Last year, the IU water polo team set a school record with 28 wins in a season. The 2013 Hoosiers made their own history Saturday and Sunday, winning their first Collegiate Water Polo Association Western Division Championship.
No. 15 IU (19-12) went 3-0 in the tournament to take home the title, defeating No. 18 Michigan 10-7, Gannon 16-5 and No. 16 and top-seeded Hartwick 12-11.
“It feels great to come out of a good weekend of play as winners,” junior attacker Shae Fournier said. “The best part is that we were able to put a whole team effort in and many people were involved both offensively and defensively.”
The win against Hartwick came in dramatic fashion. After jumping out to a 5-2 first quarter advantage, IU slowly relinquished its lead. Hartwick scored the next three goals over the course of a quarter and a couple minutes to it up at 5-5.
After the two teams traded goals, IU went on a 3-0 run of its own before Hartwick scored again at the end of the third quarter, making it 9-7 in favor of the Hoosiers. IU scored twice and Hartwick thrice through the first five-and-a-half minutes of the final period, putting IU up 11-10.
Then, with 2:25 remaining, freshman goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault make a huge save on a Hartwick penalty shot, preserving the IU lead. The Hoosiers continued to hold off the Hawks, but not for long. With 32 seconds remaining, Hartwick tied the score at 11-11.
“Their last goal was stressful, but I know as a player you have to move on to the next play,” Fournier said. “Our mindset can’t stay on their last goal. We needed to shift gears to being able to put one away ourselves.”
They did just that. On IU’s next possession, Fournier drew an exclusion, giving the Hoosiers a 6-on-5 advantage. Fournier then took charge and scored the winning goal with just four seconds remaining on the clock.
“I think knowing my team and coaches trust me in that situation allows me to feel confidence in taking that shot,” Fournier said. “And I know it has to score so I do everything in my power to do that.”
The game-winner was Fournier’s second of her career that came at the last second. Last year against Long Beach State, she netted a score with 0.3 seconds remaining for a 7-6 Hoosier victory.
IU’s wins against Michigan and Hartwick were revenge for losses in recent matches against each. Hartwick defeated IU 8-7 on Feb. 16, and Michigan beat the Hoosiers in their regular season finale on March 30, 8-7 in overtime.
Fournier couldn’t choose one over the other as being sweeter revenge.
“I don’t think I can say either win is more satisfying,” she said. “Both games were equally important in winning the title this weekend, but also in bringing the team together and giving us good momentum going into Eastern Championships.”
IU’s postseason ventures resume April 26-28 in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the CWPA Eastern Conference Championships take place. The winner of the 12-team tournament clinches a spot in the eight-team NCAA Championships tournament in May. IU has qualified for the tournament twice in school history — 2003 and 2011.
Fournier said she believes winning the Western Division Championships can carry her team to another NCAA berth.
“The momentum coming from this weekend is huge,” she said. “Not only does it give us confidence going into these games, but it also distinguishes us as the top team going into the weekend. It’s easier going into a tough weekend knowing we were able to pull through this weekend.”