The Michigan water polo team loves playing in California, and the reason has nothing to do with the sun.
“It’s always great for us to play in California because we’re all from here, so it’s almost a home game to us,” senior Lauren Orth said.
“We had more people in the stands than (UC San Diego) did.”
The sixth-ranked Wolverines (5-0 CWPA West, 30-4 overall) returned to San Diego last weekend to conclude regular season play in bikini weather. After downing host No. 20 UC San Diego 11-7 during its senior night on Saturday, Michigan easily muscled its way through the rest of the weekend, defeating Pomona-Pitzer 17-3 and Fresno Pacific 18-4 on Sunday.
The Wolverines never trailed in any of the three contests.
“It’s great for our team to come out and have a three-win weekend two weeks before our finals,” Orth said. “UCSD put up a good fight, so it was a good game that we persevered through.”
Seniors Lauren Orth and Cara Reitz spearheaded the offense against UCSD, each collecting a hat trick. Reitz worked most of her shots on the inside while Orth scored once from the perimeter and twice off penalties.
Orth’s performance this weekend extended her point-streak to 40 games. The California native has racked up a total of 56 goals and 42 assists in the span.
Special teams were critical in the victory, as tight refereeing both ways led to multiple man-up situations. Michigan went 4-for-8 on power plays and was able to limit UCSD’s opportunities with a staunch five-man penalty kill.
“We gave our six-man a chance to get some work in, which is important heading into the postseason,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said through the Athletic Department after the game. “Everything considered, we went 50 percent, and that is good. If you can hit that in the postseason then you should be able to win.”
It was during the Wolverines’ power plays that sophomore Lauren Colton drew the pair of five-meter penalties, thereby setting up Orth’s conversions. In addition, senior Alison Mantel, who played what Anderson called her best defensive game “in years,” led the defensive effort with four steals and a couple of key field blocks.
The blow-out games against Pomona Pitzer and Fresno Pacific allowed several players to have standout games. Senior Sarah Roberts became the 15th Wolverine to score 100 career goals when she notched six against Pomona Pitzer.
Freshmen Lauren Dudley, Katy Feaver, and Sophie Høegh each tallied hat tricks on the day.
Ironically, the sunshine made the weekend less than paradise for the team. The reflection off the surface of the water was harsh on the players’ eyes, and both sophomore Alex Adamson and junior Morgan Turner once again had to be alternated at goalie.
Sunscreen was useless. Despite administering plenty, the team returned to Ann Arbor in a condition described by Orth as, “fried.”
Even Anderson got burnt.
“I forgot (to wear sunscreen) yesterday, but I remembered today,” he said on Sunday. “The whole thing about waterproof sunscreen — it’s not true. It’s just a matter of how quickly it wears off.”
With the sweep in San Diego, Michigan wrapped up their fourth straight 30-win season. The Wolverines will travel to Bloomington after exams to defend their league title in the upcoming CWPA Eastern Championship tournament.