It was another run-of-the-mill weekend for the Michigan water
polo team: the squad put the finishing touches on an unblemished
Central Water Polo Association campaign for the fourth straight
year, outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 71—22 and
accomplished all of this in two pools that were not even regulation
size.

Yesterday, the Wolverines took care of Washington and Jefferson
12-5 and Salem International 19-4 in Slippery Rock, Pa., at
Slippery Rock’s Morrow Field House Pool.

On Saturday, Michigan kicked off its dominating weekend
performance with lopsided wins over Gannon, Penn State-Behrend and
Mercyhurst in Grove City, Pa.

In Slippery Rock, freshmen Jamie Brown and Jenna Green led the
way for Michigan, with nine combined goals against Salem
International. Brown also tallied three assists against Salem,
despite the fact that the pool Michigan played in was far from
normal.

“The pool has a shallow end and a deep end, and that
really screws up your game,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson
said. “The water is basically four feet deep (in the shallow
end). It’s almost like you are shooting on a 10-foot basket
and then, all of the sudden, you are shooting on a 14-foot
basket.”

A normal water polo pool has a uniform depth throughout, similar
to the pool at Canham Natatorium, in which the Wolverines play
their home games. Interestingly enough, the pool peculiarities all
began on Saturday with the games in Grove City.

“The pool (in Grove City) is a little bit
different,” Anderson said. “It’s not as wide and
it’s a little bit shorter. We can’t use our speed that
much to our advantage, like we do when we are playing at home. We
had to be a lot smarter in our half-court offense and move the ball
around, which we obviously did. When (the pool) is smaller like
that, it allows other teams to defend us a little bit sooner than
if it was a bigger pool and we could spread the offense
out.”

But the smaller dimensions seemed to pose no problems for the
Wolverines (8-0 CWPA, 24-7 overall). Standout freshman Shana Welch
led the way for Michigan on Saturday, with five goals throughout
the day. Freshman Wesley Ellison also had a strong day, scoring
three goals and notching three steals.

With this weekend’s victories, Michigan has now outscored
its opponents 106-35 throughout the last two weekends of play. As a
result, Anderson has had to employ some unique strategies in order
to keep his players focused on the task at hand.

“Because we play at such a high level and (because we
play) one of the harder schedules in the nation, when we come into
our conference, the conference games outside of Gannon and Indiana
are extremely easy,” Anderson said. “I have to put
challenges on the team to use their left hand when they shoot
instead of the right hand to try and make it a little harder than
it normally is. It’s like telling Yao Ming that he has to
shoot 3-point baskets instead of going in and shooting over
people.”

Anderson feels that increased confidence has been the key to the
Wolverines’ phenomenal success so far this season.

“This year we have proven that we belong (in the top 10 in
the nation),” Anderson said. “Our girls are confident
enough to take the next step and get in the top five in the nation,
which is what we are going to have to do. Those are the baby steps
that you have to take.”

Another significant baby step for the Wolverines will take place
next weekend at the Indiana Invite, when they will take on No. 7
Loyola Marymount in a game that could have significant
postseason-seeding implications. Stacia Peterson and Devon Wright
lead the Lions with 34 goals each.

Michigan will then return home on April 6 to face the World
Championship U.S. Olympic Team. It will be another game that
Anderson feels will be a great challenge for his team.

“We’re playing the best team in the world,”
Anderson said. “It will be a game for us and a practice for
them.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.