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Wolverines open strong with three wins at Michigan Kick-Off

Aaron Augsburger/ Daily
Michigan's Leah Robertson plays against San Diego State at Canham Natatorium on January 24, 2010. The Wolverines won 9-4. Buy this photo

BY JAMES BLUM
For the Daily
Published January 24, 2010

Coach Matt Anderson was screaming, dual-fist pumping and jumping for joy on the floor of Canham Natatorium. The Wolverine bench displayed a similar sentiment as the pool room exploded with a beautiful cacophony of cheers.

The excitement was for redshirt senior goalie Brittany May whose stunning performance led the 10th-ranked Wolverine water polo team over the seventh-ranked Aztecs of San Diego State, 9-4.

“There was one save I didn’t think I even made,” May said. “I looked at Coach and saw his face and thought maybe I just saved that shot."

Hold your seahorses: Michigan water polo is officially underway.

The Michigan Wolverines hosted the fifth annual Michigan Kick-Off this weekend at the Canham Natatorium, and over the course of two grueling days, the Wolverines finished with an impressive 3-1 record.

Michigan (3-1) opened strong, winning its first two games on Saturday against UC San Diego (0-4) and Colorado State (0-4).

In a closer-than-anticipated season-opener against unranked UC San Diego, the Wolverines pulled out an 11–8 victory. The game marked the first career goals of freshmen Kiki Golden and Lauren Colton, both of whom would prove to be major players over the course of the invitational.

In the process of leading Michigan to a win, senior captain Leah Robertson tallied her 300th career steal, continuing her record-breaking career.

"It is pretty exciting,” Robertson said. “I think it is just a testament to the talented players I have gotten to play with over the last four years and the solid defensive foundation that coach Matt (Anderson) has instilled upon us."

After scraping by UC San Diego, the Wolverines brought their all against a Colorado State team that could not compete. Michigan grabbed an early seven-point lead after one quarter, putting up an impressive nine opening-period goals, four of which came from Colton.

“We call her Colton the Cobra,” coach Anderson said. “She has the ability to strike like a Cobra.”

Her venom took only eight minutes to down the Rams.

The win brought Michigan to 2-0 and also helped Michigan become the first women’s water polo team since the establishment of the NCAA tournament in 2001 to reach 250 wins.

"It is quite an accomplishment,” Anderson said. “It pertains to a message I tell the players, it is about the program. Not the individuals, not themselves, but the program."

The air was tense as the 2-0 Wolverines jumped in for a 9:15 Sunday morning matchup against the five-time defending national champion Bruins (3-1), who were responsible for Michigan’s early exit last year from the NCAA tournament. The third-ranked Bruins entered the game rattled after an unexpected loss to seventh-ranked San Diego State. Trailing by two in the second, Michigan went on a 4-0 run aided by two UCLA turnovers. The two-goal lead was short lived, however, as the Bruins scored three times including a half-court buzzer-beater to go up 6-5 at halftime.

UCLA went on to win 10-7. But the game was promising for the Wolverines, considering in the previous four meetings, the Bruins had won by at least six goals.

“We’re on the same level as them now,” Robertson said.

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Wolverines took on No. 7 San Diego State (3-1), which was hot off of an upset victory over UCLA. The Wolverines were led by freshmen Golden and Colton, who combined for five goals. Thanks to a dominant performance in net from May, the Wolverines went on to win 9-4.

After struggling against UCLA, fifth-year senior May put on a quite a show, one that places her second on the all-time saves list with 429.

“I knew I could do better,” May said about the UCLA game.

“May by far was the difference,” Anderson said after the win over the Aztecs. “She knew she was going to play against SDSU. I’m fine with mistakes, just learn from them and you’ll get another opportunity.”


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