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Left hand best with polo team

BY ELLEN MCGARRITY

Published March 13, 2003

Are you what many baseball fans would call a southpaw? Or in non-sports lingo, do you write your term papers with your left hand? If you are, not only would you be an asset to any baseball team, but probably to any water polo team.

"I really am a fan of lefthanders," Michigan water polo coach Matt Anderson said. "Water polo is made for right-handers, so if you're left-handed, you can really dominate - it poses a lot of difficult problems for the other team. Everything you've learned growing up, you have to do opposite (to guard a lefthander)."

Unfortunately, Anderson only has one of these precious lefties remaining on the team. Left-handed starter Jo Antonsen was lost a couple a weeks ago after she broke her prized left finger in a game against California-Santa Barbara. So to fill the void, junior Stephanie Rupp has joined the starting lineup. This has given her the chance to put her own left-handed skills to the test.

"Being left-handed is really advantageous to the team because you can take different shots," Rupp said. "With a lefty in the pool, you have more shots available to take."

This is especially true when there is a powerplay, or in the case of water polo, six members of one team in the water and only five of the other team's members in, a left-handed player can almost guarantee a goal.

Left-handed players aren't the only key to a good water polo team. On Michigan's team, there are really three forces at work in the pool: the lefthander, 2-meter, and the go-between who plays both offense and defense.

"We have a couple (2-meter players) like Julie Nisbet and Megan Hausmann (before she got injured) who can play both ends of the pool," Anderson said. "The game of water polo evolves around the center person - the person in front of the cage. It's your most physical player, and that's where you can earn your powerplays and your (points) from right in front of the goal."

The 2-meter player, or player who always plays within two meters of the goal, can throw the ball out to other players in hope of getting a shot.

Perhaps the most versatile position in water polo is the field player who slides between offense and defense. Erin Brown, Sheetal Narsai, Casey Kerney and Abbi Rowe, who is also out with an injury right now, normally play this position. Narsai related her position to the game of basketball.

"In basketball, they have people that play the outside positions - guards, and people that post up and play more like Shaq (O'Neal)," Narsai said. "But in water polo, you have the ability to play both inside and outside positions. We're little, but we're quick - like in basketball, we can shoot the ball."

Narsai went on to explain that also like the outside players in basketball, her position calls for countering down after fast breaks, swimming fast to the other end of the pool after another team member has picked up the rebound and creating screens for other players while they try to make a shot.

Michigan's goalie position is the only one not been hit by injury this season.

But in the meantime, those that are healthy have really stepped up to create a new cohesive team.

"I realize that if I have faith in the players on the bench and they have faith in themselves, it doesn't matter who's out there," Anderson said.