TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan water polo team jumped ahead early and never looked back to defeat No. 7 the University of California-Irvine, 7-6, for the Wolverines’ first win of the 2022 campaign at the Arizona State Cross Conference Challenge in the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center.
Fifth-year Maddie O’Reilly scored the second of her two goals in the waning moments of the game, finding the back of the cage with 1:39 to go off an assist from senior captain Erin Neustrom to put the Wolverines up by two goals. UC-Irvine scored with just 25 seconds remaining to bring the score within one, but the final horn sounded to end the contest.
The Wolverines and Anteaters started the game in a deadlock, going scoreless until the final minute of the first quarter. Junior Sophie Tovani got Michigan on the board with her first goal of the season with just eight seconds to go in the opening stanza.
O’Reilly scored her first goal of the day with a second-period tally to put U-M ahead 2-0, but UCI struck back with its first goal just 30 seconds later. Senior Kayla Barone pushed the advantage back to two after beating the Anteater goalie for her third goal of the season. UC-Irvine ended the half with two straight goals to send the squads to halftime tied at three-all.
Senior Ava Morrantfound the back of the net halfway through the third quarter, thanks to a feed from O’Reilly, to put U-M back on top 4-3. After the Anteaters tied the score at 4, Morrant put Michigan ahead again, 5-4, with her second score of the quarter.
Michigan carried their one-score lead to the fourth quarter, but UC Irvine knotted the score at 5 with five minutes left in the game. That set the stage for Neustrom and O’Reilly, as the two connected for the first time in the quarter with 3:14 to play, as Neustrom scored her first goal of the season off an O’Reilly assist. The duo reversed roles for Michigan’s final goal, with O’Reilly finding the back of the net in what ended up being the decisive goal of the game.
The goalie tandem of Sophie Jackson and Alex Brown split the game in net for the Wolverines, with Jackson picking up the win and making three saves. Brown also played well for U-M, stopping six Anteater shots while also registering a steal.
Release courtesy University of Michigan Athletics Communications