Given the way the 2012-13 season has gone, the Michigan women’s water polo team has been content eking out one or two victories throughout a given tournament. This past weekend was a little different, though, as the maize and blue dominated the Wolverine Invitational from start to finish.
In its five games over the course of the weekend, Michigan posted a 5-0 record and outscored its opponents by a combined total of 92-8.
The No. 18 Wolverines (9-10) returned to Ann Arbor on Friday after spending nearly two months on the road, having seen action in California, Indiana and Hawaii.
“It’s always nice to be home,” said senior attacker Kiki Golden, who added that not having to deal with travel logistics and time changes was helpful in keeping Michigan fresh and focused.
Spending spring break training in Hawaii didn’t seem to hurt, either.
“We definitely came out of that weekend a better team than when we went in,” Golden said. “I think that’s what Hawaii was for: to turn us around that corner and get us all focused and on the same page.”
Indeed, fresh and focused seemed to be the order of the weekend. On Friday, the Wolverines jumped on Gannon in the second quarter, scoring eight goals in the period en route to a 17-2 win. Junior driver Audrey Pratt and freshman two-meter Barbara Lanier both posted hat tricks, with seven other Michigan players scoring at least once.
In Friday’s nightcap, the Wolverines set a program record, scoring 25 goals against Mercyhurst. Michigan was led by hat tricks from Lanier, Golden, junior attacker Kelsey Nolan, freshman two-meter Bryce Beckwith and senior two-meter Lauren Colton.
The blowouts gave Michigan coach Matt Anderson a chance to rest senior goalie Alex Adamson and give the three backup goalkeepers a chance to see game action. Among the three, freshman Julia Campbell saw the bulk of the playing time.
Anderson acknowledged that the opposition in the Wolverine Invitational was of a lower caliber than Michigan is accustomed to, but playing less-competitive games provided opportunities that don’t present themselves in games against top-tier opponents.
“It’s nice to be able to tinker with your lineup in games that you should do well in,” Anderson said. “That’s what this weekend allowed us to do. If we’re not executing against (these teams), then we really have a problem.”
On Saturday, the Wolverines picked up right where they left off on Friday night. Golden had hat tricks in both the morning and evening contests against Notre Dame (Ohio) and Siena. Colton added two goals of her own in each game.
On Sunday morning, freshman driver Julia Riemersma netted her first career hat trick, leading Michigan to a 13-0 victory over Grove City. Eight other Wolverines added goals of their own, including Golden, who has now scored in six consecutive contests.
The impressive showing on the part of the freshman class wasn’t unique to Riemersma. Michigan’s rookies appear to finally be settling into their roles; the team’s youth has been one of its biggest issues throughout the season, but it seems that the Wolverines are, at last, starting to turn the corner in terms of their poise and experience.
“The seniors and juniors are now playing like they should be playing,” Anderson said. “Now they’re playing without worrying about the freshmen.
“In any sport, you’ve got to be willing to say that you need help. You’ve got to be willing to tell someone you can help them. That’s what we’ve been working on this year: the communication.”
Anderson used Lanier as one of the weekend’s examples of the growth and development of the freshman class.
“I would hope that (she) would show me that she’s learning, that she would show me what her potential is for her sophomore, junior and senior years,” Anderson said. “Now the question will be whether (the freshmen) will carry that over to next weekend.”