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November 14, 2001 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-11-14

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PORTS

michigandaidy.comls orts

WEDNESDAY
NOVEMBER 14, 2001

9

- --- - ---- --

Stickers on the brink of historical victory

By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
When the Michigan field hockey team leaves
for the NCAA Final Four in Kent, Ohio today, it
will not only represent Michigan, but it will be
representing the entirety of Michigan women's
athletics.
The Wolverines will try to earn the school its
first ever national championship in a women's
sport this weekend, as they take on No. 6 Prince-
ton in the national semifinals Friday for the right
to play either No. 1 Maryland or No. 3 Wake For-
est for the title on Sunday afternoon.
"It definitely does put a little twist on things
knowing that we could make history," forward
April Fronzoni said. "It's definitely something
that's been on our head and everyone brings it
up.
Michigan is making its second trip to field
hockey's biggest event in three years. The
Wolverines made it to the championship game in
1999 in the team's first NCAA Tournament
appearance, but ended up losing to Wake Forest

Field Hockey NCAA Championships
? d
Friday, Friday.
4:30 p.m. Cl pinp 7 p.-m.
No. 7 Michigan No. ( Maryland
vs. No. 6 Princeton vs.No.3Wake Forest
in Final Four fneai lni <ea in Final Four
Ken, Ohio
2-1. But now the team has experienced the
excitement of the event, giving them an advan-
tage that was lacking two years ago.
"I think there's nothing like experience,"
Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. "Our sen-
iors and our juniors have been there and I think
they will bring that experience with them."
For a while, it did not seem like the Wolverines
would be in this position. After losing three out
of its last seven games, including a 3-0 loss to
Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals,
the team roared back to upset No. 4 North Caroli-
na and No. 7 Michigan State at last weekend's
regional to earn the trip to Kent.
"We did have our rough spots during the sea-
son toward the end." Franzoni said. "But I think

those rough sports actually helped us. Obviously
we wanted to win the Big Ten Tournament. But
knowing that we didn't win it and proving that we
deserved to win it and deserve to be in the Final
Four just makes it even sweeter."
This weekend will be the last hurrah for five
seniors that helped bring the Michigan program
to where it is now. When they first arrived,
Michigan had not finished in the top three of the
Big Ten since 1982, but now the program is on
the brink of the ultimate prize.
"I could have never dreamed of a better ending
then this - being at home, and then going to the
Final Four," senior goalie Maureen Tasch said.
"Going into this I know there is no way we can
have regrets at the end."
But despite accomplishing so much, teh
Wolverines still have the chance to make history.
"It would really, I think, may it extra special
to bring home the'first one and to have the
honor of doing that for the University," mid-
fielder Molly Powers said. "Just representing the
women in the athletic department would be
unbelievable."

BRENDAN O'DONNELL/Daily
Michigan upset No. 4 North Carolina this weekend to keep its hopes of a national
title alive.
Basketball still trying
to improve defense

Spartans will count on freshman quarterback

By David Horn
Daily Sports Writer

Last year's worst defense in the
Big Ten last has a new coach,
Tommy Amaker, who happens to
have been the best defensive player
in the country 11 years ago. Will
that do the trick? So far the Michi-
gan basketball team has played two
exhibition games - against the EA
Sports All Stars and Nike Elite -
and the defensive cobwebs of last
season do not seem to have been
cleared at all.
"We didn't rotate back to get guys
back in position," Amaker said of his
team's transition defense in last Sun-
day's exhibition. "They scored a lot
of easy baskets in transition."
Nike Elite scored 79 points on the
Wolverines, who allowed an average
of 78.2 points per game last season.
Nike Elite forward Rick Hughes
scored 26 points and pulled in 16
rebounds, including five on the
offensive end.
Hughes' counterpart in the maize
and blue, senior Chris Young, man-
aged only five rebounds, three of
which were defensive. He was
helped by 'freshman Chuck Bailey,
who led the Wolverines with nine
boards of his own.
But rebounding wasn't the only
defensive problem. Nike -Elite had
stretches - especially in the first
half, en route to a 14-point halftime
lead - when all its points were
coming off of turnovers, and suc-
cessfully converted fast breaks.
"We just weren't getting back and
the guards on the other squad

