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November 15, 1999 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-15

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After last season's finish left a sour taste in the Wolverines' mouths, the Michigan women's basketball team finds itself with some.

nifished

business

Heartbreaking finish
still motivation for this
season's Wolverines
By Michael Kern O DAILY SPoRs WRJTER

In their final game of the season, the Wolverines
found themselves clinging to just a one-point lead
over Michigan State at Crisler Arena in the second
round of the WNIT, after failing to convert on a Stacey
Thomas steal with a minute to go in the game.
With five seconds left, Donita Johnson pulled up
and missed for the Spartans. But the Wolverines failed
to box out, and Becky Cummings was able to tip the
ball into the basket as the horn sounded to give the
Spartans a one-point victory.
The season-ending loss may have left the Michigan
women's basketball team with a sour taste in its mouth
all summer. But the Wolverines know they can't focus
on the past.
"It was a bad way to end the season," junior guard
Anne Thorius said. "But this is a new season and things
are looking brighter. We have goals we want to accom-
plish this year, so we're not looking back."
And with all five starters returning from a very
young team, Michigan has set some high goals, includ-
ing a top-three finish in the Big Ten and a return trip to
the NCAA Tournament from two years ago.
Last season, the Wolverines had five new freshmen,
three of whom, Raina Goodlow, Ruth Kipping and
Alayne Ingram, started and saw significant playing
time throughout the year. Heather Oesterle, also from
that class, started three games early in the season, as
well, but was forced to the bench much of the season
due to injuries.
Throw captains Stacey Thomas and Anne Thorius
into the mix along with junior Alison Miller and two
new freshmen, and Michigan coach Sue Guevara has
nine players capable of providing significant contribu-
tions on offense and defense.
"This team is the most athletic team that we've had,"
Guevara said. "It's a very versatile basketball team. I
can play with a lot of different lineups. I can go big. I
can go quick. I think we'll be able to press a little bit
more.
"I've got some good size inside and some three-
point shooters on the perimeter. I have a lot of flexibil-
ity."
If the Wolverines are going to accomplish their
goals, they'll need oustanding play from Thomas. As
last year's leader in points, rebounds, steals, and
blocked shots, Thomas will be expected to carry a
good portion of the load again this season.
But more importantly, Thomas will also have to con-
tribute as a leader with her voice. With a team that
includes five sophomores and two freshmen, the
Wolverines will need a leader who can keep the team
focused on and off the court.
"I lead more by example," Thomas said, "but I'm
trying to be more of a vocal leader as far as talking and
getting on somebody if they need to be got on, and
speaking up when things need to be spoken about."
Guevara and Thomas both believe the senior for-
ward has the potential to be the Big Ten player of the
year and possibly play in the WNBA next season. But
for those two things to happen, Thomas will have to
become a little more selfish with the ball and will have
to look more for her own shot rather than looking for
the open man.
"I told Stacey to shoot the ball as much as she can,"
Guevara said. "I'm not going to have to say, 'Stacey,
you're shooting the ball too much.' I'm probably never
going to have to say that to her. If she wants to go to the
next level, she needs to score."
Another key for Michigan will be the play of
Thorius. Thorius, who runs the point for the
Wolverines, is currently seventh on the school's career
assists list and if she continues, could break the record

this year. She was All-Big Ten second team last
season and the Michigan defensive player of
the year.
During the summer, Thorius played for
the Danish national team but spent most
of her time playing at the two-guard
rather than the point. With Ingram better
suited to playing the point, Michigan
could move Thorius over to get both play-
ers in the lineup at the same time.
"Alayne has come out really strong
this preseason;' Thorius said. "She had
some experience this summer playing
point guard for the Big Ten All-Star
team, so giving her the ball at the
point is definitely not a problem for
me.
"It will give me the opportunity
to score more and look at the basket
more, instead of just being focused
on making sure everyone knows
where to go on offense. It will give a
different spot on the floor to play,
and I'll enjoy it."
Along with its 10 returnees,
Michigan also has two out-
standing freshmen that could
contribute.
Center LeeAnn Bies is a big
body who can add some strength
to the Wolverines' front line and
provide some extra help on the
boards where they often struggled last year.
"Eileen Shea, one of my assistant coaches, was hit
by a pick that Bies threw and said, 'Coach, I haven't
been hit like that since Pollyanna Johns,"' Guevara
said. "It's no secret, we needed some size inside, we
needed some strength, and we definitely added that
with LeeAnn."
Guard Infini Robinson gives the Wolverines some
added depth in the backcourt, along with a good 3-
point stroke, another aspect that Michigan lacked.
"It is a little tough for her right now because she is
coming in and she is learning a whole new system,
especially offensively," Guevara said. "But I expect
Infini to play. She can shoot from downtown Ann
Arbor. She's not afraid to fire the ball, and I like that
about her."
Even if Thomas and Thorius continue to excel and
the sophomores and freshmen step as Guevara thinks
they can, the Wolverines will still be playing in one of
the toughest conferences in the nation. Purdue is the
returning national champion, but most people are pick-
ing them to finish third or fourth in the conference.
"I think this conference, top to bottom, is much
improved," Guevara said. "Wisconsin, who won the
WNIT last season, returns all five starters. I don't think
any team is going to go all the way through undefeat-
ed. Every game is going to be a dogfight. It's going to
be a battle."
With a solid starting five and a deep bench,
Michigan is poised to return to the NCAA
Tournament. The Wolverines have a solid mix of talent
and experience and are hoping to make this a year for
the record books.
"We have 12 people on that team that are very com-
mitted to having this be the best year in Michigan
women's basketball history," Guevara said. "We have
very good chemistry, and think that's one of those
intangibles that you can't take for granted. You can
have a team full of great athletes, but if your chemistry
is not very good, your team suffers."

