California is a sunny Spring Break destination for many Michigan students, and more than a few were probably there last week soaking up the rays and relaxing by the pool. For the Michigan women’s water polo team though, Spring Break was all about getting time in, not beside, the pool. The Wolverines faced teams from all over the state and hardly had any time to relax before finally returning to Ann Arbor yesterday.
“That is the main reason we go out there, to go where the better competition is, and right now the better competition overall is on the West Coast,” head coach Matt Anderson said. “You’re going to take some losses when you go out there but overall it’s better in the long run.”
The team went 3-4 on the week trip, gaining two of its three victories Saturday. LaVerne and the University of Redlands were no match for the Wolverines, who jumped out to an early lead in both matches and downed their opponents 13-3 and 9-3, respectively.
“We are a little banged up, but we are happy to be coming home with three wins,” Anderson said.
Sophomore Jo Antonsen injured her finger early in the trip in the same way her teammate, Megan Hausmann, did a few weeks ago. Coincidentally, both players suffered the same injury on the same hand while playing against the same team, California-Santa Barbara.
“It happened two minutes into the game,” Anderson said of Antonsen’s injury. “It was the same finger (as Hausmann’s), her ring finger on her left hand. We really had to change some things around after that happened, but the girls really stepped up and gave a good effort.”
Junior Abbi Rowe also sat out a few games due to an injured jaw.
The loss of key starters may have contributed to the team’s four losses, many of which were closely contested. The Wolverines nearly knocked off No. 10 UC Santa Barbara last Wednesday, losing a close 7-6 match. The day before the team was downed by fourth ranked Long Beach State, 11-5. While the final margin of victory for Long Beach was large, Anderson said his team hung in there with one of the best in the nation.
“Long Beach State is number 4 for a reason and I believe they will be in the Final Four and probably in the championship game this year,” Anderson said. “We really went toe-to-toe with them and that is what I am looking for. It was a very physical game this time, but we gave as much as we took. I am very proud of that.”
The Wolverines split a double-header on Feb. 22, when they easily took care of Cal State-San Bernardino in the morning, but lost to No. 18 California-Irvine later that night. The Anteaters took a 5-2 lead into halftime and put down Michigan’s comeback bid in the final quarter to win, 8-5.
Anderson said that while they started the day with a good defensive effort, the team’s defensive effort was lacking against California-Irvine.
“Defensively we were not there tonight. We should not give up eight goals to anybody,” Anderson said. “We have to make it hard for the other team with our defense and not get in a firestorm with the other team.”
In their match on Feb. 21, it was the Wolverines’ inability to score in the final moments that was their downfall. Against No. 6 Loyola Marymount, Michigan cut the lead to one in the fourth quarter with 3:45 left on the clock, but turned the ball over four consecutive times and could not notch the tying goal. Loyola scored on a powerplay in the final minutes to bring the final score to 7-5.
Although the Wolverines did not meet their goal of coming home with a winning record, Anderson said the team showed improvement and is now more prepared for its tough upcoming match against Indiana this weekend.
“It’s important to win at the end of the trip so you can have a good flight home and know what you did right,” he said, referring to Saturday’s victories. “We did some good things against good teams. I was satisfied with our play in six out of the seven games, and that’s not bad.”
Next weekend, Michigan hosts the Southern Division Tournament and will open against Indiana on Saturday.