... were just getting fast break, fast
break, fast break," Young said. "We
were sending maybe one to two guys
to the glass today where normally
we're supposed to send our three,
four and five nan."
Amaker and his team did virtually
nothing once practice began over a
month ago but work on defensive
drills. There was an expectation that
a strong offense would come from a
well-executed defense. Amaker has
been adamant about focusing on
defense since the day he took the
job.
The Wolverines, then, are com-
pletely defensive-oriented in prepar-
ing for this Friday's game against
Oakland - the first of the team's
regular season.
Last year the Golden Grizzlies
scorched Michigan from behind the
3-point arc. They shot nearly 51.7-
percent on 3-pointers over the course
of the game, and nearly 60-percent
from the field in the second half.
Michigan fell 97-90 to begin its
2000-01 campaign on a sour note.
"Their entire team can shoot the
three-ball," sophomore Bernard
Robinson said of the Grizzles. "This
entire week is going to be defense,
defense, defense."
There are plenty of things Michi-
gan needs to work on in preparation
for Oakland and the beginning of the
season. On the defensive end, every-
thing needs improvement: Rebound-
ing, transition, the perimeter game.
Amaker is trying to make sure that if
nothing else, this team does not suf-
fer the same defensive woes as it did
in last year's season opener.

By Raphael Goodstein
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan State (3-3 Big Ten, 5-3
overall) is notorious for following up
big wins with poor performances, so
it came as no surprise that following
its win over.No. 12 Michigan, the
Spartans lost at home to Indiana (3-
3, 3-5), 37-28.
But what compounded the dam-
age for Michigan State was the
injury to starting quarterback Jeff
Smoker. Earlier in the season,
Smoker was splitting time with sen-
ior Ryan Van Dyke, but when he
went down, Smoker received all the
playing time and the Spartans were
left without a safety net at the quar-
terback position.
Late in the fourth quarter, with
the Spartans trying to mount a
comeback, Smoker injured his
throwing shoulder, leaving two
freshmen as Michigan State's
options at quarterback this week at
Purdue (3-3, 5-3).
"We're down to-Damon Dowdell
who's a.redshirt freshman, and
Aaron Alexander, who's a true fresh-
"man," 'Iichigan State coach Bobby
Williams said.
While Van Dyke is practicing
again, he has not been cleared to
play by the Michigan State medical
staff, and is not participating in con-
tact drills.
"We've changed our practices
over the last three weeks since we've
lost so many players," Williams said.
"We don't have many sessions where

we go good against good. Most we
do is walk through sessions where
its not fast-paced drills. We've
scaled back overall time that we
spend on the field."
The Spartans need to win one of
their last three games to become
bowl eligible. They close with Penn
State (2-4, 3-5) and Missouri (3-4,
4-5), which are both trying to
become bowl eligible themselves.
MOVING up?: There are two ways
to look at Ohio State's end to its sea-
son - Purdue, No. 12 Illinois and at
Michigan - good because of the
opportunity to move up in the stand-
ings, or bad because of the quality
of opponents.
Either way, Ohio State used two
safeties to clear the first hurdle,
beating Purdue 35-9.
"I haven't been around too many
games where you get two safeties,"
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
"Not only do you get the two points
both times but that normally gets
you the ball back in good field
position."
With Illinois up next, the Buck-
eyes are starting to eye the Big Ten
title and its BCS bid. If Ohio State
beats No. 12 Illinois (5-1, 8-1), and
wins at Michigan (5-1, 7-2), the
Buckeyes would win at least a share
of the title, and would take the BCS
bowl bid virtue of beating the two
teams who are also contending for
the title.
"We have two people on the
standings who are both in front of
us, and that's fortunate for us," Tres-

DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily
Michigan State's Jeff Smoker is day-today after injuring his shoulder last Saturday.

sel said. "The Big Ten title was defi-
nitely our goal at the beginning of
the year."
MILLING AROUND: After starting 0-
4, Penn State has rebounded to win
four of its last five games. The
resurgence was led by freshman
quarterback Zack Mills, who
replaced Matt Senneca as the quar-
terback that receives most of the
playing time. "
But up 21-7 at Illinois last week
- in a game Penn State went on to
lose 33-28 - Mills sprained his
ankle and didn't return.
"It's a day-by-day thing," Penn
State coach Joe Paterno said. "Hope-
fully, he'll be ready by Saturday."

BCS rankings
RANK TEAM TOTAL
1. Nebraska 2.20
2. Miami (Fla.) 7.31
3. Oklahoma 7.89
4. Oregon 11.97
5. Florida 11.98
6. Texas 13.51
7. Tennessee 14.81
8. Washington State 17.99
9. Stanford 23.61
10. Illinois 24.17
11. Michigan 25.16
12. Maryland 25.29
13. Brigham Young 28.03
14. Colorado 33.65
15. Syracuse 33.79

Helminen, freshmen pulling their weight

By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Writer
Nobody was looking forward to the Michigan hock-
ey team's trip to Alaska-Fairbanks two weekends ago
more than freshman Dwight Helminen. He knew he
would be able to thrive on the Nanooks' Olympic-size
skating rink because of all the extra space to work with.
And thrive he did, notching a goal and an assist on
the weekend to help the Wolverines get the sweep over
the Nanooks.
Helminen is currently riding a three-game scoring
streak and is second among freshmen on the team with
five points.
Helminen's recent success seems to be spreading
like wildfire through Michigan's freshman class. The
class has accounted for 43 percent of Michigan's offen-
sive production.
"The thing about it is that they are getting in situa-
tions where they are going to have success," Michigan
associate head coach Mel Pearson said. "It's important
(that they score) because we only have so many upper-
classmen who are proven scorers, so we will need

them. A lot of them haven't scored as much as we'd
like, but you don't want to put too much pressure on
them right now."
Helminen's linemates, freshmen David Moss and
Michael Woodford, have both played well recently.
Moss has recorded two assists in the past three games,
and Woodford is currently tied for third in scoring
among freshman with four points.
"Even though Woodford and Moss didn't score in
Alaska, they each could have had two or three goals on
the weekend," Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
"And Helminen was one of our best players on the
weekend."
Said Pearson: "(Those three) have been playing real-
ly well of late. Dwight's really emerging as the leader
of the line, and their continued success will only help
the team."
Freshman Milan Gajic recorded his first goal of the
season on the powerplay in Michigan's 2-1 win over
the Nanooks. He is another player who the Wolverines
need to come around and play to his full offensive
potential.
"There's no reason why Gajic can't be more produc-

tive offensively than he has been" Berenson said. "And
I expect him to be."
In order for the team to succeed this season, the
freshman class will need to make a significant offen-
sive contribution. But Berenson is being careful not to
put too much pressure on his young players just yet.
"Certainly you can't expect these guys to carry the
team, but I would not be surprised if they add to our
production," Berenson said. "The freshmen are on the
firing line just like our upperclassmen.
"We can't be the kind of team that is dependent on
one or two players, otherwise we would be in trouble."
GETTING OUT-SHOT NOT SO BAD: For most teams, get-
ting out-shot in a game usually translates into a loss.
But this is not the case for the Wolverines. Michigan is
2-0-1 in games in which it has been out-shot by its
opponent. The Wolverines were out-shot 27-22 and
36-30 in their two wins over Alaska-Fairbanks, and
they were out-shot 24-22 in their tie against Michigan
State.
In contrast, Michigan has out-shot its opponent in
six of nine games with a 251-220 advantage in shots on
goal, but is only 2-4-0 when out-shooting its opponent.

................_..

EE;
1

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