Crunch time
Key Dates for the Wolverines:
Dec. 11-13 (Big Ten/SEC Challenge)
The Wolverines travel to the bayou to face
Louisiana State and No. 5 Louisiana Tech in their
toughest non-conference road trip of the season.
Last season, the Lady Techsters defeated Michigan
in Crisler Arena on national television 84-66. On
Dec. 13, the upset-minded Wolverines will have the
chance to exact revenge on Tech's home, court.
Jan. 9 (vs. Purdue)
The Wolverines get their only regular season
match-up with the defending national champions.
This is Michigan's opportunity to prove that it can
hang with the big dogs in the Big Ten in front of a
national television audience. A victory would also
give the Wolverines a leg up in the Big Ten stand-
ings early in the season.
Jan. 23 (vs. Iowa)
The Wolverines host the Hawkeyes sandwiched
between road games against Big Ten favorites,
Wisconsin and Penn State. Michigan will need to
focus on a team it should be favored to beat and
not look ahead or behind to stronger opponents.
Last season, the Wolverines fell to a Minnesota
team it was favored to beat after falling to
Louisiana Tech the night before. If the Wolverines
want to be a top team in the Big Ten, they can't
look past anyone.
Feb. 3 (vs. Illinois)
The Wolverines face off at home against the
12th-ranked Illini, a team many are picking to win
the Big Ten. Illinois returns all starters from a team
that finished third in the Big Ten last season.
Halfway through the Big len season, a win for
Michigan could mean the difference between a
first-round Big Ten Tournament bye and another
.500 Big Ten season.
Feb. 20 (at Michigan State)
Last season, the Wolverines lost a key game on
the road to Michigan State, allowing the Spartans
to move ahead of them in the Big Ten standings.
The loss ended up costing Michigan a chance at a
bye in the first round of the Big Ten
Tournament.This late-season game will be key if
Michigan hopes to return to the NCAA
Tournament.

4-

Alayne Ingram will have to
provide a steady hand at the
point guard position for
Michigan, not only running the
fast break but also when the
Wolverines execute their half-
court sets.
if she does what the team
needs her to do, Michigan
might be Dancing again next
March.
SAM HOLLENSHEAD /Daily

* ?r
. "

A player no matter where she goes, Jara finds a home at 'M'

By Arun Gopal
Daily Sports Writer
When people think of sports in South
America, one thing usually comes to mind
immediately: Soccer. Images of packed stadi-
ums, hard-fought matches, and boisterous,
fanatical fans contribute to South America's
well-deserved reputation as a soccer-mad
continent.
But South Americans do play other sports,
too. For example, Brazil has long been
enowned for its' outstanding indoor and
beach volleyball teams. Tennis has also had a
strong following in South America, as evi-
denced by the worldwide success of stars
such as Chile's Marcelo Rios and Argentina's
Gabriela Sabatini.
And then, there's basketball.
Basketball?

season.
"Susana's a really good kid," Michigan
coach Sue Guevara said. "She's a really hard
worker, and she appreciates her time on the
floor. She's a valuable part of this team."
Walking onto a team is not easy. Unlike the
scholarship athletes who are guaranteed a
spot on the team, a walk-on has to prove to
the coaching staff that they deserve a chance
to wear a jersey. When Jara initially
approached Guevara about walking on, the
response was less than encouraging.
"At first, I said no," Guevara said. "I hadn't
had a lot of luck with walk-ons, so I wasn't
very receptive to the idea initially.
"We'd seen her play the summer before her
freshman year, and we didn't really need
another guard at the time. I told her that she
could join the team as a manager, and that's

in scoring while helping her team to a third-
place finish. This valuable international expe-
rience has had a visible impact on her game.
"I don't know what the Ecuadorian
National Team was like, but she played
against some older women, so the game must
have been quite physical," Guevara said. "You
can tell that her experience has helped tough-
en her and prepare her mentally for the
American game."
Prior to her senior year of high school, Jara
came to the United States as part of a foreign
exchange program. During her year of school
in Tustin, while earning first-team all-
Conference honors in basketball, she learned
about Michigan and decided to apply.
"I wanted to study electrical engineering,
and they didn't have very good programs in
Ecuador, so I decided to study here," Jara

tinents. In her opinion, the main difference
between the games is the level of competi-
tion.
"There are a couple different rules," Jara
said. "The level of play varies from country to
country. In Brazil, they have a good level of
play, but between the United States and
Ecuador, there is a big difference in talent
level"
Even though she is not on scholarship yet,
Jara is treated no differently than any of her
teammates. Guevara said the rest of the play-
ers and the coaches have fully accepted Jara
as a member of the team.
"The rest of the girls get on her just like
they do everyone else," Guevara said. "They
don't cut her any slack. For her part, she goes
out and challenges the other players every
day. She sets a great example for the rest of

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