The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - December 9, 1996 - 9B
Tough schedule spikes
play of volleyball team
By Kevin Kasiborski
Daily Sports Writer
The trouble all started three years
.The struggles endured by the
Michigan women's volleyball team
this season can be traced back to
1993, when this year's schedule was
The Wolverines faced a challeng-
ing non-conference slate, to say the
They compiled a 4-6 record against
non-league opponents, with five of
the losses to top-25 teams, and the
sixth to George Mason, a team that
was invited to the NCAA tournament.
In addition to losing six times,
Michigan only had one non-confer-
ence victory over a quality team,
"Our record against top-25 teams
was 1-13, and in a 17-loss season,
that is significant," Michigan coach
Greg Giovanazzi said. "To get to
the-postseason, you don't necessar-
ily have to beat the top-25 teams,
but you have to have 20 wins."
Michigan didn't have enough
matches where it was evenly
matched with its opponent and
could get into a rhythm. They were
either being swept or doing the
Consequently, when the
,-Wolverines opened Big Ten play on
the road at Iowa and Illinois - two
solid but beatable opponents -
Michigan was unprepared.
Despite holding 2-1 leads in each
match, the Wolverines lost both.
"I think the most crucial part of our
season was losing two five-game
matches after being up 2-1 the first
weekend of the Big Ten season,"
After that weekend, Michigan
seemed to tread water for most of the
With the exception of an upset of
Wisconsin, Michigan only beat the
teams it was supposed to, finishing 9-
11 in the Big Ten (sixth place) and
"The record is disappointing,"
Giovanazzi said. "It's such a vacuum
to look at things that way, but that's
j ,how things are judged in athletics.
"It concerns me because I think
there are a lot of great things that
happened this year, and we are such a
Continued from Page 3B
needed him to help the Wolverines
out of their doldrums at Purdue.
But this is not to say he has done a
bid job, either. Remember, the
Wolverines are 8-3 with a mediocre
offense and a good but not great
defense. That's doesn't reek of a bad
The bottom line is that for the
fourth straight season, the Wolverines
are not going to the Rose Bowl. But
that's not because they have under-
achieved. Or because they play to the
*level of their competition. Or because
of poor coaching. No, the reason for
Michigan's 8-3 record is rather sim-
The Wolverines just aren't very
Depending on the bowl game
against Alabama, they'll finish the
season 8-4 or 9-3.
For a good but not great team like
Michigan, that sounds about right.
- Barry Sollenberger, who wishes
to be in Pasadena Jan. 1 in the
Arizona State section at the Rose
Bowl, can be reached over e-mail at
email@example.com. Go Sun Devils!
U. I. UY~ ~ . II I Y~Il Y
young team. I don't want it to be used
for anything else but motivation for
Michigan has already given itself
momentum for next season with its
play over the past three weeks.
Michigan played well in 3-1 loss to
No. 11 Ohio State, in a match that
was broadcast to the nation on
ESPN2, before closing the season
with four straight wins
Giovanazzi admits that, in retro-
spect, the non-conference schedule
was too tough, and that part of the
problem is that the schedule is made
years in advance. '
"Three years ago I never would
have dreamed that Louisville or
George Mason would be such solid
top-25 teams," Giovanazzi said.
To get to the
have to beat the
top-25 teams, but
you have to have
- Greg Giovanazzi
Michigan volleyball coach
But he adds that he will not start
scheduling all cupcakes.
"I have always been a believer that
playing the best competition is how
you get to be the best," Giovanazzi
said. "I have had some really good
talks with coaches Urbanchek,
Berenson and Hutchins, and I think
they agree with me, but they also say
we have to do a better job of balanc-
Michigan junior Sarah Jackson,
who led the team with a .288 hitting
percentage, received honorable men-
tion All-Big Ten honors.
Senior Shareen Luze was named to
the All-District Academic team and is
one of eight Wolverines to be select-
ed to the Academic All-Big Ten team.
"Her work ethic for four years has
been tremendous," Giovanazzi said.
"She has been an example to the
underclassman, and to her peers in
the same class."
Three other seniors also played
their last match at Michigan.
"It's worth all the hard work you
put in," Erin McGovern said. "The
friendships, the competition, seeing
the country, and graduating from
Michigan all say something."
Kristen Ruschiensky was statisti-
cally among the top-20 attackers in
the nation last year before she was
sidelined with an injury to her anteri-
or cruciate ligament.
The doctors didn't decide to per-
form surgery until March, and
Ruschiensky didn't get back in the
groove until halfway through the sea-
"With Kristen, more than anybody
else, I wish she had another year,"
Giovanazzi said. "Because she
Michigan's fourth senior, walk-on
Meg Akehi, is also an Academic All-
Big Ten selection.
"She is the perfect embodiment of
why you participate in intercollegiate
athletics." Giovanazzi said. "She
comes out on her own time, without
getting a cent from the Athletic
Department or me, and she is there
everyday busting her ass.
"That kind of passion is something
you are not going to replace. I don't
know that I can respect someone
more than I can respect Meg."
Luze sees good things ahead for
"I really think this program is
going somewhere," she said. "It's
really stepped up the last four years
- the new players keep getting bet-
Despite losing four seniors,
Michigan will have five starters -
Karen Chase, Jackson, Linnea
Mendoza, Jeanine Szczesniak and
Chereena Tennis - returning next
"The answer I keep coming up with
is next year is going to be better,"
Giovanazzi said. "I worked for a guy
who was the U.S. coach for 12 years,
and the thing he always said was,
'The best is yet to come,' and I really
"We started three sophomores and
two juniors all year long - I think we
are going to be real good."
What spiked the Michigan volleyball team's punch was the amount of top-25 teams the Wolverines faced this past season.
Darlene Recker and teammates were 1-13 against the elite 25 teams in the country, and finished 14-17 overall.
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