldenberg

Princeton University's Matt Weber

Princeton University goalie Ben Dearborn prepares to block a shot by Navy's Matt Carlson (No. 2) as Tim Wenzlau (No. 5), Mike Helou (No. 6) and Kayj Shannon (No. 19) retreat to defend

The Princeton University bench erupts in jubilation

Princeton University head coach Luis Nicoalo joins his team in the water

2011 CWPA Eastern Champions - Princeton University

2011 CWPA Eastern Championship Most Valuable Player - Drew Hoffenberg (Princeton University)

2011 CWPA Eastern Champion - Princeton University

2011 CWPA Eastern Championship Runner-Up - U.S. Naval Academy

2011 CWPA Eastern Championship Third Place - St. Francis College

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