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LOS ANGELES, Calif. — No. 4 seed/No. 5-ranked Princeton University took down No. 6 the University of California-Irvine, 12-7, in the quarterfinal round of the 2023 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Water Polo Championship hosted by the University of Southern California at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Princeton advances to the NCAA Championship semifinals/Final Four as the Tigers will face top seed/No. 3 the University of California-Los Angeles at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/2:00 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, December 2, with a spot in the National Championship game on the line.  In the other semifinal, host/No. 3 seed/No. 1 USC – which defeated No. 8 San Jose State University by an 18-10 score – will face No. 2 seed/No. 2 the University of California – which defeated No. 12 Fordham University by a 16-6 score – at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Streaming coverage of both games is available on

For Princeton, the quarterfinal defeat of UC-Irvine is historic for not only the Tigers’ program – but also the sport of collegiate men’s water polo.

Due to the victory, Princeton is guaranteed to finish no lower than Third Place in the final NCAA Championship standings. 

Since the 2016 championship, a Third Place game has not been contested as both teams which are defeated in the semifinals tie for Third Place in the current NCAA Championship format.  In the history of the NCAA Championship, Harvard University (once – 2016), the University of Massachusetts (once – 1999), the United States Naval Academy (once – 2007), Princeton (twice – 2009, 2011), Queens College (twice – 1997, 2002) and St. Francis College Brooklyn (once – 2012) rate as the East Coast institutions to previously claim Third Place at the NCAA Championship.  Harvard’s Third Place finish is the lone decision under the current NCAA Championship format as the Crimson defeated Bucknell University (13-12 W OT) and the University of California-Davis (16-15 W OT) prior to falling to USC (19-4 L) in the quarterfinals at the 2016 championship.  The prior Third Place finishes came in four-team championship fields with Massachusetts, Navy, Princeton, Queens and St. Francis Brooklyn capturing Third Place games.

Princeton – which breaks a tie with Queens College for the most Third Place or better finishes by  a non-California based institution at the NCAA Championship courtesy the defeat of UC-Irvine – never trailed against the Anteaters as Vladan Mitrovic scored the first goal of the day off a Logan McCarroll assist at the 6:39 minute mark to put the Tigers in front to stay.  Finn LeSieur buried a tally assisted by Mason Killion at 4:48 with an extra attacker prior to Killion finding the back of the net at 2:39 via an assist from JP Ohl to take a 3-0 lead.

However, the Anteaters began to climb back into the contest as Johann Thrall finished a pass from Luka Krstic at 2:15 for  a man-up strike to put UC-Irvine on the scoreboard.  Thrall struck again for a natural marker with 55 ticks left in the first quarter as Irvine closed to within 3-2 by the conclusion of the opening quarter.

The Tigers went back on the prowl in the dawning minute of the second quarter as George Caras put away a feed from Ohl with an extra attacker at the 7:22 minute mark to inflate Princeton’s lead back to a pair at 4-2.   The margin ballooned to 5-2 with 6:42 until halftime as Yurian Quinones put away a helper from Isaac Rotenberg.  

UC-Irvine refused to go down without a fight as Jack Stevens dented the twine with a man-up strike off an assist by Ethan Shipman at the 5:56 mark to inch the Anteaters back to within a pair at 5-3.  Princeton’s lead diminished to a solo tally at 4:48 as Stewart Campbell completed a feed from Jake Liechty to inch Irvine within 5-4.

Needing some offense to stymie UC-Irvine, Princeton turned to Quinones who buried an assist from Mitrovic to convert on another six-on-five chance to set the scoreboard at 6-4 with 4:04 until halftime.  Killion inflated the Tigers’ lead to three at the two minute mark as he deposited a man-up strike into the cage off an assist from Ohl as Princeton entered the game’s midpoint clinging to a 7-4 scoreboard advantage.

The momentum remained with the Tigers in the first moment of the third quarter as Mitrovic utilized an assist from Pierce Maloney 27 seconds into the second half to double-up UC-Irvine at 8-4. 

The Anteaters responded as Liechty converted an assist from Thomas Cass at 6:08 to move UC-Irvine back to within three at 8-5,but LeSieur delivered a response at 5:45 off another assist from Ohl to return the Tigers’ margin to four at 9-5.

LeSieur factored in Princeton’s next goal as well by dishing a pass to McCarroll who put away a shot the even-strength scoring bid with 3:58 on the clock as Princeton once again doubled-up Irvine, 10-5.

Needing some offense to keep pace with Princeton, Irvine’s Dylan Patist cashed in a man-up chance with 54 seconds left in the third quarter to move the Anteaters within 10-6 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.

Irvine continued to chip away at Princeton’s lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter as Tyler Padua put away a helper from Shipman at the 7:13 mark to make it a 10-7 game,

Mitrovic answered at 6:28 with an even-strength score to complete a hat-trick and widen the chasm between the programs to 11-7 before Roko Pozaric found Gavin Molloy at 2:56 for Princeton’s 12th strike to seal the victory.

For Princeton, Mitrovic (three goals, one assist), Killion (two goals, one assist), Pozaric (one assist), Caras (one goal), Maloney (one assist), Rotenberg (one assist), Ohl (four assists), LeSieur (two goals, one assist) and McCarroll (one goal, one assist) factored on the offensive end of the tank, while Kristof Kovacs picked up the victory in cage with eight saves.

Across the tank, Cass (one assist), Padua (one goal), Liechty (one goal, one assist), Shpman (two assists), Patist (one goal), Campbell (one goal), Krstic (one assist), Stevens (one goal) and Thrall (two goals) combined for UC-Irvine’s offense with Jacob Pyle stopping eight shots in cage.

The teams were even in shots at 30 each, while Princeton held a marked advantage in exclusions by drawing 15 to Irvine’s five.  On the powerplay, the Tigers shot four-of-15, while Irvine converted on three-of-five man-up bids.

Information courtesy Princeton University Athletics Communications

Collegiate Water Polo Association