Going for Three: No. 7 Michigan Downs Princeton 12-8 to Earn Third Straight Eastern Title Game Appearance
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- For the second time in the past three years, a team will go for three straight Eastern Championship titles as No. 7 Michigan used three goals from Meagan Cobb (So., Hudsonville, Mich./Hudsonville) to cage the Tigers and advance to the 2010 Eastern Championship title game.
Michigan will look to make history as the Wolverines can become the first program since Slippery Rock University (1988-96) to win three straight Eastern Championship after claiming the 2008 and 2009 crowns. Historically, it is the second time in three years a team will have a chance to "three-peat" as Hartwick College captured the 2006 and 2007 crowns before falling to Michigan in Ann Arbor to start the Wolverines reign a top the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
Overall, the Maize and Blue will be seeking its fifth Eastern crown after capturing the 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2009 crowns. Further, if Michigan can win the championship, it will mark the third time in program history a rookie goaltender has led them to the promised land as Betsey Armstrong (2002) and Brittany May (2005) achieved the feat and can be joined by Alex Adamson (Fr., Coronado, Calif./Coronado).
Against Princeton, Michigan struggled against the Tigers' defensive pressure and offensive execution early on, but rallied to take the four goal victory.
The Wolverines appeared primed to make the semifinals a necessary, but not very competitive, step in the opening moments of the contest as Keller Felt (Jr., La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla) rattled the cage with a man-up score at 7:15 before Lauren Orth (Jr., Poway, Calif./Poway) popped a five-meter penalty shot past Princeton goalie Kristen Ward (So., Sacramento, Calif./St. Francis) at 6:37 to give Michigan a 2-0 lead.
However, the Tigers leapt on Maize and Blue mistakes to go on a 3-0 run to the first period horn as Lauren Brunner (Jr., Sacramento, Calif./St. Francis) drilled an outside shot inside the left post on a man-up chance at 4:02 to ignite Princeton's offense. The run continued as Audrey Zak (So., Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad) skipped a shot from eight-meters out which eluded Adamson to tie the game at 2-2 at the 3:03 mark, before Saranna Soroka (Fr., Redondo Beach, Calif./Chadwick School) shook free of her defender, accepted a crossing pass and ripped a line-drive into the cage to put the Tigers in front 3-2 with 48 seconds left in the opening period.
Michigan tied the game at 3-all to open the second period when Lauren Colton (Fr., Tustin, Calif./Tesoro) tossed a free-throw seven meters to the back of the cage 18 seconds into the new period. Princeton went back in front at 4-3 with a marker by Brittany Zwirner (Fr., Santa Ana, Calif./Foothill) off a crossing-pass at the 2:46 mark, but the Cobb's claws came out in the final two minutes of play. Slashing her way through the Tigers' defense, she dodged, bobbed and moved her way to record backhand goals at 2:02 and 19 seconds to turn an apparent first half deficit into a 5-4 lead at the break.
The goals turned the tide of the game, and potentially the fortune of Michigan's season as Colton rediscovered the cage on a man-up chance with 7:27 left in the third period and Cobb completed her hat-trick by turning her defender at two-meters and wristing a shot into the twine at 5:14 to make it a 7-4 game. Princeton moved back to within two goals at 4:54 on an outside shot by Zwirner, but Orth scored on the power play at 4:28 to return the scoreboard to a three-goal spread.
Michigan and Princeton traded goals by their respective division Most Valuable Players to the end of the third period as Southern Division Player of the Year Phoebe Champion (Sr., Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) lit up the scoreboard on a man-up at 1:40 and Western Division Player of the Year Leah Robertson (Sr., Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor) returned the favor with a counter goal with 35 seconds left in the period to make it 9-6 and net the eventual game-winner.
The margin was too much for the Tigers to overcome down the stretch as Princeton was unable to overcome the Wolverines' defensive presence nor capable of stopping Michigan's offense in falling 12-8 and earning a stop in the third place game.
In cage, Adamson stopped three shots to pick up the win, while Ward blocked down seven shots for the Tigers.
Michigan advances to face either No. 11 Hartwick College or No. 14 Indiana University in the Eastern title game at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2 at the University of Maryland's Eppley Recreation Center. A Michigan-Hartwick title game would mark the third conseuctive season the Wolverines and Hawks have clashed for the CWPA crown and an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. In addition, it could provide an interesting substory as Hartwick could avenge Michigan ended the Hawks quest for three consecutive titles from 2007 by returning the favor in 2010.
An Indiana-Michigan title affair will mark the second time the two Western Division foes will have clashed for the Eastern title as the Wolverines defeated the Hoosiers in 2005 for the crown.
Princeton will face the loser of the Indiana-Hartwick semifinal at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday in the third place game. To date, Princeton is 0-1 against Hartwick this season (10-8 L) and has not faced the Hoosiers yet in 2010.
|No. 7 University of Michigan||2||3||4||3||--||12|
Michigan Goals: Meagan Cobb (3); Lauren Colton (2); Lauren Orth (2); Leah Robertson (2); Keller Felt; Alison Mantel;
Princeton Goals: Phoebe Champion (3); Brittany Zwirner (2); Saranna Soroka; Audrey Zak; Lauren Brunner
Saves: Michigan - Alex Adamson (3) ; Princeton - Kristen Ward (7)
Exclusions: Michigan - 10 ; Princeton - 9
Advantage Opportunities: Michigan - 4-for-9 ; Princeton - 3-for-10
Sprints: Michigan - 4-for-4 ; Princeton - 0-for-4
Michigan will appear in its sixth title game in the last seven years