NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The No. 7 University of Michigan water polo team knew coming in of the long term importance of the UCI Invitational.
With all the top teams in the nation competing in one tournament, UCI finishes play a big factor in determining seeds for the NCAA Championships. The first game of the weekend would be the most important one to date for Team 16. A win would guarantee them a top eight finish, while with a loss the best they could finish was ninth.
Game 1: Michigan 13, San Jose State 9
The Wolverines started out with No. 11 San Jose State, a team they have defeated twice already this year. However, the second game was much closer than the first and it is always hard to beat the same team three times.
The two teams were scoreless for over five minutes until Michigan junior Allison Skaggs, a sports management major from just down the road in Lake Forest, put U-M on the board first. The Spartans took a 2-1 lead, but a last-second power play goal by senior Ali Thomasonwould shift the momentum heavily towards the Wolverines.
U-M scored four straight goals in the second period to build a 6-2 lead. Thomason added two more power play goals to give her a hat trick.
The score got back to 6-4 in the third, but freshman Julia Sellers had two third-period goals to help U-M take a 9-5 lead into the fourth. It was Sellers’ first multi-goal game in college.
Skaggs put the exclamation point on with two goals in the fourth to give her a season-best four goals with one assist. Freshman Kim Johnson had a hat trick as well to go with one assist. Sophomore Caroline Anderson had one goal and three assists. Senior Julia Campbell made eight saves.
The 13-9 win was the biggest of the year for the Wolverines, who have 11 wins over ranked opponents. This one put them in the winners bracket and gave them a shot at No. 2 UCLA.
Game 2: UCLA 14, Michigan 8
If the clock had stopped after the third quarter in the Michigan-UCLA game, it would have been a thrilling back-and-forth showdown.
The Bruins scored five unanswered goals in the last six minutes to turn a one-goal game into a big win.
Michigan trailed 8-7 heading into the fourth period. UCLA won its first sprint of the game, drew and exclusion and had a two-goal lead just 27 seconds in. Thomason came back to cut it to one again with a skip shot goal at the 6:55 mark. U-M got a stop on the next possession but couldn’t capitalize and UCLA started to roll from there.
The two teams traded goals on the way to a 3-3 first quarter. UCLA connected on two straight at the start of the second, but Michigan battled back to tie it at 5-5 with 2:29 left in the first half. The Bruins used two goals within less than a minute of each other to take a 7-5 halftime lead.
Michigan’s defense was strong in the third period. Leonardi mixed up defensive looks, the team forced some turnovers and Campbell made a couple of shots in goal to help them hold UCLA to only one goal in the period. However, the defense couldn’t sustain in the fourth and the Wolverines would go down 14-8.
Thomason was the only player with double figures in goals, recording her second hat trick of the day. Anderson added three assists to her goal, giving her six assists total on the day. Campbell made four saves.
Michigan will be at UC Irvine’s Anteater Aquatics Complex for its first game on Sunday. The Wolverines will face another top five team as they battle No. 3 Cal at 9:15 a.m. PT,
Swimming news courtesy of Michigan Water Polo.