By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 28, 2013
It makes sense that members of the Michigan women’s water polo team will be spending their spring breaks in warm weather — after all, 15 of 26 roster spots are occupied by native Californians, with another three players hailing from Florida.
None of the Wolverines, though, will be enjoying the comforts of home during the first week of March. The team is taking its annual spring break trip to Honolulu for a week of training, bonding and relaxation, capped by a matchup against Hawaii on March 7.
“It’s going to be good for us to refocus,” said junior driver Audrey Pratt. “We’ll have a good week to train and bond as a team, which is really important for us.”
The timing of the break seems convenient; it will provide the Wolverines with a break from the struggles of the season’s first month, which include close losses to multiple highly ranked schools from the West Coast. So far this season, Michigan — in games against Division I teams — has been outscored by its opponents, 94-111.
Michigan coach Matt Anderson, though, finds the timing of the trip less than ideal as he laments the fact that few other schools’ spring breaks line up with Michigan’s.
“Unfortunately, for our sport, Michigan has the earliest spring break of any college team,” Anderson said. “It’s hard for us to be able to play a lot of games over spring break.”
As a result, the Wolverines will spend more time training as opposed to competing while in Hawaii. Anderson expects conditioning activities to play a key role in the week’s practices, which lead up to the game against the Warriors.
The struggles Michigan has faced in the early season stem at least partially from the inexperience brought about by a large influx of freshmen still adjusting to college competition. However, the freshman class has thus far held its own, given its inexperience.
Two of Michigan’s key contributors are in their first year with the Wolverines: two-meter Bryce Beckwith has racked up 12 goals, while driver Presley Pender has a whopping 15 assists to go along with her 11 scores. Meanwhile, freshman two-meter Barbara Lanier was recently named CWPA Western Division Rookie Player of the Week, following her four-goal, two-assist performance at the Fluid Four in Bloomington.
Pratt cited versatility as an important factor for Michigan’s future success as it plays teams from the Midwest, as well as both coasts, whose styles differ greatly. The Wolverines have faced mostly opponents from the West Coast so far this season and have squared off against top-10 squads, including California, Stanford, UCLA and San Jose State.
“The top 10 is very fast paced,” Pratt said. “It’s a little different to play an East Coast team. It’s something we need to learn to adjust to.”
Michigan can expect some added help and experience coming out of the break as junior attacker Hathaway Moore — who’s yet to make an appearance this year for the maize and blue — is close to completing her rehab from a broken wrist. In 34 games last season, Moore scored 18 goals and added 18 assists.
After the matchup against Hawaii, the Wolverines will return to Ann Arbor to play just their second weekend of the season at home, marking the end of an eight-week stretch between home games against San Diego State in January and Gannon in March.
“It’s amazing to think that the season is getting closer to being done,” Anderson said. “It’s always nice to play at home. The kids like it. We’ll have senior night. Parents like it.”
Michigan has a long way to go before ultimately determining the season’s level of success, but Anderson expects a week in Hawaii to reinvigorate and refocus his squad, potentially enabling it to make a second-half push leading up to the postseason.