The worst part of the Michigan women’s water polo team’s trip to Hawaii was the weather.
The conditions in Honolulu were gorgeous, as usual, but they hindered the 16th-ranked Wolverines (10-8) in their 16-15 loss to No. 4 Hawaii (9-7) last Tuesday. In addition to being a strong, senior-led team, Hawaii also holds arguably the greatest home advantage in the nation. The Hawaiian sun and beaches caused Michigan to lose focus early and become another tally on Hawaii’s undefeated home record.
“You could tell we got in that laid back, beach attitude,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “You get relaxed and it’s such a nice environment that you lose that push to focus.”
The early lack of intensity was apparent during the opening moments when the Rainbow Wahine scored three unanswered goals, placing Michigan in a tough position.
But the added pressure woke the Wolverines out of their slumber and sophomore Julie Hyrne, CWPA Western Division Player of the Week, responded with two goals before the first stanza came to a close.
“Hawaii came to run and gun, and we had to keep up the pressure,” Anderson said. “After the first quarter, both coaches adjusted and the game became a defensive battle.”
After Michigan battled back to a 5-5 tie, Hawaii countered with another three-goal run. Sophmore Carrie Frost ended the Rainbow Wahine streak with a goal before halftime, and the Wolverines ended the first half down 8-6.
But Hawaii rushed out of the break with a streak of three more tallies, and created Michigan’s largest deficit of the game – five goals.
“We had a chat when we got down by five, and I talked to them as if we were winning,” Anderson said. “I told them it was only a matter of time before the floodgates opened for us.”
And the Wolverines did exactly what their coach anticipated. Hyrne, senior Shana Welch, and freshman Farren Rixter scored three of the next four goals in the contest. But that was just the beginning.
Down 13-9, Michigan tallied six of the next seven goals, including four by Welch. With less than two minutes remaining, freshman Mary Chatigny and junior Michelle Keeley combined for the game-tying and go-ahead goals, putting the Wolverines in position to overcome their early mistakes.
But the comeback was not meant to be. Hawaii scored the tying goal with 1:02 remaining, and the final score of the game with 14 seconds left. Michigan had one final attempt at mid-pool, but Hawaii stole the ball, and the Wolverines’ chances to win.
“We totally dominated the game until the final minute, which is a sign of a young team.” Anderson said. “If we played (Hawaii) again this time next year, we would win that game.”