The Western Divisional Championship game is featuring the No. 4 seeded Hartwick Hawks and the No. 3 seeded Michigan Wolverines. Hartwick made it to the championship game by first defeating No. 5 seeded Gannon 19-4 and then upset top seeded and No. 10 ranked Maryland Terrapins 8-7 with a strong performance by goalie Haley Cox who had 10 saves and blocked a potential game-tying shot in the fourth quarter.
Michigan advanced to the championships by defeating Notre Dame College 20-4 and then upset the No. 2 seeded Indiana Hoosiers 10-7. The turning point in the game came when Michigan was trailing 6-3 just past the halfway point in the third quarter, and then they went on to score six unanswered goals with four of them by Kelsey Nolan. Michigan's win over Indiana ended their three-game losing streak against the Hoosiers.
For Hartwick, getting to play Michigan over Indiana was the best possible outcome, because in the only other matchup Hartwick lost 13-7. While they have split their two prior matchups against Michigan. One was an exhibition at the shallow-deep pool of Hartwick who won 13-9, while the other was two days later which saw Michigan win 10-9 in overtime.
Both teams look to be playing very good water polo leading up to this point, and it was questionable if Hartwick would make it this far as all three regular season league loses came against Indiana, Maryland and Michigan. Hartwick also lost to the two best teams in the Southern Division in the Princeton Tigers and Harvard Crimson within a week prior to the Western Divisional tournament.
Michigan came in going 2-2 in their games prior to the tournament with both loses were to Indiana and Maryland. What needs to happen for Michigan to win is the same thing mentioned about their prior matchup against Indiana and that is to get quick and easy goals off of their defense and counter attack skills. If Michigan can get at a few cheap goals that way against Hartwick they can win. However, they will have to contend with Hartwick's goalie Haley Cox who had one of her best games against Maryland with 10 saves and on the season averages 6.5 per game.
Hartwick also has a balanced offense which means Michigan can not just focus on a single player as they have four players who have scored over 40 goals and two more who have scored 30 or more on the season. It also means that Hartwick does not have one truly dominant player. Michigan has a similar balanced offense but they do have one dominant player in Elizabeth Williams who has scored 54 goals on the year. Those goal totals do not include stats from this weekends games.
The way these two teams have played in their semifinal matches the championship game should be a good game, and too bad Indiana is not live streaming this game. The game begins at 12 p.m. ET, and also on the line is either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the Eastern Championships.
The game begins at 12 p.m. ET and for play-by-lay updates follow the Michigan water polo twitter account during this game.