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W. water polo sweeps Wagner, falls to Princeton in ECAC Championship

The women's water polo team advanced to the title game of the ECAC Championship tournament this weekend with wins over Wagner College and Bucknell University but ultimately lost 7-6 to top-seeded Princeton - ranked No. 18 nationally - in a disappointing final round.

The Bears' record now stands at 5-2 - with both losses coming at the hands of top-20 opponents - after dropping games against Princeton on Sunday and No. 12 Hartwick College Feb. 24. The tournament saw excellent play from Sarah Glick '10, whose eight goals over three games earned her First Team All-Tournament honors, and Caitlin Fahey '07, who was named to the second team.

The Bears were seeded third in the tournament, an invitational sponsored by the ECAC, which combines teams from the Collegiate Water Polo Association and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

In the first round they faced sixth-seeded Wagner and escaped with a close 12-11 victory. Lauren Presant '10 put Bruno on the scoreboard first, taking advantage of a six-on-five opportunity to score less than a minute in. After another goal from Presant and a score from Alexis Blaxberg '08, Brown led 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second period, Glick put up three goals, and Paige Lansing '07 scored once to give the Bears a 7-5 halftime lead. The Bears scored three consecutive goals on shots by co-captain Elizabeth Balassone '07, Claire Angyal '07 and a penalty shot by Glick to open up a 10-5 lead. The Seahawks came back, though, scoring three consecutive goals of their own, cutting the lead to 10-8 at the end of the period.

Brown secured the victory in the final period despite a valiant effort from Wagner. The pesky Seahawks cut Bruno's lead to 10-9 in the early going, but Presant struck once again, and Fahey - who finished with three assists and two ejections drawn - scored so that Bruno came out on top, 12-11.

In the semifinal match-up against second-seeded Bucknell, Presant put in another strong performance, leading Brown with four goals - including two in the second quarter - after Bucknell tied the game at 4-4. Though it was a tight game well into the third quarter, the Bears dominated the final minutes of the contest.

After the Bison scored with 5:03 remaining in the third to cut Brown's lead to 8-7, the Bears found the goal four times in the remainder of the contest. Presant scored her fourth goal of the game with 2:53 remaining in the third, and Balassone, Lansing and Fahey converted scoring opportunities as well, allowing Bruno to open up a 12-7 lead with 58 seconds remaining in the game.

Though Bucknell scored twice in the final minute, it was too little too late, as Bruno rolled to a 12-9 victory. The Bears saw impressive play from goalie Stephanie Laing '10, who recorded six blocks and two steals against the Bison.

"In the first two games, I think we were a better team than our opponents," said Head Coach Jason Gall. "We were in better game shape, and we made plays when we needed to."

The final against top-seeded Princeton was a different story, despite another outstanding performance from Glick. The Bears put themselves into a hole early, forcing them to attempt to make a comeback the entire game.

The Tigers scored the game's first three goals, and Bruno did not get on the scoreboard until 1:48 left in the first period, when Glick converted a six-on-five opportunity. But before the end of the quarter, Princeton converted on yet another scoring opportunity and held a commanding 4-1 lead over Brown at the end of the first quarter.

The second period saw strong defense from each side, as Fahey scored the period's first goal with 2:24 remaining to cut the Tigers' lead to 4-2. With 30 seconds left, Princeton increased its lead to 5-2, but Glick managed to score with one second remaining to make the score 5-3 at halftime.

The only goal in the third quarter came with 3:42 remaining, when Glick scored her third goal of the day. In the fourth quarter, the Bears seemed poised to steal the victory, when Lansing scored 1:38 into the period to tie the game at 5-5. Brown's defense then broke down, allowing two Princeton goals in the next 2:06. Glick pulled the Bears to within one goal with her fourth goal of the game with 1:46 on the clock, but Bruno was unable to score again, and the game ended with Princeton on top, 7-6.

"Our games against Hartwick and Princeton were the first real opportunities we've had to play top-quality teams," Balassone wrote in an e-mail to the Herald, "so we don't have the experience to lean on under pressure."

Despite the loss in the final, Glick's eight goals in the tournament earned First Team All-Tournament honors.

"I feel that, if it wasn't for my teammates, I would not be doing so well," Glick wrote in an e-mail. "We continually push each other in practice to swim as fast as we can and go as hard as possible in all aspects of the game. This is the first time in a few years that the team has been ranked in the top 20 nationwide, and I am excited to be able to compete at such a high level."

The Bears will face Harvard on March 14 and then will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the Wolverine Invitational, where they will face tough competition from some of the nation's top teams.

"We need to improve on conditioning and fundamental ball skills," Gall said. "We're creating good opportunities, but we're not converting, because we either don't make the pass or don't score the ball."

Gall also mentioned the Eastern Championship as a goal for his team.

"We played even with Hartwick for two-and-a-half quarters, and after we gave Princeton a three-goal lead, and we beat them in the last three quarters," Gall said. "We've shown that we're in the same class as teams like Hartwick, Princeton and Michigan."


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