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February 11, 2002 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-11

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - February 11, 2002

Elise Ray's return an
'all-around' success

By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Writer

The No. 2 Georgia Gym Dawgs are
used to pressure-packed situations in
front of thousands of fans. No. 6
Michigan was ecstatic to see the 3,037
supporters who showed up to cheer it in
one of its closest meets of the year
against one of the country's most sto-
ried programs.
The crowd included a sea of balloon
waving fans, a small, vocal student sec-
tion complete with a Valentine for
Michigan coach Bev Plocki and a hasti-
ly assembled pep band, which were
treated to an exciting finish.
"We were so excited to see the band
there," sophomore Calli Ryals said. "It
really does help. To hear that fight song
is awesome."
Michigan prevailed 197.175-197.025
in a meet that was tied going into the
final rotation. Earlier this season the
Wolverines were tied with Minnesota
after three rotations before earning the
win on the beam. But this time the fin-
ishing blow came on the floor exercise.
Michigan needed every bit of help it
received in the extremely close meet.
Conveniently enough, yesterday
marked the return of sophomore Elise
Ray who had been suffering from a

bruised heel. The former Olympic team
captain wasted no time in making an
immediate impact for the team, win-
ning her first all-around title of the year
with a 39.625.
Her first performance back on the
floor exercise, the only event she' had
not yet competed in since her injury,
earned a mark of 9.90.
Ray's all-around victory ended
Ryals' streak of five consecutive all-
around titles, a fact she needed to be
reminded of during the award cere-
monies when she took her regular spot
on the first-place podium before realiz-
ing Ray had yet to be introduced.
Ryals rounded out the Michigan
floor lineup with a 9.95, placing her in
a tie for that event's title.
"It was a little nerve-wracking
(going last)," Ryals said. "But we were
already hitting all our routines. I just
had to go out there and have fun."
The Wolverines posted no lower than
a 9.85 on the floor, giving them breath-
ing room aginst the Gym Dawgs, who
were also hitting each of their routines
on the beam.
The Gym Dawgs were competing
just two days after defeating Kentucky
in Ga., where they consistently draw
about 10,000 fans to their arena. It was
their third weekend of the year that

Continued from Page:lB
"Four years of hard work finally
came together today," senior Amy
Kuczera said. "Amazing, that's all I"
can say."
Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 10-2 over-
all) opened up the meet with a season
high 49.275 on the vault and had a nar-
row 98.35-98.15 lead after switching
rotations with Georgia (4-0 SEC, 6-2)
and competing on the uneven bars.'
But then, in typical fashion, Georgia
clawed its way back.
With Michigan competing valiantly
on the balance beam and scoring a
48.325 - which included a 10 from
one judge on Elise Ray's 9.975 -
Georgia showed the Wolverines why
they were the nations second best team
by reeling off three consecutive 9.95's
on the floor to finish with a team score
of 49.525.
Just like that the overall team score
was tied at 147.675.
Melissa Peterson opened up the
floor exercise for Michigan with a
solid 9.875 and then fellow senior and
floor specialist and captain Jodie
Rosenberg came to the mat.
While all the fans knew the score,
Rosenberg didn't focus on how close
the match was.
"I didn't know the score was tied,"
Rosenberg said before scoring a 9.85
on the Wolverines second rotation. "I
knew it was close but I had no idea we
were tied."
After a 9.85 from freshman Kallie

