As the No. 6 Michigan women’s water polo team prepares to defend its CWPA Eastern Championship crown, two players in particular will try to build on their stellar play from last year’s tournament: sophomores Lauren Colton and Kiki Golden.

As freshmen, Colton and Golden took the Eastern Championship Tournament by storm, demonstrating that success can come without much experience. While helping the Wolverines win their third straight Eastern Championship, Colton led Michigan in scoring, netting seven goals, while Golden completed her impressive tournament — six points and two steals — by winning the CWPA Eastern Championship Rookie of the Tournament.

“(Colton and Golden) had the opportunity last year to play without having a lot of pressure on them,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “We had enough girls that played well that they were able to play and not worry about mistakes. It helped them a lot as freshman.”

The California natives echoed Anderson’s assessment, saying that because they were just freshman, they didn’t feel any pressure because not much was expected of them. They were only expected to go out and play to the best of their abilities.

Golden also suggested that because it was her first Eastern Championship, the importance of the tournament was lost on her. She admitted that while she is confident in herself and her team, she is a little more nervous about the tournament this year.

“I think last year I didn’t realize how big this tournament was, and how much it meant for our placement and our qualifications for NCAAs,” Golden said. “Now, it’s more nerve-racking beforehand because I understand how important the tournament is for our future.”

Colton said that she’s also feeling more pressure going into this year’s Eastern Champions opposed to last year’s, but for different reasons.

“I do feel a little more expectation (this year) to play how I need to play to help the team win because I have a bigger role,” Colton said. “I’m one year older, and I play more. And I just expect myself to play well.”

Colton and Golden have certainly taken on bigger roles on the team this year.

After solid freshmen years, Colton and Golden have each become more prolific scorers, ranking third and fourth on the team in goals, respectively.

But Anderson believes that while they have become outstanding offensive players, they have both improved other facets of their games to become superb all-around players.

While both Colton and Golden have played exceptionally of late, they understand the importance of performing well in this tournament.

“This might be our last tournament of the year if we don’t make it to NCAAs,” Golden said. “Everything we’ve been working for counts now. (Wins) in our previous games were nice, but this is what it comes down to.”

If Golden and Colton continue to build on their spectacular play, this arguably won’t be their last tournament of the year.

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