May 2, 2010

Courtesy of Indiana

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The No. 14 Indiana Hoosiers women's water polo team (21-10) earned a spot in the 2010 CWPA Eastern Championship first place game after knocking off No. 2 seed/No. 11 nationally-ranked Hartwick, 8-7, in the semifinals on Saturday. The Hoosiers will take on No. 1 seed Michigan at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday with the conference crown and a trip to the NCAA Championship on the line.

"It was a great win for this team," said Indiana head coach Barry King. "This group has put in a lot of hard work this season and it's nice to see them getting rewarded for it."

Nicole Redder led the charge for the No. 3 seed Hoosiers with three goals. Kelly Palmberg scored a pair, while Kara Butler, Hanna Eimstad, and Lauren Wyckoff each scored one to round out the attack.

Cassie Wyckoff played a phenomenal game in the cage, making eight saves on 26 Hartwick shot attempts. Wyckoff was the backbone of a stout Indiana defense that denied Hartwick on 12 of their 14 power play opportunities. She also became the sixth Hoosier to record 200 saves in a season, as she now has a total of 205 in her sophomore campaign.

The Hoosiers quickly gained a two goal lead in the opening minutes of the contest with goals from Redder and Lauren Wyckoff. Redder got on the board with a post-up turnaround shot after an entry by Eimstad. Wyckoff then capitalized on one of her two earned five-meter fouls by firing in a penalty shot into the upper left corner of the net to give Indiana a 2-0 lead at the 5:55 mark of the first period.

Hartwick added their only goal of the first quarter on a counter attack with 56 seconds left to make it 2-1 heading into the second.

Palmberg dished the ball to Butler in the post 30 seconds into the second frame, which she converted for the third Hoosier goal. Butler has scored at least one goal in five consecutive games. The Hawks came back with a power play goal at the 5:09 mark of the quarter to pull within one.

Redder notched her second goal of the contest with a power play conversion of her own, as she launched a shot past the Hartwick goalkeeper after an assist by Wyckoff.

The Hawks would not let Indiana separate in the second quarter as they once again answered with a long goal after a rebounded miss to make it a one goal Indiana lead with 2:08 left in the half. Palmberg returned the lead to two 17 seconds later, scoring on a quick backhand strike on the assist by Redder.

Indiana immediately established control in the third period, as they expanded the lead to 7-3 after goals by Eimstad and Redder. Eimstad scored from close-range after a short pass from Wyckoff. Redder found the net on a backhand lob that sailed over the Hartwick goalkeeper. The performance by Redder is the 10th contest this season that she has recorded three or more goals.

The Hawks would not go down without a fight, scoring a pair of goals in the last 2:09 of the third quarter to cut the Indiana lead to 7-5.

The fourth period featured both teams locking down on the defensive end, as neither team got on the board until the 3:10 mark when Hartwick converted from the post to make it 7-6.

Palmberg came through in the clutch with a power play goal from deep after Wyckoff battled down low to earn the six-on-five to give the Hoosiers an 8-6 advantage with under two minutes to go. Wyckoff drew three kick-outs in the contest, to go along with two earned five-meter fouls.

The Hawks scored their final goal with 59 seconds remaining. Cassie Wyckoff came up with a big stop in the last minute and the Hoosiers controlled the ball the rest of the way to pick up the semifinal victory.

Sunday's title game against Michigan will mark Indiana's third appearance in the Eastern Championship finals since joining the CWPA in 2001. The Hoosiers won the tournament in 2003, advancing to the NCAA Championship.