PRINCETON, N.J. — The re-match of last year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) opening round game between Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) Champion/No. 16-ranked Fordham University and Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC)/host/No. 9 Princeton University proved to be all it was expected to be – a tight, highly competitive match that would come down to the wire. Fordham tied the game late in regulation to force overtime, but Princeton netted the final goal with three seconds left to pull out the 11-10 victory in the second OT frame.
After Princeton moved out to an early 3-1 lead, Fordham tied the match at three with 2:51 left in the first quarter on an extra-man goal by Nir Gross and a regular strength goal by George Papanikolaou. However, an extra-man goal by George Curas left Princeton with a 4-3 edge after the first quarter.
The Rams tied the game early in the second quarter on Papanikolaou’s second goal of the game. Princeton responded with three straight goals to take a 7-4 lead before Nacho Ariste scored with 58 seconds left in the period for a 7-5 halftime score.
The Tigers scored first in the third quarter, but goals from Jacopo Parrella and Luca Silvestri got Fordham back within one, 8-7, with 1:17 left in the frame. Princeton answered with an extra-man goal, but Gross scored for the Rams with two seconds to go, leaving Fordham behind by one, 9-8, heading into the fourth quarter.
Fordham played full lockdown defense, as the Rams did not allow a score in the quarter, anchored by two saves by Thomas Lercari in goal and keeping the score at 9-8 into the final minute of regulation. Then, Papanikolaou found Silvestri with 23 seconds left for a shot to the top right corner to knot the game at nine and force overtime.
In the first three minutes of overtime, Princeton grabbed a 10-9 lead on a goal by Keller Maloney, his third marker of the game.
In the second three minutes, Papanikolaou answered for Fordham with his third of the game to tie the game at 10-all. The Rams had a chance to take the lead, but a shot wide gave the ball back to Princeton with 34 seconds remaining. The Tigers were able to draw an exclusion and get an extra-man goal by Roko Pozaric with three seconds left for an 11-10 edge.
The Rams were left with a long shot from distance by Silvestri that did not go in the final moment leaving Fordham with the one-goal loss.
For Fordham, Papnikolaou finished with three goals, an assist, and two steals, while Silvestri and Parrella each had two goals and an assist. Gross also had two markers with Ariste having the final tally. In net, Lercari finished with seven saves and a steal.
The Rams end the season with a 26-8 record, while Princeton advances to the NCAA Championship at the University of California in Berkely, Calif. The Tigers will face Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Champion/No. 1 the University of Southern California in an opening round game at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 1.
Release courtesy Fordham University Athletics Communications