On the back of a successful season that has seen its ups and downs, the No. 7 Michigan water polo team (20-8 overall, 8-0 Collegiate Water Polo Association) has shown an eagerness to prove itself, especially given its recorded struggles against ranked teams.
The Wolverines have recorded eight losses out of 19 matches against top 25 teams. Faced with that reality, they were forced into finding their footing again.
This time, they were successful.
Michigan utilized this weekend to regain its momentum once more, re-establishing its stance as a winning team by completing a perfect weekend at Princeton.
The Wolverines beat No. 22 Harvard (17-5 overall, 5-2 Collegiate Water Polo Association) with a 12-10 score, following this performance with another decisive 14-7 win against Bucknell (9-13 overall, 3-7 Collegiate Water Polo Association). They carried this performance into Sunday, where they faced Mount St. Mary’s (8-22 overall, 1-11 Collegiate Water Polo Association) and No. 19 Princeton (18-7 overall, 7-2 Collegiate Water Polo Association).
With four players scoring more than once, Michigan proved its readiness for a higher level of competition against Bucknell’s Mountaineers. Sixteen steals and 28 points later, the Wolverines walked away 15-1, eager to face Princeton.
Their momentum led them to further success. After a brief struggle in the first quarter, Michigan settled into a groove that gave them the lead against the Tigers. Princeton kept pace until the fourth quarter, where the Wolverines were able to pull ahead in the final minutes and close out their weekend with a final score of 16-11, ending without a defeat.
“There was a couple games where we had eleven people score goals,” Michigan coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi said. “Our depth really emerged, we gained a lot of confidence.”
The accomplishments over the weekend came from an entire team-wide effort, with veterans and young players alike making waves against Michigan’s opponents. The players left with increased confidence after winning four meaningful conference matchups.
“I’m very impressed with our team,” senior attacker Ava Morrant said. “We’ve never been able to play with such depth — and not in a nail-biting way, we’re at that place where we’re really going to hit a jump as a team.”
One more weekend is all that remains before the conference championship. The following weekend, the Wolverines will host the 2022 NCAA Championship. The weekend sweep puts them in an optimal spot moving into these events.
Though, instead of looking towards the championships, Michigan still has to focus on winning its remaining matches to get there.
“Our level of preparation is game-by-game,” Leonardi said. “Our first preparation will be for Brown.”