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No. 11 Princeton University-vs.-No. 13 University of Michigan Scoresheet (2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship – First Place)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Tournament Most Valuable Player Kayla Yelensky (Jr., Stamford, Conn./Greenwich Academy) joined teammate Ava Houlahan (So., Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach) in posting hat-tricks with three goals as No. 11-ranked Princeton University defended its 2023 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship by overcoming a 4-1 deficit with 4:49 left in the second quarter to top No. 13 the University of Michigan, 10-9, in the title game of the 2024 CWPA Championship at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool.

Princeton (22-6, 10-0 CWPA) claims the league title and a berth to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship.  The 2024 NCAA Championship selection show will be streamed live via on Monday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern/5:00 p.m. Pacific. Nine teams will be selected to compete in the championship with the two lowest seeds playing in the opening round with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals. All games leading up to the National Championship game will be streamed on, while the National Championship game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

The 2000, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2023 and now 2024 CWPA Champion Tigers – who were 2-0 against the Wolverines (10-8 W at Princeton on March 2; 12-9 W at Bucknell University on April 6) during the regular season – claim their sixth league crown in the program’s 12th title game appearance as Princeton previously fell to Indiana University (11-10 L in 2014 at Bucknell University), Hartwick College (8-6 L in 2007 at Princeton), Brown University (11-10 L OT SD in 2001 at Brown) and Michigan (5-4 L in 2017 at Indiana; 11-8 L in 2018 at Bucknell; 10-6 L in 2019 at Brown), while claiming the 2000 (6-4 W vs. University of Massachusetts at Princeton), 2012 (6-5 W vs. University of Maryland at Brown), 2013 (7-5 W at Michigan), 2015 (7-6 W vs. Indiana at Princeton) and 2023 (12-8 W vs. Harvard at Princeton) titles.

In the history of the CWPA Championship, Michigan is now 53-14 all-time, including a 47-13 mark since 2001.  Further, the Wolverines previously finished fifth (2001), first (2002, 7-6 W OT SD vs. Hartwick College at Princeton University), third (2003), second (2004, 5-2 L vs. Hartwick at Bucknell University), first (2005, 8-7 W at Indiana University), second (2006, 11-8 L vs. Hartwick at Brown University), fourth (2007), first (2008, 10-7 W vs. Hartwick at home), first (2009, 12-6 W vs. Hartwick at Harvard University), first (2010, 7-5 W vs. Indiana at University of Maryland), second (2011, 5-3 L at Indiana), third (2012), second (2013, 7-5 L vs. Princeton at home), third (2014), fourth (2015), first (2016, 9-2 W vs. Indiana at Harvard), first (2017, 5-4 W vs. Princeton at Indiana), first (2018, 11-8 W vs. Princeton at Bucknell), first (2019, 10-6 W vs. Princeton at Brown), first (2021, 12-5 W vs. Bucknell at home), first (2022, 10-4 W vs. Harvard at Bucknell) and third (2023) at the league’s championship tournament.

Since 2008, three teams have captured the CWPA Championship as Michigan (2008, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022), former league member Indiana (2011, 2014) and Princeton (2012, 2013, 2015, 2023, 2024) have combined for the last 16 titles dating back to former varsity team Hartwick College taking home the 2006 and 2007 titles.  Prior to 2006, Slippery Rock University (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996), the University of Maryland (1997), the University of Massachusetts (1998m 1999), Princeton (2000), Brown (2001), Michigan (2002, 2005), Indiana (2003),  Hartwick (2004) were champions.

In a clash of perpetual contenders for the league’s ultimate prize  – a berth to the NCAA Championship – the Tigers claimed the first lead as Yelensky drove a ball into the cage with 49 seconds gone (7:11) to provide Princeton a 1-0 margin.  However, the Wolverines bared their claws as Alison Lock (Sr., Ann Arbor, Mich./Skyline) (6:49) and Kaia Levenfeld (Fr., Moraga, Calif./Campolindo) (5:41) deposited strikes to sandwich a yellow card to Princeton head coach Derek Ellingson (6:49) to turn the tables and put the Maize & Blue out in front by a 2-1 count.

Neither team struck again until the 5:39 mark of the second quarter when Kata Utassy (Sr., Buadpest, Hungary/Konyves Kalman Secondary School) lined in a penalty shot to make it 3-1.  Michigan’s margin continued to balloon as Elise Walker (Sr., Los Altos, Calif./St. Francis) cashed in a man-up opportunity with 4:49 until halftime to make it 4-1.  

The Tigers trimmed their deficit down to a single goal prior to the game’s midway point as Kaila Carroll (Sr., Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) (3:46) and Grace Houlahan (Jr., Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach) (42 seconds, man-up) beat Wolverines’ netminder Alex Brown (Gr., Clayton, Calif./Carondelet) to move Princeton within 4-3 through 16 minutes of play.

