If the No. 7 Michigan water polo team is going to advance far into the NCAA Tournament this year, it will need sophomore Kiki Golden to play like she played last weekend.

Though she’s slumped offensively at times this year, Golden reminded everyone why many regard her as the Wolverines’ next superstar. Against No. 18 Princeton, Golden helped Michigan squeeze out a win with a team-leading three goals performance.

“Kiki Golden was huge (against Princeton),” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “Offensively, she’s had some struggles this year, but defensively, she’s been on top of her game. But it all came (together) at the right time and her best game of the year was against a team we needed to beat for seeding purposes for the east regional.”

Golden noted that it was nice to contribute offensively, and a real confidence booster because she hasn’t been playing well on that side of the ball of late for the Wolverines (4-0 CWPA West, 23-4 overall).

Anderson expressed that Golden’s struggles could have been due to the fact that she is still developing her offensive game. He explained that her offense has just started clicking into gear and adjusting to collegiate level defenses. While her offense has picked up recently, Anderson believes she will become an even more lethal scorer once she learns where in the pool she can score most effectively.

That’s a scary thought for her opponents because, even with those struggles, Golden has shown that she is an offensive force. As a freshman, Golden ranked third on the team with 68 points — notching 39 goals and 29 assists. Demonstrating a more balanced offensive attack this year, Golden is on pace to exceed her numbers from last year as she ranks fourth on this year’s team with 26 goals and is also one of the team leaders in assists with 26.

While inconsistency has plagued her offense, Golden continues to display the superb defense Anderson has been raving about for years.

“She got all these accolades for offense in high school,” Anderson said. “But when I recruited her, I thought that defensively she was ready for the college game. She’s as good as there is. She can change a game so much with her defense.”

Anderson is quick to reinforce that Golden has been one of his best defensive players in the past two years, citing her impressive steal totals in both seasons.

This outstanding defense has prompted her teammates to start calling her “slinky” and “gypsy.”

“They call me gypsy because I’m always stealing the ball (from opponents),” Golden said.

Golden also led the team in steals the past two years — with 78 as a freshman and 38 this year.

“I feel that you can have bad games offensively because sometimes you’re just not shooting well,” Golden said. “Defensively, though, you can’t really have a bad game as long as you put the effort. If I’m not playing well offensively, I try to make up for it on the defensive end.”

Along with her abilities in the pool, Anderson had high praise for Golden as a teammate.

“Out of the water, Kiki is as nice as can be,” Anderson said. “She is funny and gets along with everybody. And she’s very conscientious about being nice to people. I think that’s what makes her such a good teammate.”

Even with her struggles, Anderson expects great things from Golden.

That’s what happens when you’re the first freshman field player to be an All-American at Michigan.

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