While sudden-death overtime wasn’t exactly the kind of game the Michigan water polo team wanted for its only home contest of the season, it was necessary to achieve victory on Senior Day.

For a team that has emphasized the importance of a strong defensive core, Saturday’s game showed the flaws in the Wolverines’ play. Still, Michigan was able to overcome its shortcomings to beat Indiana, 13-12.

The offensive came out strong with junior attacker Ali Thomason winning most of her sprints and netting four goals in the first quarter. But when the Hoosiers started pressuring the Michigan end of the pool during the second period, lanes began to open for easy Indiana goals.

“There were times when our defensive was really strong,” Thomason said. “There were other times where they caught us sleeping, and that was one reason they were able to stay in the game.”

Missed communication in the back also led to open shots for the Hoosiers that lazily skipped passed Michigan’s back line.

“There were times when you would be looking at an open man and your mark would slip by,” Thomason said.

The lack of focused marking created opportunities for Indiana’s offense to take advantage of the open lanes to goal. Besides open paths that allowed the Hoosiers to push the game into overtime, Indiana had almost a dozen shots that either went slightly wide or hit the posts.

Had the Hoosiers been more on target, the game could have turned out very differently and not in the Wolverines favor.

“(Junior goalkeeeper Julie Campbell) needed to make two or three more saves in critical moments,” said Michigan coach Marcelo Leonardi. “Defensively we need to be more active on two-player zones to shut them out.”

Since the beginning of the season, Leonardi has been pushing for a more cohesive defensive structure, and there were points Saturday at which that vision almost came to fruition. Thomason had three impressive blocks and won an intense battle for an open ball in front of the Wolverine cage. Senior defender Elizabeth Williams was a strong force organizing her defenders and picking up open marks. When every player was marked, the Hoosiers rarely got a shot on frame, most going comically wide or high.

“I thought our defense was about a B-plus today,” Leonardi said. “I thought we could have had some more saves in the cage, and I thought we gave up a few goals that could have been challenged.”

Whether that grade will be acceptable moving forward remains up in the air. It proved to be good enough thanks to senior utility player Danielle Robinson’s goal in sudden-death overtime.

Most likely, though, Michigan will need to improve if it wants to come out on top for the remainder of its affairs.

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