LOS ANGELES -- Junior Allison Skaggs gave her all to score a game-winning goal with four seconds left, propelling the No. 4-ranked the University of Michigan water polo team to a 5-4 victory over No. 6 Arizona State in the first game of the NCAA Tournament on Friday (May 13) at Spieker Aquatics Center.
With the game tied at 4-4, sophomore Caroline Anderson lobbed a pass inside from deep hoping one of her teammates could corral it and score. The ball was knocked away in front of the cage and Skaggs was able to beat ASU goalkeeper Mia Rycraw to the ball, scooping the ball with her right hand and sending it into the goal.
Arizona State's shot went wide of the goal and U-M became the first program from the East to make the NCAA Semifinals in an eight-team field.
Several individuals along with Skaggs stepped up big. Senior goalkeeper Julia Campbell allowed just four goals while making eight saves in the contest, several in big moments. Freshman Amy Ridge provided solid minutes with senior Ali Thomason on the bench with three exclusions. Ridge scored a goal to make it 3-1, had an assist and won her first career sprint. Thomason and Danielle Johnson also added goals in the win.
But the big performer was Skaggs, who finished with two goals for her 15th multi-goal game of the year.
Michigan's defense was on point at the start of the game to set the tone. Arizona State did not get a shot off in the first four minutes and were held scoreless for the first 9:56 minutes.
The Wolverines built up a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Senior neuroscience major and CWPA Player of the Year Ali Thomason struck first, breaking away from the defense for an open counter attack goal at the 4:08 mark. U-M worked the ball around in the final minute of the period as freshman Amy Ridge found junior Allison Skaggs inside for a goal.
Midway through the second quarter was a key moment in the game. Thomason, who has the U-M single-season goals record, picked up her second exclusion and Leonardi was forced to sub in freshman Amy Ridge. ASU took advantage of the 6-on-5 opportunity with its first goal of the contest. On the next possession for U-M, Ridge came up big with her 18th goal of the season to make it 3-1 Michigan with 5:39 to play in the quarter.
That would be it for the first half scoring as both teams held each other scoreless the rest of the half and Michigan led 3-1 at the break. It was the second straight game the Wolverines have held its opponent to only one first-half goal.
Arizona State scored its second goal at the 5:32 mark in the third quarter. The goal followed a great opportunity for Michigan as Anderson got out on the counter attack following a Campbell save, but her shot hit the crossbar and came down to the goalkeeper.
The NCAA Elite 90 award winner Danielle Johnson put Michigan back on top by two goals at the 2:39 mark in the third period. She fired one from the left side of the goal off the goalkeeper's hands to make it 4-2 Michigan.
The Sun Devils had two 6-on-5 chances at the end of the third quarter. Following a timeout, Michigan's Anderson and Johnson each tipped the ball to force a turnover. The next time down ASU's Daisy Carter was wide open in the 2-meter but Campbell rose up high to make the block and keep it at 4-2 after three quarters.
Michigan had to play the entire fourth quarter without senior captain Thomason, who picked up her third ejection with 1:28 left in the third. Arizona State made things interesting with a power play goal right after an exclusion was called with 3:07 to play. U-M then went on a 6-on-5 with 2:32 left. Leonardi called timeout to set up a play, but Michigan could not get a shot off.
The Sun Devils tied the game at 4-4 with just 1:24 left in the game. ASU had three more chances to take the lead, but turned the ball over twice. The possession right before the game-winning goal ended with a steal by, you guessed it,Allison Skaggs.
The Wolverines have now reached the 30-win plateau for the sixth time in the 16 years of the program.