Michigan appeared to begin putting the game away in the opening minutes of the third quarter as back-to-back man-up goals from Lulu Hirschfield (So., San Diego, Calif./La Jolla) and Lock at 6:35 and 5:42, respectively, doubled-up Princeton, 6-3.

Needing some scoring to terminate the Wolverines’ run to victory, Charlotte Riches (Fr., Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach) and Houlahan delivered a pair of answers at 5:22 and 3:13 (man-up), respectively, to shave Michigan’s lead back down to one at 6-5.

Emma Gustafsson (Fr., Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) rebuilt the Wolverines’ lead to two at 7-5 by converting a man-up chance at 2::28 prior to Yelensky returning the gap between the teams to a single goal at 7-6 by finding the back twine at the 2:11 mark.

Princeton continued to comeback as Ava Houlahan balanced the scoreboard at seven-all 24 seconds into the fourth quarter.  It marked the first time the Tigers were equal with the Wolverines since a 1-1 tie with 6:49 left in the first quarter.

The Orange & Black regained the lead for the first time since Yelensky’s opening strike 49 seconds into the game as Olivia Krotts (Fr., Laguna Beach, Calif./Mater Dei) followed Ava Houlahan’s equalizer with Princeton’s third consecutive goal to push the regular season champion out to an 8-7 advantage.

Yelensky provided Princeton a two-score lead at 9-7 with 3:59 on the clock by completing her hat-trick, but the Wolverines refused to go down without one final surge.

Following a yellow/red card to Ellingson, Utassy took over the game to post man-up (2:48) and penalty shot (1:45) goals to balance the scoreboard and raise the possibility of overtime.

Facing a resurgent Wolverines’ squad in a back-and-forth game with neither team able to put the other away, it was Ava Houlahan who delivered the terminal blow in the final 90 seconds by putting away a shot with 1:21 left for the deciding factor.

Goalkeeper/2024 CWPA Most Valuable Player Lindsey Lucas (So., Orinda, Calif./Miramonte) and the Princeton defense made the one goal lead stand-up in the closing minute as the Tigers escaped Cambridge and Michigan, 10-9, to earn the league’s championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Championship on Friday-Sunday, May 10-12, 2024, at the University of California’s Spieker Aquatics Center.

For Michigan – which was coached in the game by assistant Sami Hill due to a red card issued to head coach Cassie Churnside during the Wolverines’ 12-7 semifinal defeat of No. 20 Harvard on Saturday, April 27 – Utassy finished with a hat-trick with Lock chipping in a pair of goals.  Walker, Gustafsson, Hirschfield and Levenfeld each scored once to aid a nine save effort by Brown in cage.

Houlahan and Yelenskey were joined in the scoring column for Princeton by Carroll, Grace Houlahan, Krotts and Riches with Lucas turning aside eight shots.


1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q FINAL
No. 13 University of Michigan
2 2 3 2 9
No. 11 Princeton University 1 2 3 4 10
Princeton Goals: Ava Houlahan (3); Kayla Yelensky (3); Kaila Carroll; Grace Houlahan; Olivia Krotts; Charlotte Riches
Michigan Goals: Kata Utassy (3); Alison Lock (2); Elise Walker; Emma Gustafsson; Lulu Hirschfield; Kaila Levenfeld
Saves: Princeton – Lindsey Lucas (8) ;  Michigan – Alex Brown (9)
Exclusions: Princeton – 13 ; Michigan – 15
Advantage Opportunities: Princeton – 2-for-15 ; Michigan – 6-for-13
Sprints: Princeton – 4-for-4 ; Michigan – 0-for-4
Cards/Misconducts: YC – Princeton (Head coach Derek Ellingson, 6:49 left in 1st Q); Y/RC – Princeton (Head coach Derek Ellingson, 3:04 left in 4th Q)
Officials: Steve Redding, Joe Peila


2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship Officials Easton Honaker, Steve Redding, Stephanie Villalobos & Joe Peila

University of Michigan’s Lola Ciruli (#9)

Princeton University’s Kayla Yelensky (#20) attempts to elude the University of Michigan’s Issy Jackson (#2)

Princeton University’s Rachael Carver (#5) lines up a shot as the University of Michigan’s Lola Ciruli (#9) defends

The University of Michigan’s Issy Jackson (#2) closes in to attempt a shot block versus Princeton University’s Kayla Yelensky (#20)

Princeton University celebrates the 2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship

2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship Sixth Place: Bucknell University

2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship Fifth Place: Saint Francis University

2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship Third Place: Brown University

2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship Runner-Up: The University of Michigan

2024 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Champion: Princeton University

Collegiate Water Polo Association