For a few key moments yesterday at Canham Natatorium, it seemed
like the Collegiate Water Polo Association Western Division
Championship might slip away from No. 8 Michigan. But every game
against rival No. 10 Indiana feels that way. When it was all said
and done, the game ended just like so many games before — the
Wolverines (8-0 CWPA, 28-8 overall) edged out a 5-4 overtime
victory, and their third straight Division Championship.

“I always think that we’re Michigan and
they’re Indiana — we just always beat them,”
junior Jo Antonsen said. “It’s just something we have
to do. It’s not an option to lose.”

The Wolverines can now expect a few days of practice before
heading to Bucknell, Pa., for the Eastern Championship, where they
could face the Hoosiers again. If they can survive that bracket,
the Wolverines will advance to their second Final Four in school
history.

Michigan is now 15-0-1 against Indiana since becoming a varsity
program, but more than a handful of those wins have been a little
too close for comfort, much like yesterday’s matchup. It took
a full six-minute overtime period and part of a sudden-death period
before a winner emerged this time around.

But 42 seconds into that sudden-death frame, junior Meg Knudtsen
finally broke the stalemate, scoring just inside the left post from
four meters out. Senior Julie Nisbet drew an ejection from her
Indiana defender in front of the cage, giving the Wolverines a
short six-on-five advantage.

“Megan (Hausmann) made an awesome pass down, and I just
shot it near side,” Knudtsen said. “If I’d have
missed it, I probably would have been in pretty big trouble.
It’s a good thing it went in.”

The goal was just Knudtsen’s 11th of the year, a small
number for a player on a team that normally bulldozes through its
competition. Michigan scored 18 and 19 goals in its two victories
on Saturday over Salem International and Washington and Jefferson
en route to yesterday’s finals.

“Julie did what we asked of her,” Michigan coach
Matt Anderson said. “Margaret Knudtsen decided,
‘I’m going to be the player that’s going to step
up. They don’t think I will.’ She rammed it
home.”

The Hoosiers had their chances to shut the door on the
Wolverines. With seven seconds remaining in regulation, Indiana
sophomore Bridget McKeon managed to get a shot on goal from four
meters out, but junior goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong came through
with the save for Michigan, sending the game into overtime.

Minutes before, with Michigan still trailing 4-3, Armstrong
faced a wide open breakaway after Indiana freshman Wesley Ellison
threw the ball away. Armstrong made the stop, and on the ensuing
possession, junior Jo Antonsen tied up the score from seven meters
out with just 1:22 remaining.

Along with her game-tying goal, Antonsen also added a key assist
on one of freshman Shana Welch’s two goals earlier in the
game. The Wolverines were trailing 2-1 in the third period when
Antonsen found Welch from the wing and capitalized on an Indiana
ejection by notching another goal.

The goal momentarily shifted the momentum of the match, and on
Michigan’s next possession, junior Sheetal Narsai scored,
pushing the Wolverines ahead 3-2.

Indiana added a goal near the end of the third period to tie the
game. The Hoosiers gained the upper edge once more with 5:07
remaining in the fourth period, when Melissa Pietras scored and
gave Indiana control of the game until Antonsen’s
equalizer.

“Indiana showed up to play,” Anderson said.
“They played as well as they have ever played and might ever
be able to play. We fortunately stepped up when we needed
to.”

Welch scored Michigan’s first goal of the day as well,
pushing her total to 51 on the year, a school record. She scored
eight goals alone in the tournament.

“We win with class, we win with pride, but we win,”
Anderson said. “Our goal is the Final Four. We expect to be
Division Champions, but we also expect to make the Final Four next
weekend.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.