The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 2, 1996 -13
scare No. 1
Daily Sports Writer
The unranked and unheralded
Itchigan women's basketball team
ame within seconds of pulling off an
upset of epic proportions last night in
Hawaii, losing, 77-74, to top-ranked
Stanford in the finals of the Hawaiian
Air Wahine Classic.
The game, which ended just before
press time, pitted the Wolverines
inst the heavily favored Cardinal.
Michigan fell behind by as many as
17 points in the second half, but junior
center Pollyanna Johns and freshman
guard Stacey Thomas led a comeback
that brought the Wolverines within a
point with 12 seconds to play.
0Stanford's Kate Starbird hit the win-
ning free throws to ice the game for the
Cardinal, after missing the front end of
a one-and-one and allowing junior for-
*vard Molly Murray to sink a 3-pointer
and run the score to 75-74.
The close encounter with the coun-
try's top squad came after the
Wolverines (5-1 overall) breezed
::through the Thanksgiving tournament.
While most people were gobbling
~tip turkey, Michigan' was feasting on
opponents, defeating host Hawaii, 75-
,,63, to reach the showdown against top-
ranked Stanford. In the first round,
cihigan carved up Virginia Tech, 79-
In Saturday's semifinal game
against the Rainbows, the Wolverines
led at halftime, 35-29. In the second
half, Michigan guard Jennifer Kiefer
"hit her third 3-pointer of the game with
15:43 left, ignitiig an I1-point run to
open a 52-38 lead which the
Wolverines would not relinquish.
: In all, Michigan had four players
ore in double digits, led by junior
center Pollyanna Johns, who scored 20
points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Kiefer added 16, including 4 of 6 from
behind the arc, and Tiffany Willard and
Stacey Thomas added I1 and 10
Hawaii was led by forward Nani
Cockett's 32 points, but the Rainbows
only shot 35.5 percent from the field.
Michigan dominated the Rainbows
on the glass with a 54-33 rebounding
edge and forced 15 Hawaii turnovers.
On Friday against Virginia Tech,
Michigan went on a 13-1 run early in
the first half to take a 19-5 lead. The
Wolverines never trailed in the game,
Michigan held a 56-36 advantage in
rebounds over the Hokies, and has out-
rebounded every opponent this season.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report.
For in-depth coverage of the
lverihes' near-upset, read Daily
'M' volleyball ends year by
winning last four matches
By Sharat Raju
Daily Sports Writer
Not a bad way to end a season - four straight victories to
steal sixth place in the Big Ten.
The Michigan women's volleyball team defeated Illinois and
Iowa over the weekend to close the season at 14-17 overall and
9-11 in the conference.
As recently as a month ago, the Wolverines were staring at a
ninth-place finish. But a final surge at the end of the season has
thrust Michigan into sixth place, its fourth-best Big Ten finish
in the 12 seasons that the conference has used the current
The first of Michigan's two weekend victories did not come
easily. On Friday, the Wolverines faced then sixth-place Illini
(8-12 Big Ten, 13-15 overall).
The match turned out to be a gut-wrenching contest, with
Michigan rallying from two games behind to win, 4-15, 15-17,
15-13, 15-13, 18-16.
After being walloped in the first game, the Wolverines man-
aged a close second game, tying the match at 15 before drop-
ping the final two points.
Michigan forced a decisive fifth game after holding on in
game three and a tight game-four victory. Game five proved to
be a good old-fashioned barn-burner, with the Wolverines and
the Illini tangled up in nine ties. Michigan finally broke
through and won the match on a blocking error by Illinois.
The victory featured several standout performances, includ-
ing record-breaking ones. Michigan setter Linnea Mendoza
recorded 95 assists, breaking the team's previous single-match
record of 80, set by Mendoza last week against Purdue. The
total is the third-highest ever by a Big Ten player, and the high-
est by any player in the conference this season.
Mendoza's distribution of the ball to all the hitters was
instrumental in the victory. The biggest beneficiaries of her
sets were outside hitter Kristen Ruschicnsky, who had a sea-
son-high 24 kills, and outside hitter Karen Chase and middle
blocker Sarah Jackson who recorded 21 kills apiece.
On Saturday, the Wolverines played on their home court for
the final time this season. The Hawkeyes (5-15, 10-21) were all
that was in the way of Michigan's drive to capture sixth place.
Michigan coach Greg Giovanazzi started the match with
Meg Akehi, Shareen Luze, Erin McGovern and Ruschiensky
- four seniors playing in their last match at Michigan.
The fourth game turned out to be the decisive one in the
match. The Wolverines stormed out to a 14-0, lead with
Jeanine Szczesniak serving 11 of the points.
The Hawkeyes couldn't rally from that point, and the
Wolverines eventually won, 15-11, 17-15, 15-10, 15-5.
Mendoza finished with 45 assists, giving her 1,359 for the
season - a total surpassed only by Mendoza's mark last year.
Luze and Jackson again led the offense, each tallying 17 kills.
Michigan's season has ended. At 9-11 in the conference, the
Wolverines are unlikely to be invited to compete in theNCAA
tournament. The NIVC tournament, designed for those teams
that were not selected for the NCAAs, has been eliminated this
season for unspecified reasons.
However, the Wolverines do have hope Tor the future. Four
of the five regular starters will be returning for next season and
several freshmen and sophomores, such as Maggie Cooper and
Anne Poglits, saw significant playing time during the season.
