LEWISBURG, Pa. — The No. 7-ranked University of Michigan women’s water polo team closed out its 2021 regular season with a pair of decisive victories over Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) rivals, and will head into the postseason riding a 12-game win streak.
The Wolverines defeated host/No. 21 Bucknell University, 15-6, and followed that with a 20-3 victory over No. 25 Saint Francis University, led by Kata Utassy with a combined eight goals between the two contests. The wins were the 18th and 19th in a row in CWPA play for the Wolverines.
Utassy netted a three-goal hat trick in the first contest versus the Bison, and followed with five more goals in the second. Lola Ciruli and Elise Walker both posted hat tricks in the win over Saint Francis, with Ava Morrant and Maddie O’Reilly both tallying four goals between the two games.
Led by a hat trick from Utassy, five different Wolverines scored multiple goals as Michigan defeated No. 21 Bucknell, 14-5, in the Bison’s home pool. Goalkeeper Heidi Ritner commanded a defense that held the Bison to five-for-27 shooting, while contributing a cross-pool goal of her own to the Wolverines’ sixth game with at least 15 goals in their past nine contests.
For O’Reilly, she added to her CWPA 2021 season leads in both categories with 42 goals and 28 assists cumulatively.
Michigan got on the scoreboard first three minutes into the first quarter as Emily Ritter found the net off an assist from Erin Neustrom. Bucknell responded with its first goal on a power play, but the Wolverines would follow with a pair of unanswered goals. Utassy got the ball in transition and converted to give Michigan a 2-1 lead, and Libby Alsemgeest extended the U-M advantage to two goals, 3-1, moments later on an assist from Ciruli. The Bison once again scored in a power-play situation to close out the first quarter with a 3-2 Michigan advantage.
O’Reilly broke the game open in the second quarter as she netted back-to-back goals, putting the Wolverines into a commanding lead, 5-2, that would not again be threatened. Though Bucknell answered that goal, Michigan scored twice more in the quarter on Utassy goals and twice to open up the second half on goals from Pontré and Anne Rankin to extend the advantage to 9-3. Pontré’s goal came just one possession after Heidi Ritner made a crucial save on an open-water breakaway from Bucknell that may have turned the tide of the game.
After the Bison managed a goal in response, the Wolverines added another pair of goals to close out the third from Pontré and a cross-pool heave as time expired from Heidi Ritner that founds its way into the back of the net for an 11-4 advantage with one quarter of play remaining.
The final period saw goal-scoring from Emily Ritner, Morrant on two occasions — including once on a power play — and Walker as Michigan sealed the victory.
Again led in the scoring column by Utassy with five goals, the Wolverines posted their second-best scoring output of the 2021 season in a 20-3 victory over Saint Francis.
Ciruli and Walker posted three goals apiece, while Morant and O’Reilly chipped in two each. Kayla Barone was the leader in assists with four, while Utassy assisted on three goals.
Michigan wasted no time taking control of the contest, with Pontré and Rankin scoring goals on back-to-back possessions after the opening sprint. Moments later, Alsemgeest added another goal to extend Michigan’s early advantage, 3-0.
Saint Francis pulled to within two goals, 3-1, but the Wolverines rattled off four straight goals to end the first quarter. After scoring a hat trick in the first of the two games on the day, Utassy picked up where she left off with two consecutive goals to give Michigan a 5-1 lead. Kasey Umlauf closed out the first quarter with the first goal of her career to extend the Wolverines’ edge to 6-1.
There was no slowing down for Michigan in the second quarter, either. O’Reilly got the scoring started to give Michigan a 7-1 advantage, with Morrant lighting up the scoreboard moments later for an 8-1 lead. Utassy clinched her second hat trick of the day with back-to-back scores, including one on a penalty shot, to balloon the Wolverines’ edge to 10-1. The scoring surge continued with strikes from Ciruli and Walker to bring it to 12-1. Saint Francis broke Michigan’s streak of nine unanswered scores with a power play goal near the end of the half to climb within 10 goals, 12-2. The Wolverines would have the last word before the half as Ciruli added her second of the day for a 13-2 lead entering the half.
By comparison, the third quarter was relatively slower for the Wolverines as they netted just four goals in the period — compared to six in the first and seven in the second — but they allowed just one score from Saint Francis. Utassy found the net for the fourth time in the game and the seventh time on the day between the two games to bring it to 14-2, with Morrant, O’Reilly and Walker adding their second individual goals of the contest to bring it to 17-3 heading into the final quarter of play.
Ciruli and Walker both clinched hat tricks as the fourth quarter got underway to extend Michigan’s edge to 19-3, and Utassy made it 20 goals to close out the scoring with her fifth of the game and eighth of the day.
Release courtesy University of Michigan Athletics Communications