Aug. 30, 2009

Courtesy of Princeton

The start of the 2009 Princeton men's water polo season is just two weeks away as the Tigers prepare for an exciting season at DeNunzio Pool. The season opens against UCLA on Sept. 11 and will hopefully conclude in the NCAA Championships in early December.

Princeton returns an experienced group of players this season after losing just two players to graduation a season ago after the Tigers regained the Southern Championship for the first time since 2004 and advanced to the championship game of Easterns before falling to Navy 9-6. Princeton hopes those experiences will help lead it back to contention for the Southern and Eastern titles again this season.

The Tigers lose the reigning Southern Most Valuable Player and a 40-goal scorer in Brendan Colgan, but do return four of their top-five scorers from last season in seniors Eric Vreeland, Mark Zalewski and Douglas Wigley, and junior Jeff Cole. Vreeland led the team with 44 goals and Zalewski ranked fifth with 38 goals, showing the balanced scoring options the Tigers will have this season.

Sophomore Mike Helou, junior Tommy Parolin and freshman Tim Wenzlau will also contribute up front for the Tigers. Helou played a lot as a freshman and will see increased minutes this season, while Parolin enters the season fully healthy and ready to play after shoulder surgery at the end of his freshman year. Wenzlau is a good all-around player with a good shot and will have a lot of scoring chances.

Princeton also got double-digit scoring contributions last season from senior Gregor Horstmeyer and junior Matt Hale, although the pair, along with freshman Billy Tifft will primarily be relied on defensively to shut down Princeton's opponents as the Tigers looked to kill the shot clock and force bad decisions in the defensive end of the pool.

In goal, Princeton returns its three goalkeepers from last season with sophomore Mike Merlone leading the way. Merlone was 15-8 with 237 saves in 23 games last season. He was the first-team All-Southern goalkeeper and was also named to the first Eastern All-Tournament team. Seniors Scottie Hvidt and Henry Fyfe will also see action in front of the Princeton goal.

The team will face a tough schedule as always and that opens on Sept. 11 against UCLA at DeNunzio Pool in a game televised live on ESPNU. Princeton also has games scheduled against the likes of Santa Clara, Navy, USC and much more.