PRINCETON, N.J. – Despite a four-goal effort by Michael Heller (Menlo Park, Calif.), the No. 20 Navy water polo team (4-3) was edged 11-9 to No. 18 St. Francis Brooklyn (5-3) on the final day of competition at the Princeton Invitational at DeNunzio Pool in Princeton, N.J.
“We played well today but came up a little short against a good St. Francis team,” head coach Luis Nicolao said. “We could’ve gotten off to a better start, but the team battled today. We played hard and kept competing until the end. We have a huge game on Thursday against Air Force before heading out to California for the weekend. We have to learn from our mistakes this weekend and continue to improve.”
Six Midshipmen combined to score Navy’s nine goals. Heller paced the team with four scores, tying a career-high to notch his second collegiate hat trick. Jake Altmayer (Pasadena, Calif.), Payton Comstock (Clarendon Hills, Ill.), Chris Kim (Los Angeles, Calif.), Graham Lindner (Bel Air, Md.), and Tommy McKnew (Tiburon, Calif.) also added goals in the game. Kim, along with team captains Altmayer and Will Clark (Laguna Beach, Calif.) provided assists in the game.
Caden Capobianco (Laguna Beach, Calif.) posed 11 saves at goal for the Midshipmen. Rory Begin (Bakersfield, Calif.), Travis Berzins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Peter Hillen (Orinda, Calif.), and Danny Taylor (Riverside, Conn.) joined Altmayer, Capobianco, and Lindner with steals in the game.
In the first quarter, St. Francis jumped out to an early lead, but Kim was able to knot the score at 1-1. The Terriers used a 3-0 run to take a 4-1 advantage. Heller ended the run with his first goal of the game. Following a St. Francis score, Altmayer ended the quarter to pull Navy to within two at 5-3.
Heller opened the second quarter to cut the deficit to one, but the Terriers answered. McKnew pulled the Mids to within one. Heller converted a five-meter opportunity to knot the game at six at intermission.
In the second half, the Terriers regained the lead with a goal, but Comstock answered with an equalizer. Once again, St. Francis used a goal to retake the advantage, going into the final quarter up 8-7.
St. Francis Brooklyn added a goal to start the fourth quarter and push its advantage to 9-7. Navy responded as Lindner and Heller each found the back of the net to knot the score at nine. The Terriers closed the game with a pair of goals to earn the 11-9 win over the Mids.
Navy returns to action next week as the Mids head west for four games. The Midshipmen open the week on Thursday, Sept. 15, against Air Force (7:30 p.m.) before competing in the Aggie Roundup in Davis, California. At the Aggie Roundup, Navy will take the pool against USC (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.), Occidental (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.), and San Jose State (Sunday, 12:15 p.m.).