Sports

Men’s water polo upsets No. 12 Princeton

Bears reverse early season struggles, defeat Princeton behind strong defensive performance

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 8, 2018

Travis Bouscaren ’19 completed a hat trick that helped lead the Bears to an 11-10 win over the Princeton Tigers Sunday.

The men’s water polo team capped off an exceptional weekend with an 11-10 win over the No. 12 Princeton Tigers Sunday at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center. The Bears earned an early 3-0 lead and never relinquished it thanks to a standout defensive performance from goalkeeper Riad Hallal ’21 and hat tricks from center-defender Travis Bouscaren ’19 and center Hudson Rawlings ’20. The win helped Brown avenge a prior loss to Princeton earlier in the season, a 16-11 defeat on the road Sept. 29.

After Saturday’s wins over the MIT and No. 7 Harvard, Brown (11-7, 4-2 NWPC) had significant momentum heading into its conference home opener against Princeton (10-6, 3-4) Sunday. The Bears capitalized on their energy and got off to a fast start, holding on for a one-point win despite Princeton having a late opportunity to tie.

Bouscaren opened scoring for the Bears, and teammate Matt Simko ’22 soon followed with another goal. Meanwhile, Hallal held steady on the defensive end with multiple early saves. Santiago Nunez ’19 netted an impressive long-range shot to give the Bears a commanding 3-0 lead after the first period.

Brown Head Coach Felix Mercado commended his team’s strong start. “Our defense, without a doubt, was on point. We limited (Princeton’s) looks on the cage. Also, by pushing the pace on offense, we forced them to play defense, which got them off rhythm,” he said.

Princeton managed to rebound offensively in the second period, with Keller Maloney scoring two goals for the Tigers and Mitchell Cooper earning one. However, goals by Bouscaren, Rawlings and Spencer Carroll ’19 enabled Brown to trade points with Princeton, and the Bears entered halftime with a 6-3 lead.

In the third period, it appeared that Princeton was ready to mount a comeback. Brown’s offense stagnated with just one goal in the frame from Armen Deirmenjian ’20. With the Tigers down 7-5 as the period came to a close, Maloney made a long-range buzzer-beating shot to cut the deficit to just one and put the pressure on the suddenly vulnerable Bears.

“They are a good team, so it was really difficult to hold them like we did in the first half for two halves. They are a very capable team of going on a run,” Mercado added.

But Brown stepped up in response to the adversity. Hallal kicked off the final frame with a leaping block to prevent Princeton from tying up the score. Then, Bouscaren completed his hat trick with a goal to give the Bears an 8-6 lead. Still, Princeton’s offense was in its groove, and each time Brown found the back of net in the fourth, the Tigers answered with a score of their own soon afterwards. As a result, Brown clung to a 10-9 lead with about two minutes left, even after two more goals from Rawlings.

Princeton had a crucial opportunity to tie the game as they had possession with under a minute left and were down by just one. Brown’s defense came up big, and the Tigers lobbed it over the net for a turnover. Carroll iced the game for Brown with a score to put them up 11-9, and a late conversion on a penalty shot was too little, too late for the Tigers.

Hallal, who keyed the exceptional defensive effort by the Bears with nine saves, credits his team’s win to their energy level in the pool. “We’ve had some bad losses where we (didn’t come) in with enough energy. When we get amped up and excited and go in guns blazing, we play really well,” he said.

Bouscaren attributes part of the victory to his team’s frustration with their struggles from earlier in the season. “As we started losing, we developed an underdog mentality. … We were just sick of losing and knew this might be the last time we play this team before the championships,” he said.

Brown has broken out of its early-season form. After capping off a 3-0 weekend, the Bears seek to carry momentum into its remaining games. Next up for Brown is the Harvard Invitational in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which will present another challenging weekend. Among the teams the Bears will face at the tournament are No. 18 Wagner and No. 20 Bucknell.