The Hoosiers waited all year for a clash with their arch rivals. The drama of the game lived up to the hype, but in the end, IU’s efforts came up just short.
The No. 12 water polo team (16-12) lost a heartbreaker on senior night Saturday, falling to No. 19 Michigan in overtime 8-7 at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center.
“It was definitely important to us, and we fought hard, but we’d rather take a loss now than at the championships,” junior attacker Shae Fournier said. “We’re just looking forward to our championships and knowing we have something to work for.”
IU is now 14-42-2 all-time against Michigan.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, as no team ever held a lead larger than one goal. There were seven ties and four lead changes.
As the lone senior on the team, attacker Jakie Köhli helped lead the Hoosiers in her final home game ever by scoring two goals, including IU’s final score that put the team up 7-6 in the fourth quarter.
Köhli said she was disappointed with the loss, but senior night wasn’t a factor.
“Honestly, the fact that it was senior night didn’t really change anything,” Köhli said. “I always go out there and play my hardest for any game, regardless if it’s at home or not. I would be equally upset if we had lost at any other pool against this team.”
Fournier added two goals of her own, while junior attacker Meghan Lappan and sophomores Rebecca Gerrity and Colleen McNaught each added a score.
With usual starting goalkeeper freshman Jessica Gaudreault out with an elbow injury, freshman Mary Campbell made her sixth start of the year in goal and made a season- and career-best 15 saves on the day.
After Michigan struck first in the opening quarter, Fournier and Lappan answered by scoring two consecutive goals for the Hoosiers, both of which came from fast-break scrambles. With no one scoring in the second quarter, IU went into halftime with a 2-1 lead.
Although the fast-break scoring slowed significantly in the second half, the scoring increased. Michigan outscored IU 3-2 in the third quarter, and both teams scored thrice in the final period to end regulation in a 7-7 tie.
The two teams traded a couple scoreless possessions to begin the first of two three-minute overtime periods. Then, Michigan fired in a shot that hit the right post of the goal and bounced in with 52 seconds remaining in the first overtime. Neither team scored during the remainder of the game, leaving Michigan the 8-7 victors.
“We both kind of shut each other’s counter down in the second half, up until their final goal,” IU Coach Barry King said. “These games are always grinds. We’re entirely familiar with each other. … Overall, I thought we did a good job really sticking to the plan and exposing their weaknesses that we thought were there. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and that was the problem.”
The back-and-forth nature of the game wasn’t a style Köhli particularly enjoyed.
“I don’t really like the back-and-forth goals, because it means that one team is either always coming back from being behind, and you always want to be up instead of behind,” she said. “I hope that next time we just get up and stay up.”
This was the second time this season an IU match needed extra time to determine a winner. The Hoosiers defeated Cal-Baptist 9-8 in overtime back on March 15.
Fournier said that although fatigue was a factor in the extra sessions, it was no excuse for the loss.
“It definitely affects you,” she said. “It was a hard-fought game already, but it’s affecting them the same amount, so I don’t think that should play too much of a factor.”
With IU’s regular season now complete, the Hoosiers have next week off before the CWPA Western Division Championships take place April 13-14. After that, IU will partake in the CWPA Eastern Conference Championships April 26-28 and possibly the NCAA Championships May 10-12.
The Hoosiers have a possibility of facing Michigan again in both of the former tournaments, and Fournier sees revenge in her future.
“Definitely,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be a comeback story when we beat them at championships.”