With just under a minute left in Saturday night’s game against No. 11 Indiana, the No. 9 Michigan women’s water polo team had the ball in Indiana territory, trailing 7-6. Desperately needing a goal, the Wolverines passed the ball from wing to wing before finding junior defender Megan Hausmann open in front of the goal. The fans tensely watched Hausmann raise her arm above her head and pump fake a few times — trying to find an opening — before rifling the ball toward the goal. As the ball headed for the back of the net, Indiana’s goalie Jessica Goldner thrust her arm into its path and deflected it out of bounds, ending the Wolverines comeback attempt.
It was a back-and-forth game filled with missed opportunities, as Indiana (2-1) defeated Michigan 7-6 at the Michigan Invitational in a rowdy Canham Natatorium. Whether it was a dropped ball on a breakaway, a shot off of the post or a shot that seemed to cross the goal’s plane, the Wolverines (2-2) couldn’t finish their chances against Indiana.
“(Indiana) threw everything at us that they could, and we were trying different rotations,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “It was a matter of one or two inches. I knew it was going to come down to the end of the game and that we would have an opportunity to win it, which we did.”
With the loss to Indiana, the Wolverines’ unblemished record against the Hoosiers came to an end. Until Saturday, Michigan had held a 16-0-1 all-time edge over Indiana, and the Wolverines were relieved that, if the streak had to end, it ended sooner rather than later in the season.
“We were trying to uphold the tradition of never losing to Indiana,” sophomore center Wesley Ellison said. “There was a lot of adrenaline, and we felt a lot of pressure because we were expected to win. I was a little bit disappointed, but (the loss) humbled us and gave us something to work for.”
Even with the loss to Indiana, the Wolverines still managed to finish 2-2 in their season-opening tournament. Michigan defeated Colorado St. 15-5 Saturday morning and Slippery Rock 10-3 in the Wolverines’ second game Sunday.
Michigan’s other loss came in the first game on Sunday when they faced No. 1 UCLA and fell 13-3. The Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first quarter, and UCLA’s extended pressure caused the Wolverines to struggle offensively. At halftime, the Wolverines trailed 7-0, but, in the third and fourth quarters, the game was much closer, with UCLA only outscoring Michigan 6-3.
“(Playing UCLA) was a good experience,” Ellison said. “They’re like USC football; no one can play with them. They’re unbelievable. It’s good that we’re playing the best team in the nation.”
Anderson knew that UCLA would be a tough team, but he was satisfied with the way that his team rebounded from the Indiana loss and gave full effort on every play. He also understood that playing high-caliber opponents can only help his team in the long run.
“We were in it,” Anderson said. “There’s no reason that we can’t expect to stay within five or six goals of them, and that’s when breaks start to happen. It shows that we can play with the best players in the nation and not feel like deer in the headlights.”
While slightly disappointed with his team’s start to the season, Anderson realized that 2-2 is better than 1-3 and that he can begin to work with his team on several areas, especially finishing power plays and playing better defense.
Even though Michigan has room for improvement, several Wolverines enjoyed solid performances.
Senior goalie Betsey Armstrong totaled 11 saves against Indiana and 15 against UCLA while not playing against Colorado St. or Slippery Rock.
“Against UCLA, Betsey showed why she’s the top goalie,” Anderson said. “She made saves against them that other goalies wouldn’t have.”
Senior driver Sheetal Narsai moved within one goal of the exclusive 100-goal club. While she saw limited action against Colorado St. and Slippery Rock and didn’t score against UCLA, Narsai notched two goals against Indiana to bring her career goal total to 99.
Anderson also thought that Ellison performed very well over the weekend as she played the two-meter line center. She scored a total of three goals, and drew four ejections against Indiana, which eclipsed her previous career high. After Ellison spent her freshman year learning the two-meter center position, Anderson felt confident in her ability to contribute to the team this season.
“(This weekend) was a great start to the season, even though it was a little bit disappointing,” Armstrong said. “It gave us the opportunity to see the areas that we need to work on.”