Despite losing three of their its games this weekend, the No. 8 Michigan water polo team (3-4) demonstrated potential at the Stanford Invitational. The Wolverines stayed in a close match against No. 13 University of California Davis, saw promising performances from its bench players in an exhibition match against the Chinese national team and capped off the tournament with a win over No. 8 Pacific.
The victory over the Tigers, a team tied in the polls with Michigan, was especially encouraging and gave the Wolverines their first victory over a top-10 team this season. The Wolverines scored four unanswered goals to win the match, supported by a defense that shut out a dangerous Tigers offense over the final 9:49 of the contest.
“Overall, this weekend we had some highs and lows, but finishing off the tournament with a quality win over a top-eight team was one of our goals,” said Michigan coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi.
The Wolverines also showed promise in their 11-12 loss to the Aggies. Michigan stayed in the match to the end, jumping out 5-2 at the beginning of the match and taking a one-goal lead into the fourth quarter. Eventually, UC Davis was able to fight back, scoring twice while up 6-on-5 due to Michigan penalties.
The Wolverines received a strong performance from freshman attacker Abby Andrews, who led the team with four goals and two assists against Pacific. Maddy Johnston also scored four goals against UC Davis and added two more against Pacific.
“Abby had a fantastic weekend, and (Johnston) played great the whole weekend,” Leonardi said. “That’s a freshman and a sophomore that are both significantly impacting the game.”
In the exhibition match against the Chinese national team, Leonardi put in his bench players, and they met the challenge while gaining valuable experience, battling the Chinese national team to a 22-10 final score. Sophomore attacker Maddie O’Reilly scored four goals to lead the team in the match; sophomore utility Kathy Rogers and freshman attacker Ava Morrant each added two goals.
The most disheartening loss was Michigan’s 21-9 loss at the hands of the host Stanford Cardinals to start the weekend. Stanford got off to a fast start with seven goals in the first quarter and never looked back, staying ahead the entire time.
The Wolverines will look to build on their offensive strengths, solidify their defense and work on quick adjustments as they prepare to travel back out to California next week for the Triton Invitational at University of California San Diego. The long travel hours have been an additional obstacle for the Wolverines, but they still showed promise as they look towards the remainder of their season.
“There are definitely things that we need to work on,” Leonardi said. “But I felt like we’ve already improved from two weekends ago.”