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November 19, 2001 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-11-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

llJe ffiibigun uilg
RSPAY

Sports desk: 763-2459
sportsdesk@umich.edu

SECTION B

I

*rr 1t IF-

I

I

SEMIFINALS:
No. 7 Michigan 4,
No. 6 Princeton 2

FINALS:
No. 7 Michigan 2,
No. 1 Mary and 0

At last, moment has

come for 'M'

women

ENT, Ohio - They came from all over the country. Nearly 100
alumni, students and other Michigan athletes made the trip to wit-
ess a moment of far more magnitude than this small city could
hold.
For once, football played second fiddle at Michigan, and for good reason
- history was in the making.
The national champion Michigan field hockey players rushed the field
with chest-bumping pride, mauling each other in both
smiles and tears. Nothing could take this moment
away. Dozens of fellow Michigan varsity athletes from
the softball, gymnastics and swimming teams car-
pooled to make the trip in support of the "Michigan
family," because they realized how special this day
was.
As sophomore defender Stephanie Johnson, a mem-
ber of the first women's national title team in school
history, waved the Michigan flag, she symbolically car- JOE
ried the torch for future women champions. SMITH
"It was an unreal feeling," Johnson said. "It didn't The One
hit me until all the fans rushed onto the field how spe- and Only
cial being a Michigan athlete is and being part of the
Michigan family."
The feeling was the same for the representatives of women's teams that
have came so close to the "Holy Grail" in past years.
"There's nowhere else I'd rather be right now," said Meghan Doe, a
sophomore on the Michigan softball team. "This is something we'll always
remember."
Nobody expected this Michigan team to make it so far - except the
Wolverines. Maybe that's why they seemed so loose before the game, danc-
ing around on the bus, playing touch football on the field and holding the
confidence of everyone who dons the maize and blue. It didn't matter that the
unseeded Wolverines started off the season 3-2 and finished third in the con-
ference tournament. It didn't matter that they faced the top-ranked Terrapins,
or that no field hockey team with five losses had ever won a national title.
The landmark win came against a familiar foe, the same Maryland team
that deprived Michigan of the title two years ago. The Terrapins were an
experienced, tested, senior-laden team that boasted 10 players who had
already tasted a national title at the expense of the upstart Wolverines.
But this was a different year, a different team, a different mentality.
Johnson admitted that the Wolverines had a "magical run" in 1999 and
were on such a "Cloud Nine" that just getting to the national title game was
special.
This time, they were here for keeps - on a mission that could not be
stopped.
An inspiring illustration of this will to win came a few minutes into the
game, when Johnson took a rocket slapshot to the face in front of the Michi-
gan net. She fell to the ground in obvious pain and was helped to the side-
lines. But just minutes later, after watching her teammates bravely battle on
the field, Johnson returned to the game, receiving cheers from the crowd.
Hail to the Victors, Valiant.
"I feel like in the last two weeks, this calm, cool attitude has come over
our team," said senior goalkeeper Maureen Tasch. "And we've all been in a
zone."
Tasch helped the Wolverines remain calm and composed after a flurry of
Maryland opportunities. Michigan then utilized its team speed and oppor-
tunistic nature to tally a late first-half goal to give it the lead for good.
Michigan was outshot and, at certain instances, outplayed. But in keeping
with the school's rich tradition, it was not outclassed.
The Terrapins became so frustrated as each shot was steered aside that
their coaching staff was reprimanded by the officials for unsportsmanlike
conduct. But the Maryland coaches had nothing but respect for the Wolver-
ines after it was all said and done.
"In 1999, we were in a completely different class than they were' Mary-
land coach Missy Meharg said. "They've come a long way and I have the
utmost respect for them."
And why not?
The only other Big Ten team to capture a field hockey title was Iowa in
1986.
But with Michigan's crown and perennial national prowess, the Wolver-
ines have leveled the playing field with dynasties from the East Coast such
as Old Dominion, Wake Forest and Maryland.
And they couldn't have set a more important precedent for future Wolver-
ines. After the last seconds ticked away, the Wolverines immediately rushed
to the front row of the stands to embrace their loyal followers. Whether it
was parents, alumni, fellow athletes or classmates, they all began a rousing
chant of "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine."
After a moment like this, it's hard not to feel that way.
Joe Smith can be reached atJosephms@umich.edu

Senior All Balmer (left), along with sophomores Stephanie Johnson (behind) and April Fronzoni (right) celebrate the first women's national championship. LESLIE WARD/Daily
Luck is Varsity's lady in win over Badgers W

By Jeff Phillips
Daily Sports Editor
MADISON - In a season of close calls
and bizarre endings, Michigan (6-1 Big Ten,
8-2 overall) squeaked by Wisconsin (3-4, 5-
6), 20-17, to remain tied with Illinois atop the
Big Ten.
With the score tied at 17, Michigan lined
up to punt on fourth-and-10 after taking a
delay of game penalty and letting the clock
wind down to 24 seconds.
On the Hayden Epstein punt, Wisconsin put
everyone on the line rather than put a returner
back to receive the punt. But downfield on

situation, Williams picked up the ball and ran
into the endzone.
Bell claimed he did not know that the Bad-
gers were not planning on returning the punt.
"I wasn't informed. They just said 'punt
return' and I went out there," Bell said.
Unbeknownst to Williams, the ball cannot
be advanced on such a play in college foot-
ball.
"I knew that if the ball hit the jammer you
could pick it up - I thought I could score,"
Williams said.
The play set up a game-winning field goal
by Epstein that narrowly flew inside the left
goal post.

Wisconsin had a chance to go up by three
just a minute earlier, but kicker Mark Neuser
just missed a 36-yard field goal wide right to
give the ball back to Michigan. Neuser is 7-
of-10 in field goals on the season.
The Badgers' defense dominated the
Wolverines the entire game, but especially in
the second half, where Michigan managed
just 54 yards of total offense.
It was arguably Michigan's worst offensive
game of the season after averaging 373 yards
per game in the previous nine games.
The Wolverines' Marquise Walker was held
to just four catches for 14 yards and quarter-
back John Navarre passed for just 58 yards on

11 P~IA - - - - 1J .ALYSSA WOOD/Daily

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