Women’s Water Polo Nipped by Michigan’s Overtime Rally, 11-9, in CWPA Championship Opening Round

Courtesy of Collegiate Water Polo Association Communications

Michigan         3  2  2  2  2  -  11
Brown             5  1  1  2  0  -  9

Goals:
Rosen 3, Crowley 2, McNamara 1, Presant 1, Westerman 1, Woods 1
Saves: Shin 4

LEWISBURG, Pa. Brown junior Liz Rosen (San Anselmo, Calif.) tallied a hat trick but Michigan's Ali Thomason (So., San Rafael, Calif./Marin Catholic) scored four times, including twice in overtime, and won five-of-six sprints to earn Player of the Game honors and account for the difference as No. 20 University of Michigan survived a scare against Brown University to record an 11-9 OT win in the opening round of the 2014 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.

The Wolverines (20-12, 4-4 Western Division) trailed 9-8 in regulation with 3:49 to go in the fourth quarter.  However, Thomason saved the day for the Maize & Blue as the sophomore took advantage of an exclusion call against Rebecca Zak (Jr., Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad) with 3:03 left between Michigan and a first round loss to cash in on the ensuing six-on-five chance at 2:54 to even the score at nine-all.

Brown had a chance to claim victory in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter as Michigan's Audrey Pratt (Sr., Burlingame, Calif./Burlingame) swam to the corner with 20 seconds to go in regulation. However, the Wolverines' defense stiffened to keep the Bears at bay and force overtime.

In the pair of three-minute frames, it was a one woman show as Thomason netted the eventual golden goal with 1:48 left in the first  OT period before tacking on an insurance marker with 2:33 left in the second OT period for the 11-9 final.

Thomason led all scorers in the game as she accounted for nearly a quarter of Michigan's offensive production in the contest.  2014 Western Division Rookie of the Year Allison Skaggs (Fr., Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) joined Thomason by posting a hat-trick, while Presley Pender (So., Costa Mesa, Calif./Newport Harbor), Barbara Lanier (So., Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes), Pratt and Kelsey Nolan (Sr., San Jose, Calif./Leland) each chipped in single goals.

Across the tank, Rosen keyed the Brown (18-16, 5-3 Southern Division) attack with a hat-trick, while Shannon Crowley (Fr., Seal Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos) canned a pair of shots to finish with two goals. Sarah Presant (Sr., Poway, Calif./Bishops School), Brittany Westerman (Sr., Palo Alto, Calif./Deerfield Academy), Kate Woods (Sr., La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla) and Emily McNamara (Sr., Winters, Calif./St. Francis) account for the remainder of the Bears' strikes.

The game was a shoot-out for the majority of the first quarter as the Wolverines and Bears combined to post eight goals in the first eight minutes of competition.

Michigan jumped on the scoreboard first as Skaggs scooped up a ball and deposited a shot past Brown goalie Sarah Shinn (Sr., Fullerton, Calif./Sunny Hills) 21 seconds into the contest after Thomason won the opening sprint.  Crowley responded for the Bears 21 seconds later by rocking back and rocketing a volley past Wolverines' goalie Emily Browning (Fr., Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) at the 7:18 mark to balance the scoreboard.

However, the Maize & Blue made Brown see red at 6:01 as Crowley was excluded at 6:16 and Skaggs took advantage of the power-play chance to return Michigan to the lead at 2-1.

Crowley returned the favor to the Western Division Third Place squad as Hathaway Moore (Sr., Atherton, Calif./Saint Francis) was ejected at 4:27 to allow the San Anselmo native to slip free for a man-up tally at 4:14 to erase the deficit.

The goal proved to be a turning point in the game as Westerman and Woods followed with natural markers with 3:29 and 1:11 left in the first quarter to stake Brown to a 4-2 lead.

Michigan attempted to shave down or eradicate the margin prior to the conclusion of the quarter as Pender pushed in a man-up tally with 46 seconds left following the ejection of Rebecca Zak (Jr., Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad) with one minute on the period clock. 