Steffes and a 9.9 and 9.8 from two
Georgia gymnasts on the balance
beah, Michigan held a narrow .025
lead with three competitors left.
Enter Janessa Grieco, Ray and Calli
Ray, performing in her first floor
exercise in over a month, showed why
pressure is never an issue with her and
tumbled to a 9.9 and a standing ova-
Georgia's Sierra Sapunar couldn't
stay with Ray's 9.9 and nearly fell off
the beam before finishing her rotation
strong and scoring a 9.675.
But that difference was all the
Wolverines would need as Grieco and
Ryals shut the door on the Gym Dogs
with scores of 9.925 and 9.95 respec-
"It was nerve wracking but everyone
before me hit so solid and that took so
much of the pressure off" Ryals said.
Despite the loss, Georgia moved up
to No. 1 in the nation because the
rankings are based on scoring avreage
rather than wins or losses.
Top ten rankings
Team Average
1. Georgia 196.597
2. Utah 196.525
3. Alabama 196.304
4. Oklahoma 195.930
5. Nebraska 195.805
6. Michigan 195.757
7. Stanford 195.621
8. Louisiana State 195.565
9. Iowa State 195.500
10. UCLA 195.442

uDVD -urOINuD/aily
Michigan gymnastics coach Bev Plocki has a tremendous amount of respect for
the program at Georgia.

contained such rigorous travel.
"It's tough playing on the road when
you're used to 10,000 people cheering,
for you," Georgia gymnast Marline
Stephens said. "It definitely doesn't
help when those people are rooting
against you."
Even with this important victory, the
Wolverines still cannot consider them-

selves equal to Georgia. Going into the
meet, the Gym Dawgs held a 13-0 reg-
ular season record and a 14-1 postsea-
son record over Michigan.
"I have the utmost respect for the
Georgia program," Plocki said. "I have
tried to mirror our team like Georgia, in
terms of their steady success and their

'M' bounces back to extinguish the Flames *

By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Writer
After suffering a setback to Notre Dame last week,
the Michigan women's tennis team was quick to
pounce on an unsuspecting Illinois-Chicago squad,
easily ousting the Flames 7-0 Saturday at the Varsity
Tennis Center. The Wolverines (3-1) won all their
matches for the first time this season, and Illinois-
Chicago (2-4) was outmatched from the beginning.
"We expected to win every match," Michigan
coach Bitsy Ritt said.
The Flames showed early signs of life during dou-
bles play. Although Michigan's No. 2 and No. 3 pair-
ings had quick victories over Illinois-Chicago, the
No. 1 Michigan tandem of freshmen Leanne Ruther-
ford and Michelle DaCosta faced an early challenge,
being down 4-1. The Flames won their games con-
vincingly, and it looked like they would be done in a
"We support each other a lot," Rutherford said. "I
think it helps us (play better when we are down) and
we thrive on having tension on us and play through it. "

After dropping the games early on, DaCosta and
Rutherford had enough, as they stormed back into
the match. They won the next six games just as
quickly as Illinois-Chicago took the lead and went
on to win 8-6.
"I feel we have a lot of confidence when I serve
because Leanne is great at the net," DaCosta said of
how the tandem relies on both their strengths. "My
first serve is pretty tough to return.
"When Leanne is serving, she's more consistent
than me, and we're able to hold on that too. If I miss
two returns, you can count on Leanne to make the
next two, and the same goes the other way around as
It was one of the few times the Wolverines faced
adversity in the meet, and that adversity was quickly
eliminated. At that point, it appeared that the Wolver-
ines were anxious to end the meet quickly. In their
respective first sets, four of the six singles players
won 6-0 and defeated their opponents in straight sets.
DaCosta came the closest to denying her opponent a
single point, winning her No. 4 match 6-0, 6-1.
"6-0, 6-0 is pretty difficult, and concentrating,

that hard is difficult for me," DaCosta said.
The meet saw the debut of new doubles pairings
for Michigan. Junior Jen Duprez and sophomore
Kim Plaushines teamed up at No. 2 and won their
match 8-1, and No. 3 saw sophomores Kavitha
Tipirneni and Christine Nolan breeze past the
Flames 8-2.
"I really liked the new doubles combinations,"
said Ritt. "We haven't seen them play together this
year, and I was pleased."
It appeared that this matchup between Illinois-
Chicago and Michigan could not have come at a
better time, as the Wolverines had dropped their
last contest to No. 13 Notre Dame last .week, and
face No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday. Ritt indicated
that this match was a good time to make improve-
"I think (a match against a team like Illinois-
Chicago) helps build confidence and gives them an
opportunity to work on things that you want to
work on," Ritt said. "Matches (like these) reveal
strengths and weaknesses and allows (the players
to adjust accordingly)."


