20 is good but 21 is better. Just like in blackjack, the No. 9 Michigan women’s water polo team (5-1 CWPA, 27-8 overall) fell shy of 21 after busting their 20-game win streak to No. 15 Princeton in a 8-7 nail-biting sudden death double overtime loss.
In the final game of the five-match weekend tournament in Boston, Mass., the Wolverines gave the Tigers (4-0 CWPA, 17-7 overall) a run for their money in a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback. Michigan had trouble placing the ball in the cage during the first half and trailed Princeton throughout the entire match.
The Wolverines’ fatigue stemmed from playing four games in 36 hours. They demolished Brown, Bucknell and George Washington on Saturday before defeating Harvard on Sunday morning, a few hours prior to the Princeton match.
Down two goals with eight minutes left in the game, Michigan was desperate for anything to keep its 20-game streak alive. Juniors Kim Johnson and Julia Sellers ignited hope with a two-goal revival late in the fourth quarter, leading the team to its first overtime of the season.
In the first overtime, freshman goalie Heidi Ritner made a crucial save with 10 seconds left to keep the score tied at 6-6.
Junior Kim Johnson gave Michigan a one-goal lead with a deep corner shot during the second overtime period. But Princeton responded with another goal with 50 seconds left on the game clock.
The game came down to sudden death. Michigan coach Marcelo Leonardi tried to seize the win early during the sudden death by drawing a play that relied on winning the sprint. But the Wolverines fell short, dissolving the play in action. After trading a couple possessions, Michigan ran out of steam and allowed the Tigers an open look near the cage.
“We expended a lot of energy trying to tie the game,” Leonardi said. “Once we tied it, we exerted so much energy during overtime. Both teams struggled to put the ball in the cage. It was basically the first team to break down.”
Michigan’s impressive 20-game win streak began in late February with a victory against No. 19 Long Beach State. The Wolverines continued defeating ranked teams – 11 in total – from all over the country, proving that they are not a team to be reckoned with.
But hot streaks only last until the flame runs out. And as for Michigan, Princeton was the team to stop the run and drown the streak at 20.