The Michigan women’s water polo team is so hot right now, even Hansel and Derek Zoolander couldn’t touch them. For the third year in a row, the team has dominated in the Southern Division conference, trampling all eight teams played.
Four teams were conquered two weeks ago, and this weekend in Washington, Pa., the Wolverines finished what they started, dominating the remaining four teams. Yesterday, Washington and Jefferson fell 16-4, and on Saturday, Slippery Rock (10-4), Gannon (8-2) and Mercyhurst (19-5) felt the Wolverines’ thunder.
One reason for the Wolverines’ strong showing was the team’s ability to take control in the first half of the game. In the first two quarters of its games against Mercyhurst and Washington and Jefferson, Michigan scored an impressive 13 and nine goals against its opponents, respectively.
“We wanted to get out quickly in our games so we could shut them down defensively,” coach Matt Anderson said. “We held both Gannon and Slippery Rock scoreless in the second half (because of) our first half lead.”
But even though the team seemed to overpower these Eastern teams, some Wolverines felt that winning wasn’t so easy.
“The teams weren’t as good as we’re used to,” senior Delia Sonda said. “But two of the teams, Slippery Rock and Gannon, were (harder).
“We may have beat them on the scoreboard, but they gave us a tough time in the water.”
One disadvantage Sonda pointed to was that the pool they were playing in was older, so it had a shallow-deep feature. In water polo, the entire pool is normally deep water, but in Washington’s Henry Memorial Center, one end is deep, while the other end is shallow.
“It’s harder to shoot because the net is higher and the goalie gets to stand up,” Sonda said. “You have to a shoot a different way, and the rules change. Only the goalie can stand up so (it can be difficult) staying down in the water while trying to make a goal.”
The ease at which the team overtook its opponents allowed Anderson to give nearly every Wolverine a chance in the water. But it was sophomore drivers Erin Brown and Meg Knudtsen who really made waves.
Knudtsen, who has been filling in for an injured Megan Hausmann, scored a total of eight goals including two hat tricks throughout the four games. Brown rounded out the weekend with 10 goals for the Wolverines.
“It was really more of a team effort,” Knudtsen said. “We were able to get up on the counters easily, and Erin (Brown) gave me a lot of assists.”
Anderson cites the fact that Knudtsen and Brown worked together as a key factor in winning their games.
“Meg and Erin really had a chance to shine this weekend,” Anderson said. “It gave them a chance to take over the reins when called upon.”
The sweep of the Southern Division conference was just the first obstacle in the road toward the Final Four, to be held May 10-11 in San Diego.
Now that the Wolverines have captured the title of No. 1 seed in their conference, they will enter the Southern Division Championships in two weeks in a good position.
“Our first goal was to get the number one seed in the tournament and win the division again,” Anderson said. “We (now) need to prepare for what hopefully will be a conference championship.”