Coming off its 11th straight Collegiate Water Polo Association Western Division championship, the 10th-ranked Michigan women’s water polo team (4-2 CWPA, 23-12 overall) was looking to continue its success at the Eastern Championships at Brown University this past weekend. But the Wolverines fell short of a championship with a 2-1 record in the tournament.
On Friday, Michigan jumped out to a quick start in its first game against Bucknell (2-4, 15-24), taking a 5-3 lead into halftime. Michigan’s attackers — sophomore Lauren Dudley and junior Kiki Golden — led the way with two goals each in the first half.
As the second half began, the Wolverines did not let off the gas. Golden picked up a hat trick early in the third quarter, and Michigan took an 8-5 lead into the final quarter.
Bucknell tried to make a comeback off two quick goals to start the fourth, but the Wolverines managed to tally three of their own in the final four minutes of play. The scoring outburst by both teams led to a final score of 12-8, and Michigan headed to the semifinals the next day.
With much excitement and optimism, the Wolverines hopped into the pool to face their 14th-ranked division rival, Maryland. With a championship berth at stake, the Terrapins struck first.
Maryland scored first, as the Wolverines managed to miss a penalty shot shortly after conceding the first goal. Following the missed penalty were two more goals, giving the Terrapins a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.
“If I knew (what caused the slow start), we wouldn’t have been slow,” said Michigan coach Matt Anderson. “(Possibly) it was because we missed the penalty shot so early.”
Whatever Anderson said in the huddle after the first quarter worked for the Wolverines, as they rebounded nicely to knot the score at four heading into the halftime break.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the Wolverines and the Terrapins exchanging goals until the quarter ended, leaving Maryland up, 7-6, heading into the fourth quarter.
With the championship game in sight, the Wolverines came together to make one last attempt at achieving glory.
The alternating trend of goals continued in the final quarter, and Maryland led Michigan, 9-8, heading into the final possession.
The Wolverines drew a penalty with two seconds remaining and had one last chance to send the game into overtime.
Golden was chosen to take the final penalty shot, but the Maryland goalie stepped up and won the game for the Terrapins.
“If we had to do it again, the best player takes the final shot,” Anderson said. “(We) missed two penalties this game so maybe it wasn’t meant to be. They worked hard, but there were a couple keys to the game that allowed Maryland to get their goals.”
After a tough loss to rival Maryland, the Wolverines had to rebound quickly for their third place game against Brown (3-2, 20-18).
Michigan jumped out to a quick lead with two goals from Golden before surrendering the lead before halftime.
In the third quarter, however, it was all Golden. She scored three goals in the third to bring her game total up to five heading into the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at six heading into the final quarter of play, Michigan secured a 9-7 victory over Brown, taking the third place crown.
“We exceeded everyone’s expectations, but we didn’t meet our own, which is to play to be the best,” Anderson said.
This young Michigan team will take home a new piece of hardware, the third place crown from Eastern Championships, which will rest nicely alongside its 11th consecutive Western Division title.