Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn firstname.lastname@example.org
water polo Final Four within reach
What are the team's
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
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
P-Nut: How did you feel about the Tigers' performance this past
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 UCSan 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
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
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