At Home on the Road, Men’s Water Polo Moves to 10-3

For most of the players on the men’s water polo team, flying to Southern California for a three-day seven-game weekend wasn’t a road trip — it was going home. Thirteen of the 20 players on the roster hail from the Golden State, and many of their opponents this weekend were old childhood friends.

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Kurt Buchbinder ’14 (Photo: Courtesy Office of Athletic Communications)

“Water polo is a pretty small community to start out with, and you’re going home and seeing guys that you played in high school or club. You get to catch up and say hello,” said co-captain and Long Beach native Kurt Buchbinder ’14. “It’s fun just to see where they’re at and how they’re doing. Sometimes you mess with them in the water a little bit more than you would normally, but it’s all in good fun.” 

But that’s where the familiarity for the Tigers ends. Though Princeton is the top-ranked program outside of California, Golden State teams dominate the sport. A California school has won every NCAA Championship title, a streak that spans the last 44 years.

Princeton split its first day of play on Friday, beating Chapman 13-9 and extending its win streak to seven games this season, before falling to its first ranked opponent of the weekend, No. 7 Long Beach State, 11-7.  On Saturday, a 13-5 victory over La Verne was sandwiched between lopsided losses to No. 2 Southern California (22-4) and No. 1 UCLA (15-3).  

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Drew Hoffenberg ’15 (Photo: Courtesy Office of Athletic Communications)

“We knew that coming out here and playing [Southern California] and UCLA would be hard — they’re ranked one and two in the nation But it’s good to play at a little higher level of competition because playing against better people makes you better next time,” co-captain Drew Hoffenberg ’15 said. “You can see what they’re good at and learn from what they do.”

Princeton swept its final day of play on Sunday, beating Claremont McKenna, 13-9, and Whittier, 8-6. Hoffenberg finished with day with 10 goals — five in each game.

Buchbinder said that the biggest adjustment that Princeton had to make as an East Coast water polo team was to “focus a lot more on the very little things.”

“Whether it’s pressuring the ball or shot blocking, or staying in position, it’s unreal how good they are at the little things and that adds up and really helps them out in the long run,” Buchbinder said. “So we have to focus on protecting the ball and getting to our spots.”

For Hoffenberg, a San Diego native, going back to the Golden State means he gets to reconnect one more familiar thing — playing under the sun.

“I’ve played here my whole life in outdoor pools so it’s pretty easy to adjust to, but at first it’s weird getting used the sun factor again,” Hoffenberg said. “The biggest thing is we have to put on sunscreen so we don’t get burnt.”

Quick Takes

Football reached the 50-point mark for the first time in 13 years in its 50-22 defeat of Georgetown on Saturday. Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly rushed for four of the Tigers’ seven touchdowns, leading Princeton to even its record at 1-1. The Tigers start Ivy League play against Columbia Oct. 5.

Field hockey managed to stay undefeated in the Ivy League, beating Yale 2-0 on Friday at home, but the Tigers couldn’t come back from a one-goal deficit against No. 3 UConn on the road on Sunday, bringing their overall record to 5-3.

Women’s volleyball opened Ivy League play with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Penn on Friday. Sophomore Kendall Peterkin stole the show, leading all players in kills with 21 and putting Princeton ahead in the fifth game with a critical service ace.

Note: The title of this post has been revised to correct an error in the men’s water polo team’s record.