The Michigan water polo team just got a much needed confidence boost heading into the CWPA Championships this weekend, as freshman two-meter Allison Skaggs grabbed the 2014 CWPA Rookie of the Year award Thursday.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Michigan coach Matt Anderson. “Without a doubt she’s the rookie of the year.”
Skaggs is the third player in program history to earn the award, and the accolade is the second straight for Michigan — sophomore two-meter Bryce Beckwith was the 2013 recipient.
In October, Beckwith sustained a season-ending injury when she tore three of four ligaments in her right wrist, opening up the starting two-meter spot for Skaggs. This season, Skaggs started all 31 games and earned CWPA Rookie of the Week three times. Her 31 goals rank third on the team and first among seven freshmen.
Anderson isn’t surprised that Skaggs earned the honor, citing her defense that has improved dramatically despite stepping into one of the hardest positions in her freshman year. She easily controls the center position, rarely makes a bad mistake and can draw a kick-out foul when needed, Anderson said.
Senior attacker Kelsey Nolan was named to the first all-division team for the second time in her career, while Skaggs and sophomore driver Presley Pender earned second-team honors.
“They deserve it,” Anderson said. “Presley without a doubt because she’s had an incredible year, and Kelsey has been consistent. It was nice to see the three of them get recognized.”
Nolan surpassed career bests in goals and assists this season with 42 and 18, respectively, and is close to the all-time top 10 in career scoring (129), assists (92) and points (221). Pender has also achieved career highs in all three categories this year and leads the team with 45 goals, scoring in 16 of the last 18 games.
For Skaggs and her teammates, the recognition from the CWPA will certainly motivate them and increase their confidence for this weekend’s CWPA Championships in Lewisburg, Pa.
“Rookie of the Year is a great honor,” Skaggs said. “But what I’m most focused on is the tournament with the team this weekend versus that little award. It is great, but I’d rather bring the bigger award home for Michigan rather than the individual one.”
The bigger award — the Wolverines’ first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010. Friday, No. 4 seed Michigan will take on No. 5 seed Brown in the CWPA Championships quarterfinals, and if the Wolverines win the tournament, they’ll be dancing in the postseason.
With all eyes on No. 1 seed Indiana to take home the trophy this weekend, Anderson said the Hoosiers feel the most pressure from expectations, whereas Michigan can enter the game unhindered.
“We just have to play a little bit loose, a little bit carefree like we have nothing to lose and just put it all together,” Anderson said.
A win by the Wolverines (4-4 CWPA West, 19-12 overall) over the Bears sets them up for a potential semifinal matchup against Indiana, which is predicted to breeze through No. 8 seed Connecticut College. Michigan has lost all three meetings against the Hoosiers this year and is thirsty for revenge.
“The future is extremely bright for this team,” Anderson said. “But the future can also be now.”