Even though the Michigan women’s water polo team has a 10-0-1 record against Indiana, coach Matt Anderson still views the Hoosiers as an arch rival.
“It is the best rivalry outside of California,” Anderson said.
The Wolverines will step up to the plate against Indiana for the second time this season Saturday. In their first meeting in January, 400 fans crammed into Canham Natatorium, and if the same-sized crowd shows up this weekend, the team doesn’t plan to let them down.
Anderson, who last year was assistant coach at Indiana, knows what playing at opposite ends of the pool in this rivalry feels like.
“Especially seeing it last year as an assistant (at Indiana), it was pretty insane,” Anderson said. “This year as the head coach, it’s pretty insane, too. Besides being opposite ends of the color spectrum, blue and red, you’ve got opposite ends of the Midwest. If someone is going to play water polo in the Midwest, they have two choices: Michigan and Indiana.”
Anderson looks to the team’s seniors to carry it to victory this weekend, because they were outswimming Indiana even before the Wolverines graduated to varsity status.
“My freshman year, we beat them the first two games of the season,” senior Emily Pelino said. “We went two and two with them. One of the things that makes it such a rivalry is that it never mattered that we were club (and Indiana was varsity). It was always a huge game for us and for them.”
But, this weekend’s game will prove to be more challenging for the Wolverines than their dominating 12-6 win against the Hoosiers in January. After the loss of high-scoring freshman Megan Hausmann due to a broken finger, the team lost another starter during its spring break West Coast trip, sophomore Jo Antonsen, to the same injury. In fact, Antonsen broke the same finger in the same quarter to the same team, California-Santa Barbara, as Hausmann did just two weeks before.
Also during the trip to California last week, red-shirted junior Abbi Rowe, who plays almost as much as a starter, suffered a concussion after a blow to the jaw. She’ll likely stay out of the water for the next couple weeks.
“Maybe the third time is the charm- meaning no more injuries,” Anderson said. “We’re not a team that can afford to keep losing our top players.”
Anderson will be looking to the rest of the team to step up in the coming weeks’ games.
“You always are going to have players who aren’t playing as much, who wish they were or think they should be, and now is the opportunity for them,” Anderson said. “It’s up to them to prove that they deserve to play in the regular rotation.”
Despite Michigan’s lacking of a few players, senior Stephanie Morse is confident the Wolverines will triumph over the Hoosiers.
“We prep for Indiana a week before we play,” Morse said. “For Indiana, it’s like, ‘We’re gonna beat this girl and this girl’ – we know everyone on the team. We know who’s going to do what and how we expect each girl to play.”