The No. 7 Michigan women’s water polo team (24-8 overall, 12-0 Collegiate Water Polo Association) rounded out the regular season with a 4-0 weekend performance, where its offensive depth and improved defensive tactics shined.
In particular, fifth-years Sofie Pontré and Maddie O’Reilly and senior Maddy Steere were the stars of the show.
After some early-season woes, the Wolverines and their stars kept their perfect CWPA record intact after knocking off three top 25 opponents.
Michigan started Saturday off against No. 22 Brown (21-11, 7-4) in Cambridge, Mass., for their second matchup of the season, and this time was no different. The Wolverines dominated, 11-6, led by Pontré and O’Reilly with a hat trick each.
“I think Sofie Pontré is doing a great job,” Michigan coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi said. “She was very productive attacking them on the offense and the defense today.”
Pontré proved her valued with six goals in the weekend.
O’Reilly, who had a career-high six goals last time she played Saint Francis, notched in 10 goals during the four matchups, continuing to make her offensive prowess known.
“O’Reilly continues to be on a scoring barrage,” Leonardi said. “She is a finishing attacker who does a really good job of finding the back of the net.”
The team kept the momentum rolling into another rematch against Princeton (19-9, 8-4), defeating it, 16-6, after Michigan racked up nine goals in the second half. O’Reilly continued her scoring streak with back-to-back goals in the first quarter to give the Wolverines an early lead.
The following day, Michigan took care of No. 19 Harvard (20-6, 8-3), 15-9, and Saint Francis (9-19, 2-7), 14-3.
Last weekend, the Wolverines’ defense struggled in their matchups against the Tigers and Crimson, giving up 11 and 10 goals, respectively. This time, they were cleaner and more focused.
“Overall, I thought we played really well,” Leonardi said. “Especially defensively — we held Brown and Princeton to six, Harvard to nine and Saint Francis to 3.”
By focusing on matchups and defensive schemes, Michigan was able to make quick improvements going into its final matches of regular season play. The weekend served as prep for the upcoming championship, as the Wolverines got a chance to refine their tactical play and build on their performance against teams they had previously beat.
With the regular season over, Michigan’s perfect weekend rewarded it with the number one seed heading into the CWPA Championships next weekend. The Wolverines’ preparation and defensive efforts have earned them a first-round bye as well.
“It gives us a chance to see who we are going to play and prep and scout,” Leonardi said. “It helps us carry that momentum into the tournament.”
The Wolverines had six players scoring at least two goals each, proving their worthiness of their seed with a strong showcase of offensive dynamics.
Steere was integral to that performance, as she scored four goals each against Princeton and Harvard to add to a strong showing on defense.
“It’s not just the stats,” Leonardi said. “She did have four goals against Princeton, but she also does a lot for us on both sides of the pool.
Steere — The 2019 CWPA Player of the year — put on a clinic on how to be an all-around player, racking up steals and goals.
Michigan heads into the CWPA Championship after a confidence-boosting weekend and will follow it up with the 2022 NCAA Championship hosted at home.
With their perfect record in conference play, the Wolverines are hoping their recent improvements will carry them to a championship run.