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TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan water polo team fell behind No. 5 University of California early and never fully recovered, falling 12-8 to the Golden Bears at Arizona State University’s Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in the Wolverines’ season-opening game at the ASU Cross Conference Challenge.

The Wolverines got off to a sluggish start in the first quarter, trailing 4-1 after the first eight minutes of play. Sophomore Elise Walker scored the first goal of the season for Michigan (0-1), coming off an assist from fellow sophomore Kata Utassy.

Michigan managed to cut the deficit to just two, 4-2, early in the second quarter thanks to a goal from senior Kayla Barone, but Cal (1-0) struck back with two goals in less than a minute to widen its lead to 6-2. After four minutes of scoreless play, the Golden Bears struck again as the halftime horn neared, finding the back of the net on back-to-back possessions to push the lead to 8-2 by halftime.

Cal came out of the break and scored the first goal of the second half, but the Wolverines struck back with two of their own to narrow the deficit to 9-4. Graduate student Maddie O’Reilly netted her first goal of the campaign on a penalty shot, while Barone added her second of the game a few minutes later off an assist from senior captain Ava Morrant.

Just moments after Barone’s second goal of the game, Cal netted two more goals to push the game to its widest margin at 11-4. Michigan continued to fight, as sixth-year Maddie Steere scored on a power play for her first tally of the campaign, and Walker notched a power-play goal just 49 seconds later for her second goal of the game to make it 11-6.

Cal scored its final goal of the game two minutes into the final period to make the score 12-6, but the Wolverines continued to apply pressure. Utassy scored her second goal of the day on a penalty shot, and Steere added her second with just one minute remaining in the game to bring the score to its final of 12-8.

Michigan finished two-for-two on penalty shots for the contest, but shot just .308 (eight-for-26) from the field for the game, while Cal had a.571 (12-of-21) mark.

Release courtesy University of Michigan Athletics Communications

Collegiate Water Polo Association