No. 5 UC-San Diego Downs No. 10 Michigan 12-9 in Fifth Place Game at 2008 NCAA Championship

Brittany May made 10 saves for Michigan against UC-San Diego
Brittany May made 10 saves for Michigan against UC-San Diego

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Jenna Schuster (Jr., Upland, Calif./Upland), Erinn Greenwood (Jr., Sanger, Calif./Buchanan) and Anna Gonzales (Jr., Fresno, Calif./Clovis West) recorded hat-tricks to lead the No. 5-nationally ranked Aztecs of San Diego State University to a 12-9 victory over the No. 10 ranked Wolverines of the University of Michigan in the fifth place game of the 2008 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Women's Water Polo Championship at Avery Stadium on the campus of Stanford University.

In a game marked by 22 exclusions, 58 shots and 21 goals, the teams were evenly matched as the squads entered the fourth period tied at seven all before a 4-1 run by the Aztecs put San Diego State in front 11-8 with two minutes left on the game clock on the way to the 12-9 final.

San Diego State (31-7) jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to Michigan mistakes and fouls as the Aztecs used three exclusion chances and a penalty shot opportunity to build a dominating lead on the Wolverines.

Schuster opened up the scoring with 6:25 left in the first period as she took a pass from Becca Ur (Sr., Lompoc, Calif./Cabrillo) in the center on an exclusion opportunity, rose up and one timed a shot under the crossbar from two-meters for a 1-0 advantage.

The lead grew to 2-0 at 2:28 as Greenwood accepted a pass from Jessica Pace-Bowers (Jr., Santee, Calif./Santana) and one-timed a shot from two-meters inside the left post on an exclusion chance before Gonzazles ripped a penalty shot into the cage at 1:17 to give the Aztecs an imposing 3-0 lead.

Michigan (34-11) chipped into the margin at the 1:01 mark as two-meter Sarah Roberts (Fr., Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor) flipped a pass to Terri Bukofzer (So., Vernon Hills, Ill./Stevenson) in front of the cage as Bukofzer fought off two defenders while underwater, bobbed to the surface and rocketed a shot inside the far post to set the score at 3-1 after a period of play.

The Aztecs regained a three goal advantage with 5:02 left in the second period as Leah Robertson (So., Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor) drew a foul following a missed SDSU shot. San Diego State cashed in the opportunity in part due to luck as the Michigan defense had moved down the pool in preparation for going on offense. With all but Wolverine goalie Brittany May (Jr., Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara) at mid-tank or further, the Aztecs put up their fourth goal as Pace-Bowers crossed a ball to Greenwood who whistled a shot past May and into the cage on the two-on-one opportunity to go ahead 4-1.

Julie Hyrne (Jr., Sunnyvale, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) answered for the Wolverines with 1:38 left in the first half as she broke away on a fast-break exclusion chance and buried a shot inside the left post and under the outstretched arm of SDSU goalie Heather Fenske (Sr., Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) to pull Michigan to within 4-2.

However, SDSU regained a three goal lead before intermission as Greenwood slipped away from her defender, dropped back and uncorked a blast over two defenders from four meters out on an exclusion chance with seven seconds remaining in the second period for a 5-2 Aztecs' lead at halftime.

Carrie Frost (Jr., Saline, Mich./Saline) and Sharayah Hernandez (Jr., Pico Rivera, Calif./El Rancho) pulled the Wolverines back into the game in the opening minutes of the third period. At 5:03, Hernandez zipped a pass to Frost who was sunk by her defender before bobbing up and flipping a ball over Fenske to slice the margin to 5-3. Thirty-seven seconds later, the duo struck again as Hernandez lobbed a ball to Frost who one-timed the shot from inside two-meters on an exclusion opportunity to pull Michigan to within 5-4.

San Diego State regained a two goal lead at 4:15 as Gonzales registered a penalty shot to give the Aztecs back a two-goal lead, but Hernandez netted a goal and erased the penalty shot at the four minute mark as she ripped a cross cage shot from seven meters out to put Michigan back within a goal at 6-5.

