Nolan leads Michigan to victory over Indiana in overtime thriller

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By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 31, 2013

The words “Release! Release!” shouted from coach to player across a frantic and noisy pool usually don’t translate to a game-clinching steal. But it’s different when that player is Michigan senior attacker Kiki Golden and the coach is the Michigan water polo team’s Matt Anderson.

Golden heard the words loud and clear and, without hesitating, broke away from the Indiana player she was guarding, cutting in front of an incoming Hoosier pass. Seconds later, the ball was in her hands, and the Wolverines (2-0 CWPA, 14-10 overall) killed the remaining 35 seconds of overtime to come away with an 8-7 win over rival Indiana in Bloomington.

“It’s because she’s Kiki Golden that she was able to do that,” Anderson said. “I just told her, ‘Do what you do,’ which is dominate at both ends.”

But Golden, No. 19 Michigan’s leading scorer with 42 goals on the season, was held scoreless for the first time since Feb. 23, leaving it to her teammates to pick up the slack offensively.

It ended up being junior attacker Kelsey Nolan who stole the show offensively for the Wolverines, posting a hat trick that included a game-tying goal with 1:40 remaining in the game.

“I had a good feeling before the game,” Nolan said. “I feel like I can always step up in these situations.”

Michigan’s central theme for this season has been the integration of a large and talented freshman class into its regular rotation. Saturday, though, it was the upperclassmen that stepped up in their last regular-season rivalry clash with the 12th-ranked Hoosiers.

Senior goalkeeper Alex Adamson had a fantastic day in front of the net, coming up with a career-high 17 saves. She was also credited with an assist on the game-winning goal, finding junior driver Audrey Pratt along the left side of the pool to lead to her early overtime tally.

Michigan had to contend with easily the most hostile environment it has seen this season. Clashes between the Wolverines and Hoosiers always draw large and boisterous crowds, no matter the venue.

“(The atmosphere) is awesome,” Nolan said. “It really fuels us, I think.”

Anderson said that he was pleased with the ability of his players to keep their emotions in check despite the inherent intensity of the rivalry.

“Players do approach it differently,” Anderson said. “They know we need to really focus on winning our league games.”

Michigan opened the scoring on sophomore attacker Lauren Thatcher’s goal with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter.

Freshman two-meter Bryce Beckwith, senior two-meter Lauren Colton and Nolan all scored once in the third quarter, leaving the score tied at four at the end of the period.

Michigan traded goals with the Hoosiers in the fourth quarter, with freshman driver Presley Pender’s penalty shot giving the Wolverines the early advantage. Indiana fought back with three scores in the middle of the period, but another Nolan goal kept the game close.

Nolan tied the game with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, taking a pass from Beckwith and burying a shot in the back of the net.

In overtime, Pratt gave Michigan a lead it wouldn’t relinquish just 52 seconds into the period, getting the bounce on a laser shot that struck the right goalpost and caromed in. The Wolverines closed out well defensively, too — Adamson came up with the save on the only Indiana shot Michigan allowed in the second overtime period, sending the rowdy Hoosier crowd home disappointed.

With the victory, Michigan finds itself in the driver’s seat in the CWPA Western Division, needing just one win against Hartwick next week in Providence, Rhode Island to wrap up a top seed in the Western Division Championship Tournament.