It may have been 70 degrees in Palo Alto, Calif., for the Stanford Invitational this weekend, but the Wolverines were left out in the cold.
Facing four of the top 10 women’s water polo squads in the country, Michigan came up empty in the win column. The Wolverines were trounced 16-0 by No.1 and three-time defending National Champion UCLA and followed up the shutout with another brutal loss, falling 13-5 to No. 7 San Jose State.
The second day offered closer scores, but two more losses as Michigan fell to No. 4 Hawaii, 9-8 and No. 10 Arizona State, 9-6.
For the team’s 11 freshmen, it was their first trip to the West Coast, and Michigan coach Matt Anderson admitted the team seemed “a little distracted” the first day of the invitational.
“With the long flight and the beautiful weather and several of the players coming home, it’s hard to stay focused,” Anderson said.
The lack of focus and an offensive rhythm played a large role in the Wolverines defeat to the Bruins. The loss was the first time Michigan had been shutout since March 19, 2006.
And despite two pairs of goals and solid performances from freshman Alison Mantel and sophomore Sharayah Hernandez, Michigan couldn’t win its rematch against San Jose St. The Wolverines lost to the Spartans in Ann Arbor earlier this season, 9-8. With Hernandez’s two goals, she became the 15th-ever Wolverine to score 50 career goals.
“When you’re playing top-five teams, you don’t have the opportunity to make a few mistakes and think they won’t take advantage of them,” Anderson said.
Michigan settled in on the second day, and despite registering two more losses, the Wolverines didn’t go down without a fight.
Against No. 4 Hawaii, Michigan attempted to mount a classic comeback as Mantel, as well as juniors Mary Chatigny and Kelsey Haley, each scored a goal each with five minutes remaining in the final frame to tie it up.
The rally would come up just short after the Rainbow Wahine hit the back of the net with 49 seconds left, ending the back-and-forth thriller.
“We really hoped to get out with an upset this weekend,” Anderson said. “But these close games will make us better.”
In the final match of the weekend, Michigan had another rematch against No. 10 Arizona State. The Wolverines struggled offensively, especially early, scoring just one goal in the first half. Again, Michigan rallied with three late goals to make the game close, but it was too little, too late.
“We will keep trying to get better,” Anderson said. “And we will get better.”