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October 1, 1997
spikers to meet surging Wildcats at Cliff Keen
By T. Berka
Daily Sports Writer
Last year, one couldn't fault Big Ten volley-
ball teams for taking the Northwestern
Wildcats lightly. Northwestern's best player,
middle blocker Sharon Fisk, was red-shirted
due-to a broken hand.
The Wildcats finished a humbling 0-20 in
4onference play and extended their Big Ten
losing streak to an embarrassing 30 games.
Not only was Northwestern thought lightly of,
many of its players were in high school when
the school had last pulled out a conference
What a difference a year makes.
Last Friday, Iowa hosted the Wildcats in the
conference opener. The Wildcats showed their
teeth and shocked the Hawkeyes three games
to two for their first conference victory since
As Northwestern (1-1 Big Ten, 10-3 over-
all) strolls into Cliff Keen Arena tonight to
face Michigan (2-0, 9-4), one thing will be for
certain - the Wolverines won't be chalking
this up as a win before the match starts.
"We have to be ready for Northwestern,"
Michigan coach Greg Giovanazzi said. "They
beat Iowa pretty good, and we had to fight to
get by them Saturday."
Much of the Wildcats' success can be
atributed to first-year head coach Kevin
Renshler, who arrived in Evanston after four
seasons at Kent State. Renshler brings with
him the "run-and-gun" style that he employed
at Kent State, in which his team tries to use
the whole net to its advantage.
Fisk's return has also freed up the
Northwestern attack, as she has assumed the
role of blocker, which was lacking last year in
"Having Sharon back
in the lineup has been a
huge lift for this team,"
Renshler said. "It frees
up the outside hitters and
allows them to have
much more free reign to
attack along the net."
start doesn't evoke as
Mendoza much surprise as
beginning, but it still is a nice change from
past seasons. The Wolverines had historically
started off slow in conference play. A recent
six-game winning streak has nixed that trend,
"We have really come together as a team in
the past few weeks, which is really good con-
sidering we have been without a true star since
Karen Chase went down," Giovanazzi said.
There have been a bevy of players who have
stepped up their play in Chase's absence. The
leaders of this charge are senior co-captains
Linnea Mendoza and Sarah Jackson.
Mendoza, the all-time Michigan assist
leader, broke the 4,000-assist barrier this
weekend in Friday's conference opening vic-
tory over Minnesota. Jackson has also been
solid, compiling 13 kills, eight block assists,
and nine blocks against the Gophers.
The Wolverines have also seen younger
players evolve during their six-game tear.
Freshman outside hitter Sarah Behnke has
taken to the college game well, leading the
team in kills during a two-game sweep of
Duke and North Carolina.
Junior Jane Stevens also has stepped up her
game, setting career-highs in kills in each of
the past two games. After setting the mark
against Minnesota with 15, Stevens upped the
mark against Iowa to 23.
With both the Wolverines and Wildcats
playing above their heads thus far in the Big
Ten, tonight's matchup should be a good sep-
arator between the contenders and the pre-
"Every game is going to be tough,"
Giovanazzi said. "We are going to have to
scratch and claw to win in the Big Ten."
The eyes have it:
Bucks will be
is official. The Big Ten season gets underway this
weekend with five conference games slated for
Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana and
Illinois have each played one Big Ten game apiece, but
this weekend, the other five get to see their first action.
urdue will be the only idle team this weekend in what
iilst might be the best conference in the nation.
The teams with national title
and/or Rose Bowl hopes know
who they are and are ready to go.
Those teams that aren't, well ...
shall we say as good, also know
who they are and probably aren't
looking forward to what can
become a very long season.
The Big Ten is packed this year,
with five teams currently ranked in
the top 12. It is early, but that has
never stopped anyone from talking
about the bowl picture. Why stop
There will be some great, must-
Rowers off to
H ead of Ohio
By Daniel Peri
For the Daily
With an influx of talented freshman, and a returning
core of experienced rowers, the Michigan crew team
will see how these two forces combine when they hit the
water Saturday. The team will compete in the Head of
the Ohio meet, which will be staged on the Ohio River
The team placed third in this open invitational last
year and will gun for the title this weekend under the
guidance of coach Mark Rothstein. This meet is classi-
fied as a Head Race, which means that each squad com-
petes individually to try to post the top time.
