Top Teams Zero In On Each Other
Feb. 3, 2009
By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com
While Water Polo is a sport primarily played on the West Coast, there is a power rising in the Midwest as the Wolverines of Ann Arbor look ready to crash the Left Coast party. They signaled their intent to make waves on the opening weekend of the season by taking down the then seventh-ranked Spartans of San Jose State. It was a nice feather in the cap for a veteran Michigan squad that is looking to build off last season’s sixth-place NCAA tournament finish as that win moved the Wolverines into the top eight nationally.
Matt Anderson became the second coach in the history of the Michigan program when he assumed the duties in September of 2002. In that short period of time, he has transformed a program that has always been thought of as a “sleeping giant” into a perennial power. He has twice been named CWPA Coach of the Year and has produced fifteen All-Americans and an Olympian in Betsey Armstrong during his short tenure. His teams have advanced to the NCAA tournament twice. I spoke with Coach Anderson about this year’s squad which might be the best he has ever had.
Your team got a marquee win over San Jose State last weekend. How important was it to claim a top ten scalp this early in the season?
We played three top 10 teams this past weekend and I stressed to the team the importance of bouncing back from each contest and playing well in the next one. I think this shows that we can beat a talented top 10 team. We wanted to represent Michigan and the East well. It was special for me personally as it came against my alma mater. I worked for Lou Tully who is a great coach and I know their staff very well.
What does your team have to do to win the CWPA?
We have to stay healthy and we need to understand when you get into a single game situation that anything can happen. In those single-game elimination contests, we need to play well from the get go.
Can you tell us a little bit about Julie Hyrne and what makes her the special player that she is?
Julie is a competitor. She is the type of person that judges her success by whether or not the team wins. If the team loses, Julie will think she did not play well even if she was outstanding. Julie wants the responsibility of winning on her shoulders. She is a complete player. From going inside to driving to playing defense, she does everything well.
Leah Robertson is another special player on your roster. What makes her the outstanding player that she is?
Leah Robertson is a special player. I attribute a lot of that to her great high school coach Bill Barnett (coach at Newport Harbor HS). She has a knack for the water polo ball. Leah wants to be in the middle of the action. While Leah can score, she really does everything outside of scoring very well. She is the best at all of the little things that make a team win.
Is there any freshman that you think might make an impact this season?
Meaghan Cobb is a local product from Hudsonville, Mich. and she had a nice start to her season. Meaghan put up a hat trick against Colorado State and followed that up with a goal against UCLA.
Can you tell us a bit about the class you recently signed in the November period?
I am extremely happy with our recruiting class. In these difficult economic times, it is tough to find players who are willing to go out of state. I had my eye on Alex Adamson for awhile. While I am happy with our goalie situation, I really wanted to land her. Katie Cutler is from Florida and we have had real success from that state as Cara Reitz and Alison Mandel are both from Florida as well. Kiki Golden comes from the Diablo Water Polo Club and Monte Vista High School. Kiki is somebody that probably got overshadowed by some of her better known teammates; however I think Kiki Golden has the potential to be as good as any player in the country.
Last weekend, the defending NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins opened their campaign in dominant fashion and this week one of their biggest challengers did the same. The second-ranked Stanford Cardinal dominated a Santa Clara team that is just on the outskirts of the national Top 20. Stanford jumped out to a 6-1 first quarter lead and was substituting freely while building up a lead that was 14-1 after three stanzas. The Cardinal’s scoring was balanced as they received four goals from Alex Koran, three from Kelly Eaton and two each from Kira Hillman, Kim Krueger and promising freshman Alyssa Lo.
Seventh-ranked Arizona State played three ranked opponents this weekend and emerged victorious in all three encounters. Their first game of the weekend came against 15th-ranked Cal State Bakersfield. A 5-2 third quarter broke open the game and gave the Sun Devils a lead they would never relinquish as they upended the Roadrunners 10-7. Kelly Phelps had three goals in the contest to lead the way. The second contest was against 13th-ranked Cal State Northridge and was a rematch of their one-goal thriller at the Michigan Kickoff. Arizona State would once again win a squeaker as Addison McGrath pumped in two scores to lead the Sun Devils to a 7-6 victory. In this contest, Arizona State jumped out to a 5-1 halftime lead and was then able to hold on for the win. The Sun Devils final victory of the weekend came on Sunday against 12th-ranked Hartwick. Addison McGrath, Lynlee Smith and Nikki Unbehaun each scored four goals to lead Arizona State to a 16-6 win. With these three wins, the Sun Devils moved to an impressive 6-0 to start the season. These Sun Devils face first-ranked USC next week in their first game of the Stanford Invitational in what should be an outstanding matchup.
The NorCal Cup was played this weekend at Santa Clara and two teams looked very impressive in going undefeated against the field. Those two teams were fourth-ranked Hawaii and fifth-ranked California. Hawaii played Sonoma State, ninth-ranked UC Davis, CSU Monterey and Santa Clara. They defeated Sonoma State, CSU Monterey and Santa Clara by a combined score of 51-9. Their only close encounter was against ninth-ranked UC Davis. Hawaii won 11-7 as they were successfully able to build a small lead and never surrender it the entire way. Former Dutch Junior National team member Leone van der Molen and Saara Majuri each had three goals in the victory.
California played CSU Monterey, Sonoma State, Pacific and ninth-ranked UC Davis at the NorCal Cup. Like Hawaii, California rolled through three of their contests as they beat CSU Monterey, Sonoma State and Pacific by a combined score of 49-7. Their contest against UC Davis was a tight, physical affair that the Golden Bears were able to win by a 9-7 count. The Golden Bears used a 4-0 second quarter to build a lead that they would not surrender the rest of the contest. Freshman and Canadian Senior National team member Emily Csikos had three goals to lead the way for the Golden Bears. Meghan Corso also chipped two goals for a California team that is now 7-0 to start the season.
Player to Watch
Addison McGrath, Arizona State, Sr.: A first-team All-American from last season, McGrath is off to a torrid start scoring multiple goals in all six of Arizona State’s contests. A definite contender for NCAA Player of the Year, McGrath will face another major contender for the award next week in USC’s Kami Craig.
Contest To Keep An Eye On
The Stanford Invitational is this weekend and one of the first matchups is an appetizing clash between top-ranked USC and seventh-ranked Arizona State. Arizona State has gotten out of the gate fast to start this season and is boasting an upgraded roster as New Zealand National team member Lynlee Smith has been outstanding for the Sun Devils. Her addition to a squad that already had legitimate stars in McGrath and Kelly Phelps make the Sun Devils a real threat to pull the upset.