After blazing through its last three weekends of competition
with a perfect 12-0 record, the Michigan water polo team will
finally get the chance to find out what it is made of.

The Wolverines face No. 7 Loyola Marymount (16-4) at the Indiana
Invitational Saturday in a game that could have considerable
implications for Michigan in the NCAA tournament

“(The Loyola Marymount game) is really important because
if we get to the Final Four it could determine the seeding,”
junior goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong said. “We’ve beaten
them once, so if we beat them again and then move onto the Final
Four at the end of our season, then we will get the third
seed.”

In February, Michigan (8-0 College Water Polo Association, 24-7
overall) defeated Loyola Marymount 3-2 in California. But the No. 8
Wolverines will have their hands full trying to defeat the Lions
for a second time in two months.

“(This game) is the difference between playing in the 1-4
game and the 2-3 game in the Final Four,” Michigan coach Matt
Anderson said. “We’ve proven that we can beat them and
now we just have to do it again.”

Even if Michigan can take care of business and defeat Loyola
Marymount, it will still have to face No. 20 Cal-State Northridge
at the invitational.

The Wolverines return home April 6 to face an even bigger
challenge at Canham Natatorium: the World Champion U.S. Olympic
women’s team.

“The benefit (of playing the Olympic team) is that the
game is going to be as quick as these girls have ever
played,” Anderson said. “That is good going into our
conference championships. (Our team) is going to have to be ready
to be at the top of its game, both offensively and defensively.
It’s going to be a very physical game, not in the sense that
it counts for the record, so they’re going to be trying to
hurt us. They’re just going to be looking to swim us a little
bit more and pound us a little bit more.”

When asked if the matchup is similar to a No. 1 facing a No. 16
in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament,
Anderson laughed and said it is more like a No. 1 taking on a No.
32 seed.

“Are we going to lose?” Anderson said.
“Without a doubt. I’m looking for a good first half.
After that, they’re just physically better than us and a
little bit quicker. These girls are in full-time training, so they
train six to eight hours a day, and they are playing hundreds of
games against the best competition possible. Yes they are bigger,
yes they are faster and yes, they are stronger. They are full-time
professional athletes, they just don’t get paid.”

The girls on the Olympic squad are basically the same age as the
players on Michigan’s team. In fact, No. 3 UCLA’s
starting six players for next year are all on the Olympic team and
were redshirted this year as a result.

No matter what happens over the next week for Michigan, the team
is just glad to finally face some stiff competition.

“It’s like if you had the opportunity to play
Michael Jordan and say, ‘Yeah, I posted him up and scored a
little reverse lay-up on him,’ ” Anderson said.
“This is only going to give the girls confidence. If they can
do this against one of the 13 best players in the world, they can
surely do it against whatever (a team like) Indiana throws at
them.”

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