The last time the Michigan water polo team faced San Jose State, the Spartans dominated with an 8-3 win. But this weekend at the Arizona State Desert Challenge, the Wolverines managed to rearrange the scoreboard, this time flipping the tallies in their favor.

Michigan’s 6-4 win over No. 9 San Jose State was a huge accomplishment, as it was the highest-ranked team the Wolverines have ever defeated.

“At the beginning of the year, I told (the team), ‘When we play (San Jose State) again in Arizona, that’s how we measure how well we’ve done this season,'” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said.

But Anderson, who was an assistant coach at San Jose State during the 2000-01 season, knows this game could easily have gone the other way.

“I know how good of a team they are,” Anderson said. “(San Jose State coach Lou Tully’s) starters and his best players are players I recruited, so I am very aware of how they are as players. I had an advantage, but he had an advantage (also) because he was once my teacher and mentor.”

Anderson’s insider knowledge wasn’t the only reason the Wolverines came out on top. A little help from goalie Betsey Armstrong and driver Sheetal Narsai was what secured the win.

“In this situation, we were running a defense in which we were giving San Jose State the shots – the shots (we knew) Betsey would block,” Anderson said.

Armstrong explained further that Anderson had set up a zone defense against the Spartans.

“San Jose State is a really strongly dominated whole-set team (a team whose center is the key player),” Armstrong said.

“But they don’t have the strongest outside players, so we were allowing them to take those shots.”

Armstrong blocked 10 of the shots attempted from the outside.

While Armstrong was blocking the Spartans’ shots, Narsai was working the other end of the pool on offense.

Her three four-meter penalty shots successfully slipped by the San Jose State goalie and accounted for half of the Wolverines’ tallies.

“It seems like whenever there’s a big game, that’s when Sheetal appears on the offensive end,” Anderson said. “The bigger the game, the more goals she scores. Look at what she did against Indiana, Hartwick and (now) San Jose State.”

Narsai, who made four goals in both the Indiana and Hartwick games earlier in the season, has also noticed that her game performance seems to benefit when the stakes are high.

“When we play really good teams, I automatically step up,” Narsai said. “In regular games, I feel like our team is already handling everything else. Our offense is working smoothly, so I just step back and play defense.”

The team has come a long way in the two-and-half months since it last played against San Jose State. Since that game, injury and illness have kept more than a few Wolverines out of the water.

“We had everybody playing at full force at the beginning of the season,” Narsai said. “But we didn’t have the confidence – (this game) showed how much we’ve improved.”

That confidence that Narsai spoke of is what the Wolverines need as they head into the Southern Division Championships next weekend in Lewisburg, Pa.

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