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W. water polo goes 3-2 at Wolverine Invitational

The women's water polo team had a breakthrough weekend at the University of Michigan's Wolverine Invitational, where it went 3-2. Its strong showing including an 8-4 win over Eastern Division rival University of Indiana, as well as a 9-8 victory against No. 17 Michigan for the Bears' first win over a Top 20 opponent this season.

The weekend also included an 11-2 rout of Slippery Rock University, an 11-6 loss to No. 11 Loyola Marymount and a disappointing 6-5 loss to California Baptist University. This weekend's results put the Bears at 9-4 on the season, with three of their losses coming against Top 20 opponents.

Brown's schedule began with an easy match-up with Slippery Rock Friday. The Bears overpowered the Rock from the beginning, building a 4-1 lead in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Bruno continued to dominate, shutting out Slippery Rock while adding five more goals to its own score, to go into the half up 9-1.

The third quarter was split 1-1, and neither team scored in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bears to cruise to an 11-2 win. The Bears' offense was spread among eight players, with Elizabeth Balassone '07, Caitlin Fahey '07 and Lauren Presant '10 scoring two goals each, while Claire Angyal '07, Paige Lansing '07, Alexis Blaxberg '08, Rory Stanton '09 and Sarah Glick '10 each contributed one goal.

But it was Brown that looked overpowered Saturday morning when it faced No. 11 Loyola Marymount. The Bears dug themselves into an early hole, allowing five goals to LMU before getting on the scoreboard themselves. Lansing finally put Bruno on the scoreboard with 1:08 remaining in the second period, and the Bears faced a 5-1 deficit heading into the second half.

Brown allowed five more goals to LMU in the second stanza, and despite two goals from Presant - as well as scores from Balassone, Blaxberg and Angyal - the Bears fell to the Lions, 11-6.

"The major problem we've had going against higher-ranked teams is confidence," said Head Coach Jason Gall. "In the first half, we weren't taking smart shots or confident shots. In the second half, we started just playing with more confidence. That gave us momentum going into the Indiana game."

In its contest with Indiana, Brown rebounded beautifully from its loss earlier in the day, playing stellar defense and converting offensive opportunities en route to an 8-4 victory. Balassone started the scoring attack, converting an opportunity just one minute into the game.

The Hoosiers tied the score at 1-1 with 5:25 left in the first quarter, but in the second quarter the Bears began to take control. Fahey put the team ahead 2-1, and after a game-tying goal from the Hoosiers, Presant found the net twice to give her team a 4-2 advantage at halftime.

In the third quarter, Glick, who finished the game with 5 steals and 2 assists, began to heat up - scoring twice - and Presant added her third goal to the game. Despite two goals from Indiana, Bruno went into the final quarter with a 7-4 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Brown maintained the defensive pressure on Indiana, shutting the Hoosiers out in the final period. A goal by Lansing, following an Indiana ejection at 6:55, made the score 8-4, where it remained for the rest of the game.

"Before the game we went over specific match-ups," Gall said. "I gave my best defenders - like Caitlin Fahey, Ally Wyatt ('08) and Rory Stanton - individual assignments, and they did an incredible job. We were able to level up on certain players and leave weaker players open, taking away our opponent's strength."

After the impressive showing against Indiana, Brown faltered on Sunday morning against Cal Baptist. Balassone scored early to give the Bears a 1-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Cal Baptist scored two unanswered goals in the second and Bruno never regained the lead, as the offense struggled to convert opportunities, and the team suffered a disappointing 6-5 loss.

"Every player has an off game, and unfortunately ours all came in the same game," Presant said. "We just had a lapse, but we got over it, which was great."

In their second game on Sunday, the Bears once again rebounded strongly from a defeat, playing against host Michigan in front of the Wolverines' home crowd. Michigan took the early lead, scoring just 59 seconds in, but Lansing tied the game up on a 6-on-5 opportunity at 5:45. Glick then converted a five-meter penalty shot to give Brown the lead, but Michigan tied the game at 2 before the end of the first quarter.

The Bears started off strongly in the second quarter, when Balassone scored just 17 seconds in to give Brown a 3-2 lead. But the Bears' offense was held scoreless for the rest of the period, and the Wolverines scored twice more to take a 4-3 lead at halftime.

Brown's struggles continued when Michigan took a 5-3 lead 16 seconds into the second half, but at 4:48 Fahey cut the lead to 5-4 with her first goal, and Presant also scored her first goal to tie the game with 3:25 to go in the third period. At 1:26, Michigan regained the lead, putting them up 6-5 at the end of the third quarter.

After Fahey drew an ejection with 7:17 left in the game, Angyal scored on the power play to tie the game. After a Michigan goal, Lansing and Fahey converted opportunities to give the Bears the lead, 8-7. The game looked to be in jeopardy when the Wolverines struck again with 1:15 remaining, but with 45 seconds left, Balassone scored what would prove to be the winning goal, and the Bears held off the No. 17 Wolverines 9-8.

"The biggest thing was that to every goal there was an assist, to every assist there was a drive, and the reason we converted so well was that everyone did their job," Presant said. "Everyone was working together, and that was great to see."

The wins against two top-level opponents give Brown momentum for the rest of the season.

"No one on this team has beaten Indiana or Michigan," Gall said. "Last year we came close, but we thought we could get over the hump and finally beat those teams. The girls have learned to maintain leads and focus on fundamental aspects of the game."

The team next travels to San Diego for the Aztec Invitational, where it will play eight games in six days.

"This trip to California will help build on our game shape," Gall said. "We're playing well, but we could be playing a lot better. By no means have we reached our peak."


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