Last time Michigan women’s water polo coach Matt Anderson checked, five high-scoring Wolverines were better than two. But it didn’t add up that way this weekend, when Erin Brown and Meg Knudtsen blew him out of the water with their massive tallies for the team.
After the loss of top players Megan Hausmann, Jo Antonsen and Abbi Rowe early in the season, the team picked itself up with spirit and confidence to continue winning games. As if that wasn’t tough enough, the Wolverines made the trip to Washington, Pa. without high-scorers Julie Nisbet and Casey Kerney, leaving the team’s attendance sheet with five absences.
During this weekend’s four games, sophomore drivers Brown and Knudtsen picked up the slack – scoring 10 and eight goals, respectively – and guided the Wolverines to a clean sweep.
“Erin Brown’s performance was nothing surprising,” Anderson said. “This weekend, not having a few people that she normally looks to pass to, she was smart enough to take the (attitude), ‘I’m gonna score the ball, too’ – she’s very capable.”
In the 2002 season, Brown was one of the top scorers and played a big role offensively. But this year, her role on the team has changed to perhaps a more important one.
“This year with Megan (Hausmann) coming in, and Sheetal (Narsai) stepping up, I’ve kind of had to take a backseat from the limelight offensively,” Brown said. “My job is to set up the plays and be the person on the counter to get the release. I can see the game really well and read (into) it – my job is to set up other people to score.”
Even though Brown’s role is less glamorous and less noticed on the scoreboard this season, she has been the team’s secret weapon, especially now that so many players have had to sit out.
And what makes Brown’s 10-goal tally even more impressive is that she only played in one quarter of each of the weekend’s four games.
“One game she had three goals in the first quarter, another game, she had four,” Anderson said. “She exploded out of the gate quickly, which is nice.”
Knudtsen was the other star of the weekend. The freshman has seen more minutes of play than any other Wolverine since stepping up to fill Hausmann’s spot a few weeks ago.
Knudtsen cited her bonus time in the pool as a factor in her recent scoring success.
“It’s improved my games (to be in the water more),” Knudtsen said. “It’s kind of a confidence booster. It also gives you a change to get into a groove and prove yourself that way.”
The sophomore actually had aspirations of being a basketball player before switching to water polo in high school.
“I always dreamed of being a basketball player when I was little,” Knudtsen said. “I played year-round up until my sophomore year in high school. The positions (in basketball and water polo) are somewhat similar. Especially the 2-meter set in water polo and the center in basketball (which) I play. I still love basketball, but I really enjoy water polo.”
Anderson is lucky this Wolverine switched.
Brown and Knudtsen’s hustle this weekend has only proved further that this team has the depth to persevere through a shortened roster.