The Wolverines evened the score at 3:16 as Robertson took a pass from Hyrne and skipped a shot inside the near post from the rightside on an exclusion chance to match SDSU at six-all.

San Diego State went back in front at 2:02 on an exclusion goal by Danielle Pelke (So., Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos), but the Wolverines slashed back as Hernandez zipped a cross-cage shot which eluded Fenske and was pushed across the goal line by a wave at the 52 seconds mark to tie the game at seven-all entering the fourth period.

The tie was short-lived as Gonzales buried her third penalty shot goal of the game at the 6:29 mark following a srum in front of the cage to put SDU ahead 8-7. San Diego State added to the lead at 5:38 with a put-back by Pace-Bowers courtesy a missed shot by Greenwood off the right post before Michigan's Cara Reitz (Fr., Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) ripped a shot cross the goalmouth and into the back of the cage off an assist from Robertson as an exclusion expired with 4:53 left on the game clock.

Leading 9-8, the Aztecs sealed the win with back-to-back scores as Schuster wristed a shot past May following a scrum in front of the cage at 4:14 and Ur backhanded in a goal at 2:04 to go in front 11-8.

Michigan attempted to make a valiant comeback in the final two minutes of play as Alison Mantel (Fr., Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) stole a pass at the Michigan seven meter mark and broke down the tank with Hernandez in tow. Racing against a San Diego State defender, Mantel crossed a pass to Hernandez on the left wing who hammered home the Wolverines' ninth goal to set the score at 11-9 SDSU with 1:22 to play.

However, Schuster ended any hopes of a Michigan comeback 14 seconds later with a marker at the 1:08 mark as neither team fired a shot over the final sixty seconds of play for the 12-9 final.

In goal, May finished with 10 saves, while Fenske blocked away seven shots, including five in the second half.

For her performance in the tournament, Robertson was named to the All-Tournament second team.

Michigan's sixth place finish at the 2008 NCAA Championship equals the program's best finish in the expanded eight-team bracket as the Wolverines placed sixth in 2005 following a 10-5 loss to Loyola Marymount University in the fifth place game.

Coverage of all 12 games of the NCAA Championship is available at the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship site.

First Team
Tanya Gandy (MVP) – UCLA
Courtney Mathewson – UCLA
Jillian Kraus – UCLA
Veronika Bartunkova – USC
Tumua Anae (GK) – USC
Miranda Nichols – USC
Jackie Gauthier – Stanford
Christi Raycraft – UC Davis

Second Team
Lauren Silver – Stanford
Heather West – Stanford
Brittany Fullen (Co-GK) – UCLA
Anne Belden – UCLA
Brittany Rowe – UCLA
Anna Gonzales – San Diego State
Jenna Schuster – San Diego State
Lindsay Kiyama – UC Davis
Leah Robertson – Michigan
Libby Davis (Co-GK) – Marist
Laura Condon – Pomona-Pitzer

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th -- Final
University of Michigan 1 1 5 2 -- 9
University of California-San Diego 3 2 2 5 -- 12

SDSU Goals -- Erinn Greenwood (3); Anna Gonzales (3); Jenna Schuster (3); Danielle Pelke; Jessica Pace-Bowers; Becca Ur

Michigan Goals -- Sharayah Hernandez (3); Carrie Frost (2); Leah Robertson; Terri Bukofzer; Julie Hyrne; Cara Reitz

SDSU Assists -- Jessica Pace-Bowers (2), Becca Ur

Michigan Assists -- Sharayah Hernandez (2); Leah Robertson (2); Julie Hyrne; Alison Mantel

Saves: SDSU - Heather Fenske 7 (0-2-2-3) ; Michigan - Brittany May 10 (1-4-2-3)

Exclusions: SDSU - 8 (1-2-4-1) ; Michigan - 14 (4-2-4-4)

Shots: SDSU - 28 (5-7-5-11) ; Michigan - 30 (5-7-8-10)

Sprints: SDSU - 1 (0-0-0-1) / Michigan - 3 (1-1-1-0)

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