BLOOMINGTON After the Indiana water polo team”s loss Saturday night to Massachusetts, the Indiana pep band declined to make an appearance for Sunday”s game against No. 13 Michigan.
The Hoosiers didn”t need a pep band on Sunday, however, as the Wolverines provided them with music singing “The Victors” after their 8-6 victory over No. 17 Indiana.
The Hoosiers have lost three straight matches to the Wolverines.
“It”s always a plus to win at our rival”s home pool,” Michigan coach Amber Drury-Pinto said. “That”s a huge thing for us, but it didn”t come easy. The girls definitely earned it, and I liked what I saw. They stepped up to the challenge.”
In the three previous meetings between the two rivals, Michigan (16-9-1) tallied one tie and two overtime victories over the Hoosiers.
Sunday, Indiana needed two goals late in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable.
“We feel like we could have done this all along, and it was nice to prove that,” captain Melissa Karjala said. “We didn”t need an overtime to beat them.”
The Wolverines continue to find a way to win their close matches, almost as if they save up all of their energy for the fourth quarter and then explode.
“We just had that edge that slight edge, and that edge is millimeters wide,” said Drury-Pinto of her team”s ability to come through in the final moments.
Indiana jumped out to a 3-2 lead with two powerplay goals. After a crucial Hoosier penalty, Drury-Pinto called timeout to get her team organized. Michigan executed their powerplay offense to perfection, as Karjala sent the ball through the net to tie the game at three. From then on, Indiana crumbled, and the Wolverines never looked back.
“We were fairly timid offensively, and didn”t take advantage of some opportunities that were created,” Indiana coach Barry King said of his team”s performance. “We had a stretch in there where we lost a little focus defensively, and gave up some goals that we probably shouldn”t have that allowed the gap to widen too much.”
In addition to their win over Indiana, the Wolverines edged No. 18 Massachusetts, 10-8 on Saturday in a close, physical battle between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
A somewhat lackluster Michigan team allowed Massachusetts to stay in the game for three quarters. The Wolverines even fell behind 6-5 in the third period when the Minutemen took the lead despite Michigan goalie Camille Clarendon blocking a penalty shot. A Massachusetts player then out-hustled the Wolverine defenders to cash in on the rebound.
“It wasn”t that they were better than us,” Clarendon said. “I don”t really feel like we were playing heads-up defense. Our heads weren”t in the game.”
Michigan”s Karjala put her head in the game, scoring three straight goals to spur the Michigan comeback.
“That”s what we”ve expected out of (Karjala) all season, and that”s what she delivered,” Drury-Pinto said.
“She”s a senior, she”s one of our captains, and she”s one of our leaders for that reason. She doesn”t talk about doing things, she does them in the water.”
Karjala”s second-half hat trick helped her earn the Indiana Invitational”s offensive MVP award.
After finishing the invitational with an undefeated 3-0 record, the Wolverines have compiled a 11-0 record over the past three tournaments.
Michigan will take its success at the end of the season into next weekend”s Southern Division Championships in Grove City, PA.
The Wolverines are in the Southern Division of the Eastern Conference along with Indiana, the only other Big Ten team.
“It”s a huge boost,” said Drury-Pinto of her team”s momentum entering the postseason. “If we came in here and we lost, we would have gone into Southerns with a little doubt.
“But we should have a lot of confidence going into next week, and we can build on that in Pennsylvania.”