The road to victory will be a tall order for the team as
it competes against national powerhouses Brown,
Cornell and Virginia. Brown won the event last season,
and placed fourth at the national championships, one
spot ahead of Cornell.
There are four major tournaments during the fall sea-
son that serve as competitive tuneups for the more rig-
orous spring schedule against Big Ten opponents. Last
season, Michigan finished second in the conference
behind Wisconsin. Since there are only five Big Ten
teams with varsity programs, there is no Big Ten tourna-
ment, much to the chagrin of Rothstein.
The squad finished third in its region last season, but
failed to make the 16-team national championship tour-
nament. Rothstein said that the team is focused on
national success, and that Saturday's meet will gauge
"We'd really like to make it to nationals this year," hit
said. "We're in a good position, because we're faste?
than last year, and we are continually improving."
Michigan has an interesting blend of rowers in its top
eight-person boat, as it returns many top players an3
welcomes two freshman. The first team consists or
seniors Kate MacKenzie, Tina Stutzman, captain Lisa
Labadie, juniors Michelle Wolbert and Heather Uhring;
sophomore Jaime Stilson, and top freshman recruits
Kate Johnson and Melanie Duncan. Junior Belinda Koo
is the coxswain.
Rothstein said that the freshman have been a huge
benefit to the team thus far and have worked hard to
become acclimated to the University and to help the
squad on the water.
Labadie said that the addition of the new rowers cou
pled with the veterans will pay dividends.
"I think we are ahead of the game," Labadie said. "We
are an exciting blend of experience and talent."
See OHIO, Page 10
see games in the first few weeks of October that can
easily make or break a team's chances for the coveted
Take this weekend for instance.
Without a doubt, No. 11 Iowa at No. 7 Ohio State
ill be the biggest matchup in the conference, if not the
ggest in the nation for a couple of reasons:
I. This game will show if the Hawkeyes are as good
as everyone says, and could finally bring legendary
Iowa coach Hayden Fry the national attention he
2. It can almost definitely remove one of these two
top-10 teams from the Rose Bowl chase. And throwing
Ohio State out of the picture this early wouldn't be such
a bad thing.
"This is the best Iowa team I've seen since I've been
in the conference," Cooper said. "We got to play our
#st ballgame of the year, I don't think there is any
question about that."
Iowa is good, there is no denying that. It is ranked
first in the nation in scoring and in total offense and
eighth in rushing defense. But the question is: Are the
Hawkeyes really that good?
Keep in mind that these stats account for just four
games and that the Hawkeyes are untested. If this was a
college basketball team, analyst Dick Vitale would have
Iowa's Kerry Cooks might find interceptions harder to come by against formidable opponents like No. 7 Ohio State, whom the
Hawkeyes will play Saturday in Columbus.
a field day with the Hawkeyes' early bunch of cupcakes.
Fry even admits that their early schedule is a legitimate
gripe. Finally, a coach that speaks the truth.
"We haven't played a lot of real quality teams," Fry
said. "This will be the first team we will play that really
has exceptional athletes. (Our players) realize the quali-
ty of opposition hasn't been overwhelming."
That's right, each opponent has been pathetic.
The Hawkeyes first demolished Northern Iowa, a
Division I-AA team.
Then they spanked Tulsa, an 0-3 team ranked 102nd
nationally in turnover margin. The next victim was Iowa
State - when were they ever good? And last week was
Illinois. Enough said.
Illinois might be the best team out of that group, and
that's not saying much considering how terribly the
Illini have played this season and their recent woes.
The Buckeyes are the Hawkeyes' first real test. The
game will show whether the Hawkeyes are truly a Rose
Bowl contender, whether running back Tavian Banks is
a legitimate Heisman candidate and whether the
See RUMORE, Page 10
*0 Kiss a Daily Sports Editor.
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