Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn nsellyn@princeton.edu

April 23, 2003:

Women's water polo Final Four within reach
What are the team's chances?

By Nate Sellyn '04

The 20-5 women's water polo team travels to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to begin play in the Eastern Championship on April 25. The prize at the end of the weekend-long tournament? A trip to the NCAA Final Four.

Because the team suffered a hard loss to Indiana April 12, it will be seeded third in the tourney, behind last year's winners, Michigan, and Indiana. Do the Tigers have what it takes? P-nut talked with junior Anne Olson, a possible team captain next year. Olson grew up a half-hour east of San Francisco, playing for extremely competitive Acalanes High School. She started for Acalanes for three years, and twice received first team All-League honors. Her club team, coached initially by former University of California coach Peter Asch, twice competed in the Junior Olympics, finishing third and fourth.


P-Nut: How did you feel about the Tigers' performance this past weekend?

Olson: We were disappointed not to get a shot at the championship game. We didn't have a great offensive game in the semifinals. Our shots just weren't going in. We will get another shot at [Indiana] in the semifinals of Easterns in a couple weeks, though.

P-Nut: What's the difference, and significance, of the two tournaments?

Olson: There are two regional tournaments which feed into the Easterns tournament: Northerns and Southerns. The top six teams from Northerns and Southerns compete in Easterns, the winner of which plays in the NCAA Final Four Tournament in San Diego.

P-Nut: How do you think the team will perform at Easterns?

Olson: We're ready to have a very successful weekend. We had a great spring break trip to California, where we beat some strong opponents, including UC—San Diego, and I think if we play like we did against our competition in California, we have a great chance of winning the tournament.

P-Nut: And, presuming that happens, what do you think your chances are in the Final Four? Eastern teams traditionally have a tough time, right?

Olson: Yes, it's a difficult situation for the eastern teams to compete in that tournament. The three teams from California that compete every year (usually Stanford, UCLA, or USC will be two of the three) are the teams that draw the best water-polo recruits every year.

P-Nut: Why do you think that division of power between the East and the West remains? Why is the East unable to lure strong enough players to be truly competitive?

Olson: Water polo is pretty young on the East Coast, so a lot of schools are still trying to build programs. California was the birthplace of water polo in the U.S., and that's where the strongest teams and players always are.P-Nut: Has a team from the East ever become NCAA champion?

Olson: No, but it was actually only two years ago, my freshman year, that water polo had its first NCAA tournament. Until that time there was a collegiate national championship tournament, but again, there was never a champion from the East.

P-Nut: How long do you think it will be before Princeton can realistically challenge for the title?

Olson: If water polo really starts to take off on the East Coast then I think Princeton will definitely be one of the top programs to benefit from that growth. Our program will continue to attract a lot of strong players in the future, and I think this is only going to continue as high school players begin to realize that some of the East Coast teams are going to be viable opponents.

P-Nut: On that development note, how have this year's freshman players panned out?

Olson: We only had four freshmen join our team this year, but they have proved to be incredible additions. They have contributed significantly, and two of them have been starters all season. We're very excited to see these new classes come in with so much talent.

P-Nut: Although it's obviously a little early, do you think the team will be stronger or weaker next year?

Olson: We are going to experience a huge loss in our senior class this year, but I think that the remaining players from this year's team, plus our 10 new players coming in, will definitely be able to step up and compete just as well as we have in the past.

P-Nut: Under your leadership?

Olson: Oh, yeah. ( laughs) That's going to make all the difference.


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU