The first few months of college are more like summer camp than an academic experience. If you don”t do well on the first few exams, so what you”re a first-semester college freshman. You”re homesick, you”re making new friends and you spend more time eating pizza than going to class.
The Michigan women”s water polo team is the college freshman of the water polo world. In the first two weeks of its season, Michigan didn”t feel too much pressure as the new kids on the block. But the Wolverines can”t use their inexperience as an excuse any longer.
“It was like “oh, it”s the first tournament,” and it was the same for the second tournament,” junior captain Delia Sonda said. “But once you get past the first two, you can”t play that game anymore. We have to perform. If we have a bad game, we have a bad game we can”t hide behind anything.”
It will be much tougher for Michigan to hide from its opponents after being ranked No. 9 in the first Collegiate Water Polo Association poll. The Wolverines are the top-ranked Eastern Conference team and are the only non-Western team in the top 10.
“People are definitely going to be looking out for us,” Sonda said. “Every other school in the Eastern Conference is saying that they have to beat Michigan.”
Assistant-coach Bernice Orwig feels that it”s great for the team”s confidence to be ranked so high early in the season, but is hesitant to put a lot of emphasis on rankings.
“We”ve told them that rankings will go up and down throughout the season,” Orwig said. “We shouldn”t think too much of it.”
Even if Michigan isn”t worried about its ranking, the poll was important enough to be posted on the lockerroom door.
“I think everyone is really excited about it,” Sonda said. “We also know that the rankings don”t necessarily mean anything. We still have to prove it.”
Proving it the Michigan women”s water polo team responded to that request in its first two weeks of varsity action.
The Wolverines dismantled Eastern Conference foes Massachusetts and Princeton during their first invite two weekends ago, and fought back to tie lone Big Ten rival Indiana this past Sunday at Canham Natatorium.
Next week, Michigan heads to California for a crucial stretch of games against some of the top teams in the country, including No. 3 Southern California and No. 7 Long Beach State.
“Even though we came out strong in the first two weekends, this will be a real test,” Orwig said. “This is a long trip. We play about a game per day, and that is pretty tiring. It will give us an idea of where the girls are physically and mentally.”
All three of Michigan”s losses have been against two top teams from the West coast Stanford and Hawaii which makes this week a potential turning point for the season. Sonda is confident that the Wolverines will find success.
“I think our team is going to solidify this week,” Sonda said. “We”re going to learn a lot about each other and about ourselves. Against teams like Stanford and UCLA, we aren”t going to win, but we”re definitely going to improve.”
Make no mistake Michigan is not traveling thousands of miles just to improve or enjoy the scenery.
“We might not necessarily win against the great teams, but we don”t want them to have to put their third string in on us,” Sonda said. “We don”t want them to pity us, and we don”t want people to write us off as just another Midwest team.”