With the 2012 conference season underway for the Michigan women’s water polo team, coach Matt Anderson has had one goal in mind.
“Our goal is to always win the Eastern Conference Regional Tournament,” Anderson said. “Last year, we were (disappointed) because we were the number one seed and lost to the number three seed Indiana.”
Michigan has won the last 10 Collegiate Water Polo Association division crowns, and three of the last four CPWA Eastern Championship Titles. Yet Anderson is not dwelling on past results or teams; instead, he is completely focusing on what this year’s team is capable of.
“It’s a different team this year” Anderson said. “We lost six of our eight top players this year in terms of minutes. However, I understand that it’s a new group and we need to do different things in terms of playing as a team better, and running offense and defensive plays better.”
Though the Wolverines lost some valuable players from last year, a handful of players have stepped up this year and contributed to the current success of the team.
“Our biggest strength is that a lot of people are contributing and a lot of people find roles in the little things that need to be done,” Anderson said.
These players include senior driver Claire Ivry, sophomores Audrey Pratt, Hathaway Moore, and Kelsey Nolan, and freshman Lauren Thatcher. Thatcher was recently named CWPA Freshman of the Week and Nolan nabbed Defensive Player of the Week award on Feb. 1.
The amount of players stepping up showed in last week’s win over Gannon, as they had 11 different players score during its 15-4 win. Their efforts also showed in a Feb. 25 win against No. 6 Hawaii.
“Even though we were ranked number 12 going into our game against Hawaii, we were expecting to win,” Anderson said.
The Wolverines know the importance of closing of out the rest of their season strongly, as the next three league games will have an impact on the end-of-season seeding for the championship tournament. With just eight teams being invited to the NCAA Championship tournament at San Diego State this spring, the Wolverines will most likely need a CWPA Conference Championship win to receive a bid.
Michigan will continue its season with a five-game tournament in New York this weekend. They will face Hartwick, Iona, Brown and Marist. Hartwick looks to be the main challenge, as they have had the second-highest total of NCAA tournament appearances on the East Coast. This game will have a huge impact on the league championship seeding, and Anderson said that the Wolverines will be at a disadvantage as Hartwick has home-pool advantage.
“We like the bigger pools because we like to get out there and swim,” Anderson said. “So we’re gonna have to be a lot more on task, a lot more on the ball, and minimize our mistakes.”
With Michigan having a strong season thus far, they look to not only add a win to their record, but make another run at continuing their 10-year streak as CWPA champions. Michigan has not lost a regular-season conference game since 2007, and they aim to continue that streak this weekend against Hartwick.