In a pressure-cooker event, Indiana came close to snapping the Michigan women’s water polo team’s 15-game win streak.
The ninth-ranked Wolverines (1-0 CWPA, 23-7) added another victory to their ongoing 16 game win streak. The 9-7 win against No. 13 Indiana (1-2, 20-6) awarded head coach Marcelo Leonardi his 100th victory at Michigan.
On Senior Night at Indiana, electricity was in the air as the match against the Hoosiers was highly anticipated for both sides. Michigan was looking to win its 18th straight conference opener and continue its winning record.
“It was an environment where everyone was super pumped up,” said freshman utility player Maddy Johnston. “They had their band there, as well. We knew that we had to talk to each other because you can’t hear the coaches on the bench.”
The Wolverines started out strong by gaining possession during the initial sprint. Within the first two minutes of the match, Johnston posted her opponent and was open near center cage. Junior Julia Sellers recognized the opportunity and dished a lob pass that landed a perfect arm-distance grasp in front of Sellers. Johnston whipped the ball towards the corner of the cage and put Michigan on the board.
The two teams continued to trade goals throughout the second and third quarter. But the Wolverines’ momentum began to pick up.
With the score tied at 5 and one minute remaining, Indiana’s Juli Hilovsky committed a penalty — giving the Wolverines with a six-on-five opportunity. Junior driver Kim Johnson spotted an open look and assisted on senior attacker Caroline Anderson and tossed her the ball awarding Michigan with a 1-point lead going into the final quarter.
The Wolverines never looked back. Several more power plays by Michigan and a few more missed shots by Indiana gave the Wolverines their well-deserved victory.
Though the 16-game win streak itself calls for celebration, the coaching staff and players still believe the team needs to clean up some aspects of their game.
“We try to break down teams,” Johnston said. “We need to learn to be patient in our offense and learn to strike at the right time.”
However, the winning streak does not seem to be in jeopardy due to strong leadership and a drive for even greater play.
“We have strong leaders on our team so we always talk a lot,” Johnston said. “There is never too much communication. It helps with getting everyone on the same page.”