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March 30, 2000 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-30

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14A -- The Michigan Daily -. Thursday, March 30, 2000

M' Softball anxious for Big Ten opener Continued fromPage 9A

By Jon Schwartz
MIlay Sports Writcr
It's go timtle.
'he next time the Michigan softball
team takes the field, it'll be a whole new
ballgame.
(Gonc will be the various tournaments
all across the country
Forgottcn will be the indoor practices
as the team tried to escape the brisk air of
February and March.
L ost in the bright glow of the present
will be the impressive 22-6 record that
the team has compiled over the last two
:rmontl hs.
Because in I loonmingtor tomorrow,
(he real show begins.

Bring on the Big Ten.
Ahead of the players is what they've
been practicing for. It's -what they've
been hoping for. It's what they'll be
remembered tor, or it things don't go
well, forgotten for until they try again
next season.
They are glaring into the Big Ten sea-
son, and coach Carol Hutchins. said.
things are looking pretty good.,
"I think we're ready," I lutchins said. "I
expect us to be able to compete in every
game.
But the time between today and
tomorrow is perhaps the most crucial
point yet in the. young season. It is the
time to make the transitions that will pre-
pare them for what is coming.

And despite the team's success to date,
there are plenty of improvements to be
made.
I lutchins is still not satisfied with the
team's fielding, which currently ranks
sixth in the Big Ten.
Not good enough for the Wolverines,
who contend annually for the national
title: Even though the team ranks right
around the top of the conference in
pitching and batting, it is effectively
blending the three facets ofthe'game that
build champions.
"We're still looking for everyone to
contribute more than they. are, because I
told the kids that we haven't accom-
plished anything yet," Ilutchins said.
And while Hutchins speaks only of

this season to date --- having won four of
the last five Big Ten regular season
championships is quite an accomplish-
ment -- there is a select group of players
who have yet to achieve anything at all.
For the team's freshmen, this Big Ten
season is their first, but they don't antic-
ipate too much of a discrepancy between
what they have seen, and what they will
be seeing in their sleep for the next two
months.
But Hutchins is still confident'in the
team that she will send onto the field to
start the real season -whether the play-
ers are fifth-year seniors or freshmen.
"I think that we're doing a lot of things
well, and we're competing as a team
which is good,' hutchins said.

letics) the same way," Haro said. "I
found that I could not mix the two. Kurt
helped me separate them."
I aro's athletic and academic achieve-
ments were awarded this year in his
nomination as a finalist for the Nissen
Award. The award commends top
seniors for their excellence in athletics
and academics.
While gaining control over his own
hectic life, Lalo witnessed his team gain
control over its future destiny. Initially,
Ilaro was the only notable gymnast on
the squad. Many outside expectations
vere placed on his freshman year, but
Labo took a different tact.
"I approached freshman year as a
learning experience. Results did not
matter as much as the experience that I
gained," lHaro said.
As the lone Wolverine at the 1996
NCAA Championships in Iowa City,
Haro found more significance in the fact
that he represented Michigan- than his
I Ith place all-around finish that year.
"The goal that year was not to be all-
American - it was to have a Michigan
gymnast represent the school at

NCAAs," Haro said.
The following year's NCAA
Championships provided more encour-
agement for the program. Haro finished
fourth in the all-around - an accom-
plishment that left a large imprint on his
teammates.
"They said its time to step it up, and
make sure we came (to NCAAs) as a
team, Haro said. "My freshman and
sophomore years were stepping stones
for the program."
While last year's national title was an
obvious thrill, Haro nominates this year*
as his most enriching season.
"This year has been a gift -the team
has gone on a journey from the bottom
to the top in my career," Haro said.
"Now I can rely on all my teammates for
the national title -- everyone's doing
their part. All of them want the same
thing,-" Haro said.
Four years ago, Lalo Haro stood alone
in Iowa City as.Michigan's lone repre-
sentative, facing the entire NCAA by
himself.
Now he stands with his immensely
talented teammates in Iowa City, his
team sitting atop the men's gymnastics
world. For Haro, the meet provides a fit-
ting culmination

Netters hope to avoid
0-3 in the Big Ten

By Brian Steere
IDaily Sports Writer
If there was cver.:a time for the
Michigan men's tenrijs team to .step up
and display its outstanding talent, this
weekend would be the time.
After being shut out 7-0 by
Minnesota two weeks ago in
Minneapolis, the Wolverines now find
themselves facing one last road trip
before they can return home to the
Varsity Tennis Center. The team will
leave Ann Arbor to take on No. 6
Illinois on Saturday, followed by
Northwestern on Sunday.
Despite Michigan's No. 18 ranking
heading, into this weekend, both the
Fighting Illini and Wildcats are danger-
ous opponents. Illinois has won the Big
Ten title the past three 'seasons, and
Northwestern has split the last 10
matches against the Wolverines. If
Michigan is not ready to play, it could
s.rt the conference season with a 0-3
record and severely hurt its chances for
a Big Ten championship.
However, the Wolverines have a
burning desire to win, and they know
the amount of work it takes to come out
on top.
"The loss to Minnesota did not
change our hard work ethic at all,"
Michigan coach Mark Mees said. "It
simply revealed how badly everyone on

this team hates to lose."
Senior Matt Wright, Michigan's No.
I singles playei, stressed the importance
of the matches against Illinois and
Northwestern.
"This weekend will be a good mea-
sure of the strength and character of this
team, Wright said. "It's our job to learn
from the Minnesota match and turn that
negative experience into a positive one."
In the match against Minnesota,
many of the Wolverines were down
after the team lost the doubles point and
then fell behind in the singles play.
Wright knows that everyone's focus
must improve in order for the team to be
successful this weekend.
"Each player needs to concentrate on
playing the best match that he can -
we can't get caught up in winning or
losing," Wright said. "It is imperative
that we play hard and have fun, and the
result will take care of itself.:
Although Mees is hoping for two vic-
tories this weekend, he also wants his
team to play up to the best of its ability
- both mentally and physically,
"The focus during a match is not on
the end result- which can be a distrac-
tion, but rather on being in the right
frame of mind for every minute and
every point," Mees said. "I told our
guys that I would never be mad at a
player for losing if he showed that type
of focus."

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