Penalty shots doom Wolverines in third loss to Indiana

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By Brad Whipple, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 29, 2014

The Glee Club sang “Yellow and Blue” as the Michigan water polo team walked along the pool deck below, high-fiving opponents after the game drew to a close.

Some Wolverines stared ahead with their eyes wide open, while others decided the emotions were too hard to hold back and let the tears loose.

Saturday, No. 14 Indiana defeated the 17th-ranked Wolverines, 7-4, ending Michigan’s 12-game win streak.

“It was a classic Indiana-Michigan battle,” said Michigan coach Matt Anderson. “Unfortunately, the wrong team won.”

Though it was the third time this season that the Wolverines (2-3 CWPA West, 15-11 overall) fell to the Hoosiers (4-0, 12-5), it was by its closest margin yet. Michigan lost by five and seven in previous meetings.

The smaller score differential shows that the Wolverines, for the most part, played solid defense, helping freshman goalkeeper Emily Browning making a career-best 16 saves. But the outcome can be heavily attributed to the team’s inability to finish off its chances, especially during power plays when Michigan went 0-for-9.

“There were a few people that were not taking ownership of what they needed to do and that hurt us,” Anderson said.

Senior attacker Kelsey Nolan put the momentum on the Wolverines’ side when she scored 1:38 into the game on a backhand shot, and Browning continued it by saving a shot on the resulting Indiana counter-attack.

Two-meter Candyce Schroeder tallied the Hoosiers’ first goal with two minutes remaining in the first frame when Browning came too far out of the net, but Michigan still seemed to have control of the game. Senior driver Audrey Pratt scored two minutes into the second quarter to take back the lead.

Anderson’s face turned almost as red as his rival’s robes, and frustration set in during the last four minutes before halftime when Indiana scored three goals, including two penalty shots from attacker Shae Fournier. The Hoosiers had three total penalty shots in the game, a loophole in Michigan’s otherwise stalwart defense that ultimately led to its downfall.

“We need to keep minimizing those mistakes on defense, communicate better and have more awareness,” said senior attacker Hathaway Moore. “If we can cut those (penalty shots) out, that should have been three fewer goals for them today.”

The second half seemed to follow a script. The Wolverines took shots from the outside that never found the net and missed point blank shots up close.

“They were taking the wrong shots,” Anderson said. “To me, as a coach, it’s not difficult. As soon as they learn the mindset of what they need to do, we could really be something else as a team.”

With 28 seconds left in the third frame, Pratt collected her own rebound and lob-passed the ball to sophomore two-meter Barbara Lanier who then rocketed the ball past Indiana goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault to narrow the deficit, 5-3.

The Hoosiers scored their third penalty shot in the fourth quarter for a two-goal cushion, but sophomore driver Presley Pender cut the lead when she scored in transition off a cross-pool pass from Browning — a positive for a team that has struggled in the counter.

But with another Indiana goal that followed Pender’s, the game was decided.

“I’m not worried about their positiveness, because now their confidence is that much more,” Anderson said. “We’re still not as good as Indiana, but we’re able to say that we know that when we do everything can, we are as good.”