Heading into the 2012 water polo season, the favorite on the East Coast was expected to be the Princeton Tigers who finished third at the 2011 NCAA tournament. Princeton also returned most of their team, including sophomore attacker Drew Hoffenberg who had one of the best seasons for a freshman in Princeton men's water polo history.
However, the Brown Bears have positioned themselves into the conversation as they are 13-2 which includes a 10-9 win over Princeton at the North-South Challenge at Cambridge, Mass. Brown was led by attacker Henry Fox who scored four goals and junior goalkeeper Walker Shockley earned eight saves. This is the only matchup between the two teams, and the next time they could meet would be at Eastern Championships.
Prior to that win over Princeton, Brown played No. 2 ranked UCLA Bruins and were competitive by losing only 14-8. Compare that to Princeton who loss to UCLA 20-3 and at their home pool. The only other blemish for Brown on the season was a 9-8 loss to Johns Hopkins.
Currently Brown is ranked No. 13 in the country which is the highest ranked CWPA team, and they have a 13-2 record. The players leading Brown are Fox who has scored 41 goals and 31 steals, and then there is center Svetozar Stefanovic who has 51 goals and has drawn 34 exclusions. Their starting goalie is Walter Shockley who has 118 saves through 15 games.
The season is still early and their league schedule is not too difficult with the toughest game being against St. Francis who has been at the bottom of the top 20 rankings so far this year. Brown does take one trip out West where they will play at the Santa Clara Invitational, plus will play No. 16 Santa Clara as well during their trip.
As for the rest of the contenders for the one CWPA NCAA bid, Princeton is obviously there since they host the Eastern Championships. Plus, there is the Navy Midshipmen who is 10-0, ranked No. 17 and averaging an absurd 22.3 goals per game and are currently ranked No. 14. However, they have not been played any top flight competition, but that changes this week as they host the Bucknell, but the big game is going up against No. 15 ranked Princeton.
The outcome of Navy vs. Princeton this weekend could either provide some clarity among East Coast team, or create more confusion if Princeton can pull off the upset on the road.