When Michigan coach Matt Anderson spoke about sophomore Kiki Golden’s emerging role on offense last week, he said that she certainly had the potential to be a star. All she needed to do was figure out where in the pool she could score most effectively.
It’s pretty safe to say she’s figured it out.
On Saturday, the No. 6 Michigan water polo team traveled to Lewisburg, Penn., to face four in-conference teams at the two-day Bison Invitational. The Wolverines opened the tournament with a marquee matchup against No. 14 Hartwick, the sixth and last of the Wolverines’ divisional opponents.
Michigan played the Hawks to a stalemate for most of the game, entering the last minute tied at 7-7. When overtime seemed imminent, sophomore Lauren Colton drew a power play, allowing Golden to get open on the right. With 33 seconds remaining, Golden’s shot found the back of the cage, and the 8-7 score stood as Hartwick was denied a last-second offensive opportunity.
It was Golden’s fifth goal of the game.
“Kiki Golden was golden,” Anderson said. “She exploded. She has definitely found her groove. Five goals against a team at that level is outstanding.”
All it took was a few small adjustments. Golden actually missed several shots early in the game, and it seemed as if her play was lapsing back into inconsistency. During the next time-out, Anderson pulled her aside and spoke to her individually.
“(He gave me pointers) on shooting near-side and also balance-wise,” Golden said.
The advice was simple, but the results were immediate. Golden went on to score twice in the second quarter alone, giving the Wolverines a lead going into the half.
With the victory, Michigan, which moved up a spot in the rankings last week, claimed its 10th consecutive CWPA Western Division crown and extended its win streak to 17.
“It means a lot, obviously,” Anderson said. “It means that our standard is to win the division title. Hartwick wanted the division title very much as well. This year they were moved over to our division, and they had never lost a division title race, so that was gratifying for us to hold onto the title as Western Division champions.”
The Wolverines mustered enough emotional energy following the win over Hartwick to work through the remainder of the weekend, beating Maryland 9-5, Harvard 13-10, and George Washington 15-5.
Against the Terrapins, junior goalkeeper Morgan Turner made her first start in a month and tallied seven saves. Junior Meagan Cobb and seniors Lauren Orth and Alison Mantel each scored twice to pace the offensive effort.
Mantel, who leads the team in scoring, experienced a slump in production last weekend at Princeton. But this weekend she not only accounted for several scores, but also added multiple assists and steals.
“She had a couple very nice shots ⎯ Alison Mantel shots,” Anderson said. “She had a very nice game last night.
“She’ll be fine. I never doubt that Alison’s going to find her touch.”
Michigan (6-0 CWPA Western Division, 27-4 overall) is now building up considerable momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, where it has struggled in the past. The Triton Mini at UC-San Diego next weekend is the only tournament remaining before postseason play begins, but Anderson doesn’t want his players to look too far ahead, nor does he want them to rest on their recent success.
“You’re only as good as the last game you play,” Anderson said. “If you didn’t play well, you have to play better. If you play well enough to get a win, you need to work on being better so you can get another win. That’s what we focus on.”