Freshman Leah Robertson stole her way into the record books on Saturday.
Robertson’s school-record nine steals against Princeton, coupled with timely goals throughout the weekend, led the Michigan water polo team to a perfect 4-0 record at the Terrapin Invitational in College Park, Md.
The 16th-ranked Wolverines (9-3) opened the weekend with a 10-8 victory against No. 17 Princeton (4-4), which has netted just one victory against Michigan in the last five years.
With close decisions in each of the last seven contests between the two teams, it appears that a strong rivalry has developed. But Michigan coach Matt Anderson disagrees.
“There’s more of a rivalry on [Princeton’s] end because we’re Michigan and the big, public school team,” Anderson said.
And rivalries struggle to exist when one team consistently dominates its opponent the way Michigan has over the years.
After a tough first half in which the Tigers held a 5-4 lead, the Wolverine’s offense and defense stole the show at the most opportune time.
Freshman Allison Gorine opened the offensive barrage in the third frame with back-to-back goals. Sophmore Mary Chatigny and junior Michelle Keeley followed that with goals of their own, and when the third quarter came to a close, the Wolverines held an 8-5 advantage.
Anderson felt the sudden turn-around was based on the team’s ability to outlast its opponent.
“Conditioning was our strength,” Anderson said. “We proved that we are in better shape than the other teams.”
After that, it was the defense’s job to show off its endurance and finish the deal in the fourth stanza.
Led by Robertson’s nine steals and sophomore goalkeeper Kristen Davis’s career-high ten blocks, the Michigan defense proved too strong for the Tigers.
Not to be outdone by her defensive masterpiece on Saturday, Robertson and her teammates featured their offensive prowess on Sunday against Bucknell (2-6).
Michigan opened the game with three straight goals by sophomore Julie Hyrne. And after a goal by sophomore Sharayah Hernandez, Robertson went on to score four of the next five Michigan goals.
“Whenever you score four goals plus get a school record in one weekend, that’s a hell of an effort.” Anderson said. “We rebounded well from our mistakes and didn’t repeat them. It was probably the best three quarters we have played this season.”
The Wolverines coasted to an 11-7 victory, even though they allowed the Bison to score three fourth quarter power play goals. But in the end, Robertson stole the show with her all-around game in front of the rowdy fans at the Maryland Natatorium.
As a high school athlete, Robertson was a captain of her team and 2006 Division I Player of the Year. Robertson, who is reigning CWPA Western Division Player of the Week, came in to Ann Arbor with high expectations, but hasn’t failed to surprise her coach.
“I have been mildly surprised by how she has taken to the game so quickly,” Anderson said. “Some of the mistakes she has made would occur much more often for other players with her experience.”
The miscues appear to be worth the performance based on Michigan’s perfect weekend, which also included wins over Maryland (0-8) and George Washington (0-4).
Led by the continually improving Robertson the Wolverine’s hope their conditioning and effort can help them steal even more victories in the future.