Unnea Mendoza (facing), Michigan volleyball's all-time assist leader, had her sea-
son end over the weekend as the Wolverines finished sixth place in the Big Ten.
Continued from Page 11
god-send for this program."
While growing up, Mendoza was a
UCLA. fan, and that was where she
wanted to go to college. She only knew
about Michigan through the football and
basketball teams, and from watching the
Rose Parade. Being recruited forced her
to take a longer look at Michigan. And
the more she looked, the more she liked
"I wanted to go to a really good
school with a good reputation,"
Mendoza said. "I always wanted to go to
UCLA, but there is the height issue, and
I am not the typical player that they
would want on the court. I compare
UCLA and Michigan, and I think they
are very similar."
Michigan, the similar school, now
had a unique player.
The beginning of Mendoza's career
was an adjustment period, as it is for all
freshman, and she split the setting duties
with current senior Erin McGovern.
"My freshman year was a lot of
instructional work," Mendoza said.
"When I should set this and why. There
are so many little things, and I was so
overwhelmed. I never would have
guessed that was what setting was all
One of those little things was decep-
tion. Mendoza admits that as a fresh-
man, she didn't worry about faking the
other team, she was just worried about
where she was setting the ball.
Giovanazzi says that predictability is
something that all setters have to guard
against, especially when their team is
not passing well.
"In our game, 60 percent of the sets
go out the left side, so everybody's
defense is used to that play," he said.
"It's kind of like if your playing against
the Green Bay sweep every play. They're
all ready for it.
"When Linnea is doing a great job,
she turns that average pass into an
opportunity to set (right side hitter)
Jeanine Szczesniak or (middle hitter)
Linsey Ebert, or someone other than the
left side. And when she is able to do that,
then our offense opens up, and we are a
In her first season, Mendoza, far from
home and in a new climate, learned
quickly and even took the winter weath-
er in stride.
"My first winter here I was rooming
with (fellow California native) Sara
Griffin, who's on the softball team, and
the first flurry we were so excited. Our
next door neighbor was Sarah Jackson,
and she was just laughing at us, because
she is from Minnesota, and it was old-
hat for her."
For the past two seasons, Mendoza
has been the starting setter. She says it is
much easier to process everything on
the court now, just from the two years of
experience. Giovanazzi now gives her a
lot of freedom in directing the offense.
This paid off last season when she set
the Michigan record for assists in a
match with 73, and later in the year she
tied her own record twice in consecutive
This year, Mendoza had not
approached her record until a week and
a half ago. In a match against Purdue on
Nov. 22, she topped her old mark, set-
ting her teammates up for kills 80 times.
Unlike the three previous times she had
set or tied the record, the Purdue match
only lasted four games, and not five.
This Friday, with the ink not even dry
in the record book, Mendoza shattered
her week-old record with 95 assists in a
five-game, come-from-behind win over
Illinois. It was the third-highest assist
total ever by a Big Ten player.
Even the casual observer can often
tell when Mendoza is on her game. If
the Michigan attackers only see one
blocker in front of them when they ele-
vate for the spike, that one-on-one situa-
tion was probably caused by Mendoza.
And leaving Karen Chase, 'Kristen
Ruschiensky and company one-on-one
is just asking for trouble.
"I think one of the reasons Linnea has
progressed the way that she has is
because of Erin," Giovanazzi said. "Erin
is kind of the Montana for Steve Young.
I think Erin has done a great job of being
supportive her and tutoring her, and
almost being an interpreter for me.
' "I communicate probably a little bit
better with Erin than I do with Linnea
during matches. So a lot of times I will
communicate to Erin what I need to get
to Linnea. Then I sit there on Sunday,
and I think, 'Wow, that's what pro quar-
terbacks are doing.' It's worked out real-
Mendoza says that, in addition to
interpreting the coaches instructions,
whichever setter is not in the game has
the responsibility of deciding which sets
are working and identifying the sets
which might work even better.
The communication between the two
setters required for Michigan to succeed
makes it vital that the setters have a
good relationship, and Mendoza says
"It's a really good relationship," she
said. "We are competitive with each
other, but itis a good kind of competi-
tive. We raise each others play. I think
she is a really good setter."
Mendoza, who has been such a quick
learner, is majoring in education, with
the goal of being a teacher some day.
But first there is the business of her
senior season next fall.
Record wise, this season has been a
little disappointing for the Wolverines.
After an 11-9 finish in the Big Ten last
year, Michigan only managed 9-11
record this year.
Mendoza said the Wolverines didn't
learn how to win during their brutal
"We never learned how to shut a
game out," she said. "We never had that
feeling of going all the way through to
the very end. We were always cut-off
because these teams knew how to do
"But when it came to the teams that
we should have beat, and we didn't do it,
that's when things started to fall apart
for us confidence-wise."
Two of the teams the Wolverines felt
they should have beaten are Iowa and
Illinois. Michigan dropped its first two
matches of the Big Ten season to the
Hawkeyes and Illini, and both matches
went five games.
This weekend Michigan got a mea-
sure of revenge with wins over those two
teams, finishing its season with a four-
match winning streak.
But with the final chapter of their
season now closed, the Wolverines are
not thinking about what might have
been. Instead their thoughts are shifting
forward to next year, when five of
Michigan's six starters, including
Mendoza, will be back.
"Can I say just one more thing?"
Giovanazzi asked. "I am really looking
forward to Linnea's senior season."
It's safe to say he isn't the only one.
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