The Wolverine

February 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 55 of 67

56 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2022 D r. Marcelo Leonardi has built a water polo program among the very best in the country, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. The team's 21st season of play in 2021 ended with a Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) championship for the fifth year in a row. Michigan auto- matically qualified for the NCAA Tourna- ment for the 10th time in school history, finishing with a 21-5 record. However, the season came to a bitter end in a loss to No. 4 Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. After a 6-0 mark in CWPA play in 2021, Michigan is now 42-2 in confer- ence games since Leonardi took the job. The Wolverines finished No. 7 nation- ally, giving them a top-10 ranking to end a season for the fifth straight year. Leonardi's program has won five con- secutive conference tournament titles and finished first in the regular sea- son in four of the last five full seasons played. (Note: The 2020 campaign was not completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) There is plenty of reason to believe the success in Ann Arbor will continue with Team 22. TEAM LEADERS Michigan will be led by a trio of cap- tains in sixth-year senior Maddy Steere, and seniors Ava Morrant and Erin Neus- trom. Leonardi is expecting his program mainstays to set a tone for continued success. "We are very proud of Team 22's cap- tain selection," Leonardi told MGoBlue. com. "All three possess a strong char- acter and an unwavering commitment to their teammates and this program. They show tremendous pride in their dedication in the classroom and towards the community. "They have and will continue to do a tremendous job in leading Team 22 throughout the year." The biggest story of this year's group is the return of Steere. She is back for one final ride in Ann Arbor after spend- ing the last two years training with the Australian Olympic team in 2020 and 2021. The first three years of her career included 180 goals and a trio of Ameri- can Collegiate Water Polo Coaches As- sociation (ACWPCA) All-America hon- ors. Steere was the CWPA Player of the Year in 2019. Morrant — a Maple Ridge, British Columbia, native — is coming off of a career season. She had 23 goals in 2021 with a career-high .489 shooting per- centage. Morrant's junior campaign also included 28 sprint wins and eight multi-goal games. Michigan's trio of captains is rounded out by Neustrom. The Moraga, Calif., product was an ACWPCA All-America honorable mention during her junior season while also grabbing NCAA All- Tournament second-team and All- CWPA first-team honors. Neustrom had 27 goals and four assists and was second on the team with 29 drawn ex- clusions last season. FRESH FACES Leonardi signed a pair of freshmen for the 2022 season in Ashley O'Neill (Cal- gary, Alberta) and Fiona Young (Orinda, Calif.). O'Neill's highlights before ar- riving include playing for the Calgary Renegades in 2019-20, where she had 13 goals, 11 assists and 26 steals. Young is a three-time USA Water Polo All-Ac- ademic selection and played for the 680 Water Polo club team, which finished third in the 2021 Junior Olympics. EXHIBITION RESULTS Michigan played one exhibition game during the fall season, a 10-6 win at In- diana Nov. 13. Junior Alex Brown started in goal for the team, holding down the fort to a 6-3 halftime lead. Senior So- phie Jackson took over in the second half and helped preserve the victory. Steere and fifth-year senior Maddie O'Reilly had three goals each in the con- test. Morrant had two goals of her own, while fifth-year senior Sofie Pontre and sophomore Kata Utassy had a goal each. OUTLOOK FOR 2022 The 2022 campaign kicked off at the Arizona State Invitational Jan. 21-23 in Tempe, Ariz. The Wolverines took on California, UC Irvine, Arizona State and Fresno State during the weekend slate. The home schedule gets going Jan. 29- 30 with the Michigan Invitational at Canham Natatorium. Hawaii, Stanford, Marist and UCLA will take part. The regular season runs through April 10 before the CWPA Championship on   OLYMPIC SPORTS UPDATE Water Polo Looks To Continue Success Under Marcelo Leonardi Sixth-year senior Maddy Steere returns to the program after a two-year absence while work- ing out with the Australian Olympic team in 2020 and 2021. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2022