No. 15 IU water polo’s pair of games in Hawaii this past weekend gave itself a chance to bounce back from a loss against San Diego State in sudden victory after a hard-fought battle. IU Coach Ryan Castle said his team played well in the game against SDSU, and had him encouraged for the weekend.
“Coming in we felt confident in our ability to compete at a high level with teams like USC and Hawaii,” Castle said.
Under the sunshine in Hawaii, IU dropped a pair of matchups against ranked opponents. IU has now lost three games in a row, the longest losing streak this season, and the Hoosiers have lost four of their last six games dating back to last weekend.
First, IU came up against No. 1 USC, which was looking to extend its winning streak to an NCAA record 47 consecutive matches. Right out of the gate, the Hoosiers fell behind and dug themselves into a 2-0 hole before finally responding with a goal from junior Sarah Myers.
The Hoosiers struggled to keep up with the Trojans as the game progressed, and were blanked by a combined 9-0 score in the second and periods. The Hoosiers had trouble containing the Greek Haralabidis twins, who combined for four of the Trojans’ 15 goals on the day en route to a 15-2 victory.
IU’s two goals, scored by Myers and junior Kelly Matthews, marked its lowest goal total in a game this season.
“They’re a number one team for a reason,” Castle said of USC. “I put them on our schedule for a reason, so we can get used to playing teams that are that good. We want to play the best in order to get ready for physical matchups in conference play.”
Looking to bounce back from another lackluster performance, IU played Hawaii in its second and final match of the weekend. The game was a rematch of a battle that saw IU win 8-5 earlier this year.
Similarly to the USC game, the Hoosiers came out flat and let the Rainbow Warriors take an early 3-1 lead after the first quarter with the only goal coming from Matthews. The Hoosiers were outscored for the rest of the game 8-4. Williams and Nacouzi couldn’t beat Hawaii’s keeper, and both attackers were held scoreless. Matthews put together a nice performance with two goals of her own, and got some scoring help from juniors Sarah Young, Jennifer Beadle and Myers.
Castle said he wasn’t too worried about the losses that the team has suffered recently, and he wants his team to improve every day.
“I’m not worried about wins and losses,” he said. “I want us to get better as a team overall, and playing top 10 teams will ensure that we improve. Most people are filling their roles where they can. We can’t just be a one-horse pony. We need to get a lot of players involved in what we do, and I think we’re doing a good job at that.”
IU hasn’t played a home game since the last weekend of February and spent the entirety of spring break away from Bloomington. Castle said being on the road so much has been hard on the team, but he’s happy that they will finally be coming back to Bloomington for a few days.
The team will have a chance to get out of the funk they are in when they travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to open up conference play against the Michigan Wolverines. The game will be shown on Big Ten Network on Saturday morning.
“We’re getting ready for the physicality of the east coast teams,” Castle said. “Games are going to be a lot tighter so we’re getting ready for teams like Michigan. There’s a lot of tough teams in the conference, and the rivalries are going to be really tough this year.”
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