Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan women’s water polo team may have lost its ticket to the Final Four this weekend, but no one can say its season was lost. In just its third year competing with varsity status, this group of Wolverines has blown away most of the East Coast teams.
Unfortunately, they could not blow away No. 17 Brown in the Eastern Championships. They came up short in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss. Michigan traveled to Boston this past weekend entering the event as the top seed. Last year, the team was in the same position and won, giving them an automatic berth to the Final Four. But this year, after the loss to Brown on the first day of competition, the Wolverines had to eventualy settle for third overall.
“In a situation where you don’t get as far as you want to get, the important thing is that you don’t stumble too badly,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “By winning third place, we were able to prove that we are still a very good team.”
On Saturday, the tournament started off well when Michigan defeated Bucknell 14-2. Michigan expected the game against Brown to have a similar ending, but Brown proved it was ready to take on the force Michigan has come to be known as in the East.
“Brown had been there before when they went to the Final Four two years ago,” Anderson said. “Six of their seven starters were on that team the year they upset Michigan on the way to the Final Four. We also had not played them this year.”
Michigan kept up with Brown for the first three quarters of the game, and the game went into the final quarter tied 4-4. Brown scored early in the fourth quarter, and Michigan did not get another chance to score until the final seconds of the game when they earned a penalty shot. Their chances to launch the game into overtime were crushed though when Brown’s goalie blocked the shot.
“We did not play poorly,” sophomore goalie Betsey Armstrong said. “Brown stepped up to play us – we had a really good game of water polo. We played well, but they played better.”
Possibly the hardest part of the weekend for the team was finding the motivation to turn around and play No. 14 Princeton for the third place title.
“We were trying to win the first place game, so when we got to the third place game, it was a shock to us,” sophomore driver Sheetal Narsai said. “It’s hard to go into a game just to win for nothing, but then we realized that it was for something. One of our team captains made a speech and said, ‘Hey, we can’t just roll over and die – we can still make a statement.’ “
And Michigan did make a statement, sending the Tigers straight to fourth place with their 9-5 win.
“The Princeton game showed our season was not a fluke,” Anderson said. “We were upset by Brown so I told the team, ‘Let’s not let other teams in the East think that our whole year was a fluke.’ And by how resounding of a victory we had against Princeton, I think the other teams realized that we just got tripped up.”
Another hard reality Michigan faced in the Championship was that Indiana took first place overall. Indiana, Michigan’s biggest rival, is advancing to the Final Four.
“Kudos for Indiana, but it’s disappointing knowing that we did defeat them easily three times this season,” Anderson said. “It’s too bad we didn’t have the opportunity to stop them from (getting to the Final Four).”
Although the season is officially over now, Anderson looks back on his first season with Michigan positively.
“I’m disappointed in not reaching our final goal, but that is what is going to make us better next year.”