TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan water polo team finished the Arizona State Cross Conference Challenge in style by defeating host/No. 4 Arizona State University, 10-8, in an overtime thriller prior to topping No. 10 Fresno State University, 9-7, at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center.
Facing the host Sun Devils, Michigan broke an eight-all tie midway through the second quarter thanks to sixth-year senior Maddy Steere‘s second goal of the day with 1:39 to go. Senior goalie Sophie Jackson turned aside a dangerous ASU attack to maintain the lead on the next possession, and fifth-year senior Maddie O’Reilly put the game out of reach for the Wolverines moments later.
The teams were locked in a back-and-forth contest from the start, as Arizona State scored the first goal of the game just 30 seconds into action and then went up 2-0 at the 5:31 mark. The Wolverines struck back with three straight goals, two of which came from senior captain Erin Neustrom. Also finding the back of the cage was fifth-year Sofie Pontré, who scored a power-play goal off an assist from Kata Utassy.
Arizona State tied up the score with just 22 seconds remaining in the first half, sending the teams into the break tied at three-all.
The second half followed a similar script as the first, as ASU scored the first two goals of the half to take a 5-3 lead. Senior Kayla Barone took over the scoring responsibilities for the Wolverines, scoring the next three goals for Michigan, the last of which tied the score at six-all early in the fourth quarter.
U-M fell behind once again when Arizona State converted on a penalty-shot attempt, but was able to tie the score at 7 after a goal from sophomore Elise Walker. The Sun Devils pulled ahead again just a minute later, but the Wolverines were able to strike back in the final minute of regulation.
Steere, working the middle of the offense, re-directed a pass from O’Reilly to beat the keeper and tie the score at eight-all. The play set up the heroics that same duo would play in extra time.
Jackson, who played in goal the second half and overtime, picked up the win in goal for the Wolverines, finishing with eight saves. Alex Brown played the first half and made five saves. Michigan finished the game with a better shooting percentage (.357 to .276) than Arizona State, and dominated in power-play percentage (.500 to .091).
The Wolverines put together an all-around effort in the final game of the ASU Cross Conference Challenge, topping No. 10 Fresno State by a 9-7 count.
Only Barone found the back of the net more than once in the day’s second game, scoring twice in the first half to help Michigan build a lead.
As with their first game of the day, the Wolverines found themselves in a hole in the first quarter. Steere netted the first goal of the game off a penalty shot, but Fresno State responded with two goals to take the lead with 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Barone evened the score with her first tally of the day just 15 seconds later, and the two teams went tied 2-2 into the second quarter.
Fresno State scored the first goal of the second period, but Michigan responded by scoring the next three to take a 5-3 lead into halftime. Utassy converted a penalty shot to tie the score at 3, and Barone gave the Maize and Blue the lead for good with her second goal of the day. O’Reilly pushed the lead to 5-3 with a goal off an assist from senior Ava Morrant.
Michigan started the second half with a goal to make it a 4-0 run over the Bulldogs, as senior Neustrom found glory thanks to a helper from Steere. Fresno State stopped Michigan’s scoring run with a third quarter goal, but Pontré pushed the Wolverines back ahead by three with a power play goal just a few possessions later.
With time waning in the third quarter, the Bulldogs once again cut the lead to two by scoring with just 27 seconds left. Michigan responded, as Walker scored with three ticks left on the clock to push U-M’s lead to 8-5.
The Bulldogs outscored the Wolverines 2-1 in the final frame, but it was not enough to overcome the Michigan lead. Sophomore Lola Ciruli tallied the Wolverines’ goal in the fourth quarter, her first of the 2022 campaign.
Michigan once again used the goalie tandem of Brown and Jackson to anchor the defense, and both showed they were up to task. Brown made nine saves in the first half, and Jackson came in relief to make six saves in the second.
Release courtesy University of Michigan Athletics Communications