Indiana coach Barry King and the Indiana water polo team are dumbfounded by the CWPA poll, which ranks the 17th-ranked Hoosiers four spots behind No. 13 Michigan they certainly aren”t coming to Ann Arbor this weekend to rendezvous with friends.
“We take (the rankings) with a good chuckle,” King said. “We have some questions every week when we see (the poll). We”re going into (the weekend against Michigan) to prove that we”re not the 17th-ranked team.”
On Feb.18, when the first match between Michigan and Indiana ended, the Wolverines found themselves in a place they didn”t want to be tied 4-4.
Michigan jumped out to a 3-1 advantage, but the Hoosiers exploded for three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead. Freshman Julie Nisbet saved the Wolverines from defeat, firing the ball into the net as the clock rolled down on the fourth quarter.
But over a month has passed since the rivals have squared off, and the circumstances surrounding this weekend”s matches will be much different. Before the first match with the Hoosiers, the Wolverines had just finished playing No. 1 Stanford.
“We”re not tired now, and we didn”t just play Stanford two hours ago,” Michigan coach Amber Drury-Pinto said. “They got us when we were down after we played a lot of games. They”re going to see the true Michigan team this weekend.”
Not only will the circumstances change this weekend, but this is a much-improved Michigan team that welcomes Indiana and Slippery Rock to Canham Natatorium this time around.
“Our defense has become much more tenacious,” Drury-Pinto said. “They”re after the ball a lot more and they”re a lot more aggressive on defense.”
When Michigan returned from its California trip, Drury-Pinto put the Wolverines through a “hell week” unlike anything the players had ever experienced.
“We hit it hard again,” Drury-Pinto said. “We were swimming hard, doing lots of weights, wearing weight belts in the pool. We”ve worked hard. I can”t imagine anybody has worked harder than us.”
Even though Drury-Pinto feels that the Wolverines have made large strides toward where they want to be, she knows the two matches against Indiana this weekend will be a measuring tool of how far they”ve come.
Improvement “is hard to measure,” Drury-Pinto said. “The measure will be playing a team we haven”t played in six weeks.”
Seeding in the upcoming Southern Division championships will depend on the results of the weekend. What makes the matches between Michigan and Indiana so exciting is the intense rivalry that has developed between the only Big Ten varsity programs.
“Whenever you play a team every year and the score is that close, you start to get a bitter taste in your mouth,” captain Delia Sonda said. “When you start playing a team many times, you know what they”re going to do, and they know what you”re going to do.”
Making this rivalry even more intriguing is the fact that many of the Hoosiers and Wolverines are very familiar with each other as competitors and friends.
“A lot of girls on the Indiana team we actually know because they either went to our high school or our archrival, and a lot of us chose between Indiana and Michigan,” said junior utility Mandi Hagedorn, who attended Huron High School.
“Both groups have a number of girls who have known each other since the womb basically,” King said.