Facing a potential Maize & Blue rally, Rosen cashed in on ejection calls against Pender and Nolan at the 35 seconds mark to net a man-up goal with 14 ticks on the clock for a 5-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Lanier sliced a score off the Wolverines' deficit at the 7:04 mark of the second quarter, but the exclusion of Elizabeth Williams (Jr., Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad) at 4:26 permitted Rosen to uncork a man-up strike at 4:10 to return Brown's lead to a pair at 6-4.

The Wolverines chopped the lead back down to a single marker prior to halftime as Nolan notched a man-up score at 3:53 in the wake of Marisa Kolokotronis (Fr., Sacramento, Calif./St. Francis) taking a short trip to the corner five seconds prior to the tally.

Brown appeared to regain the momentum in the dawning moments of the third quarter when McNamara found the back of the cage at 7:02, but Michigan converted on back-to-back six-on-five chances at 2:58 and 2:21 to even the score at seven-all by the conclusion of the period.

Down 7-5 following McNamara's marker, the Maize & Blue got the better of Brown thanks to ejection calls against Crowley (3:17) and Emma Dodd (So., Pasadena, Calif./Pasadena) (4:07) which Thomason (2:58) and Pratt (2:21) took full advantage of for back-to-back extra-man strikes.

Skaggs put Michigan back in front at 8-7 19 seconds into the fourth quarter, as the lead marked the first time the Wolverines were in front of Brown since a 2-1 scoring advantage with 6:01 left in the first quarter.

However, Brown appeared primed to bury Michigan's potential CWPA Championship title chances with a flourish as Rosen broke loose for a man-up score at 5:17 in the wake of a call against Pratt (5:32) to even the damage at eight-all before Presant powered through the defense to cash in on another six-on-five chance (3:49) after the Wolverines' Heidi Moreland (Fr., La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla) swam out of the field of play with 4:07 to go on the clock.

Trailing 9-8 with less than four minutes to play, Michigan turned its fate over to Thomason who keyed the team back into the semifinals for the 13th consecutive year dating back to a Fifth Place finish at the 2001 CWPA Championship claimed by Brown.

Between the pipes, Browning earned the win with six stops for Michigan, while Shinn suffered the setback with four saves for Brown.

The overtime game continues a weird trend of long games for the Bears at the CWPA Championship.

Brown has now appeared in seven overtime games at the event since 2000 with previous extra-long contests in 2000 (16-14 L vs. Villanova University), 2001 (11-10 W OT SD vs. Princeton University), 2005 (6-5 W OT SD vs. Bucknell), 2006 (10-8 L OT vs. Indiana University), 2010 (8-7 L OT vs. Bucknell) and 2012 (7-6 L OT vs. Princeton).

For Michigan, the win improves the Wolverines to 33-9 all-time at the CWPA Championship, including a 27-8 mark under head coach Matt Anderson, as the team is aiming to become the first time in league history to finish third in a division race and win the CWPA title.

Last year, Michigan placed third in the Western Division and advanced to the CWPA Championship title game at home in Ann Arbor, Mich., a pattern the squad hopes to repeat this season.

Courtesy the win, Michigan advances to a semifinal matchup against archrival and longtime nemesis No. 12 Indiana at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, at the Kinney Natatorium.

It will mark the fourth meeting between the squads in 2014 as the top seed Hoosiers have received the better of play in each contest to post 10-5, 12-5 and 7-4 defeats of the No. 4 seed Wolverines this year.  However, Michigan continues to hold the all-time lead in total (43-18-2) and varsity (33-13-1) contests against Indiana.

Brown will clash with CWPA Division III Champion/No. 8 seed/Division III No. 9 Connecticut College, which fell 19-1 to Indiana in the opening game of the tournament, in the consolation side of the eight-team bracket at 1:30 p.m. on April 26.  The game will mark the third meeting of the year between the Bears and Camels as Brown downed Connecticut 15-12 and 14-9 earlier this season.