Sophomore Kavitha Tiperneni, along with her partner Christine Nolan, had a
successful debut as one of Michigan's new doubles pairs.

Bryant drops 31, despite the hometown boos

booing began when Kobe Bryant was
introduced, continued after he made
a series of game-turning plays and
reached a crescendo when he was
handed the All-Star MVP trophy.
Back in his hometown where the
fans show him no love, Bryant
received none yesterday. Instead, he
was practically treated like a traitor
by the notoriously harsh Philadelphia
"I was pretty upset," Bryant said.
"The boos were hurtful, but it's not
going to ruin this day for me."
Bryant scored 31 points - the
most in an All-Star game since

Michael Jordan had 40 in 1988 - in
the arena where he walked off the
court last June with his second
championship, leading the Western
Conference over the East 135-120
Bryant, who grew up in Lower
Merion, Pa., and whose father, Joe,
played for the 76ers, played with
tremendous hustle and flashes of
flair in helping the West build a big
halftime lead that they never surren-
But he was booed nearly every he
touched the ball, and when the game
ended and he was given the MVP
trophy, they let him have it long and

loud one last time.
"What made me feel good though,
at the end, was that the more people
booed, some people started clapping
and cheering even harder. That made
me feel good," Bryant said.
Bryant became the first player to
reach 30 points since Jordan did it in
1993, and he relegated Jordan,
hometown hero Allen Iverson and
every other All-Star into an after-
thought by thoroughly dominating
the game nearly every-moment he
was on the floor.
He also had five rebounds and five
assists, shooting 12-for-25 from the

"What an incredible performance
he put on. He was a step ahead of the
best in the league, and that's hard to
do because there's some great players
out there," West coach Don Nelson
It's hard to fathom why fans in this
city would turn on a player who grew
up in the area and whose father was
somewhat of a fan favorite when he
played for the 76ers in the 1970s, but
Philadelphia is a tough town where
the fans can be rowdy, rude and
rough on their perceived enemies.
True story: They once booed Santa
Since Bryant was a part of the
Lakers team that defeated the 76ers
in the finals, his local roots and fam-
ily history are not endearing to the
mouthy masses who filled the First
Union Center.
"My first game here in the NBA,
my rookie year when I came out of
high school, they booed me a little
bit, too. That really, really hurt,
because it was like my homecom-
ing," Bryant said.
"I just look at it as them being die-
hard Sixers fans I guess, being loyal
to their team," he said.

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Lewis gets new job,
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Lewis will have a new job next season
after all.
Two days after the Tampa Bay Bucca-
neers backed out of making him their
new head coach,
Lewis agreed to
become defensive
coordinator of the
Washington Redskins
The announcement
came one day after
Lewis declared he Lewis
would remain defensive coordinator of
the Baltimore Ravens, a post he's held
since the team moved from Cleveland
before the 1996 season.
Although terms of Lewis' deal with
the Redskins were not disclosed, his

"I'm tired of putting my family
through this," he said. "My family is
happy with the area."
His contract with the Ravens has
expired, and he was expected to discuss
terms of a new deal with Modell over
the next couple of weeks. Instead, Lewis
will head south to begin employment
for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and
Washington's new head coach, Steve
Spurrier was seeking a defensive
coordinator with NFL experience and
few have done it better than Lewis, who
helped build the Ravens into a Super
Bowl champion.
Lewis' defense set an NFL record for
fewest points allowed in a season in
2000 and ranked first in the league in
fewest yards allowed. Last season, the

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