BLOOMINGTON — The streak is dead.
On Sunday afternoon, the No. 6 Michigan water polo team (32-5 overall) lost the Eastern title game to archrival No. 13 Indiana, 5-3. It was the Wolverines’ first loss since Valentine’s Day, 22 games ago, and their first loss to the Hoosiers since 2007.
Beleaguered by shoddy shooting from the perimeter and an inability to find success at two meters, Michigan, who had looked so brilliant just a day earlier, never found its legs on offense and never had control of the game.
When the Wolverine offense did show up during the second quarter, it rattled off three unanswered points in four minutes to tie the game at 3-3. Seniors Ryley Plunkett and Keller Felt scored from outside, while sophomore Lauren Colton scored from two meters. The jeering crowd at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center finally fell quiet.
But just as the game started to brighten for Michigan, Indiana scored on a power play two seconds before the halftime buzzer.
The Hoosier fans roared, and the Wolverines never recovered.
Michigan coach Matt Anderson used all of his full time-outs, during which he talked strategy and drew up formations on a whiteboard. These were all plays his team had rehearsed for an entire season.
For some reason, this time they just didn’t work.
Every time the Wolverines came back out, Indiana simply took the ball away with defensive steals and turnovers from fouls, not to mention the downright bad decisions made by the Michigan players.
“Luck just wasn’t on our side this game,” junior Meagan Cobb said.
If there were any positives to be gleaned from the loss, it would be that the Wolverines held firm on defense. As many steals that the Hoosiers collected from Michigan miscues, the Wolverines had just as many from a strong defensive effort. Indiana had just two pure goals — two of their other scores came from man-up advantages, and one came from a five-meter penalty.
Senior Alison Mantel and sophomore Kiki Golden, both All-American offensive players, each had four steals.
But there was nothing to celebrate on the Michigan sideline. There were only painfully forced smiles when the captains accepted the second-place plaque and posed for photos. All eyes were red, and it had nothing to do with chlorine. It was a mood more befitting of a funeral.
The streak is dead.
The Michigan seniors’ record against the Hoosiers that seemed so perfect a month ago is now a blemished 9-1 mark. A four-peat as league champions — a feat that only one other team has accomplished in the modern era — is now just another pipe dream for another class.
Instead of riding high with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as event hosts, the Wolverines will now have to wait for higher powers to determine whether they’ll be playing at Canham Natatorium in two weeks with an at-large berth.
Anderson, who serves on the NCAA committee, isn’t holding his breath.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said.