The Hoosiers’ nonconference season is finished. Only three regular season games remain on the No. 12 IU water polo team’s schedule before postseason division and conference tournaments begin.
On Saturday, IU (14-11) will compete in two of those matches. The Hoosiers will face division foes Notre Dame (Ohio) and Gannon at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the Gannon Tournament, taking place in Erie, Pa.
Gannon is ranked No. 10 out of 12 teams in the CWPA Eastern Conference. Notre Dame is unranked in the conference, but it received votes in the most recent poll. Both teams are Division-II schools.
With postseason seeding at stake, sophomore Alexis Jones said the team’s remaining regular season games carry extra importance.
“It’s very important, because everything starts to count at this point,” she said. “And it all goes into seedings for the end of season. It’s really important to try and get first, second seed at the beginning.”
IU Coach Barry King agreed.
“This is everything,” he said. “How you position yourself for the conference championship, your path through the tournament, stuff like that is of the utmost importance. We really pretty much need to win out from here and really make the strength of our schedule early worthwhile. That’s what that was all about, was to prepare us to make runs through our conference. It’s pretty much everything right now.”
IU is 16-0 all-time against Gannon with an average winning margin of 8.75 goals.
Jones said experience is the main reason for the Hoosiers’ success against the Golden Knights.
“Definitely experience,” she said. “We have a lot of players that have been playing since they were really young, and we practice a lot more with practice restrictions. It gives us a chance to work a lot more.”
On the other hand, last year was the only time IU and Notre Dame faced off. The Hoosiers defeated the Falcons 16-7.
With 18 players listed on IU’s roster compared to only 11 for Notre Dame, junior defender Amanda Redfern said the Hoosiers’ depth will give them an advantage.
“Depth is very helpful, because it allows people to get a rest,” she said. “It just allows people to take a break and refocus if they need to work on anything else, so it allows us time to get out of the pool and see what we need to work on from an outside perspective.”
With both the Western Division Championships and Eastern Conference Championships approaching in April, the possibility of facing one or both of these teams again in either tournament exists.
Redfern said this weekend’s matchups will help should IU see one of these teams again come tournament time.
“It’s great, because it allows us to see how they play and allows us to learn their strengths and their weaknesses,” she said. “We’re able to work on that during practices and see what we need to fix.”
IU’s home matchup against archrival Michigan is lying ahead in the regular season finale. Although the rivalry is always on his and his players’ minds, King is confident IU won’t overlook either D-II school this weekend.
“You know, we’ve been looking forward to that Michigan match since May of last year, that’s just kind of the nature of the rivalry,” he said. “But we’ll make sure that we take care of business this weekend.”