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March 11, 2002 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 11, 2002 - 3B

Women's season prolonged with WNIT berth

RAPHAEL
GOODSTEIN

By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer

It may not have been what the
Wolverines wanted at first, but
they're going to take it.
Michigan was invited to the
Women's National Invitation Tour-
nament last night and will play Val-
paraiso in the first round at Crisler
Arena on Wednesday night. The
game will be played at 7 p.m.
The 32-team tournament, com-
prised of some of the best teams
that did not make the NCAA field,
will be played at campus sites
through the final that will be played
during the last week of March. The
Wolverines played in the WNIT
back in 1999 when they beat West-
ern Michigan in Kalamazoo before
losing to Michigan State in East
Lansing.
"It's a really great opportunity to
keep our season going for a couple
weeks," Michigan coach Sue Gue-
vara said.
Valparaiso finished the season
with a 24-6 record and a 13-1 record
in conference play, which placed it
comfortably in first place in the
'M' not
clutch at
the n ht
moment
By Eric Chan
Daily Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - For the No. 2
Michigan wrestling team, the Big
Ten Championships were full of
"what-ifs." What if Clark Forward
had been healthy enough to com-
pete? What if A.J. Grant scored that
crucial second-period escape
against Iowa's Luke Eustice? What
if Charles Martelli was able to
escape in his double-overtime loss
to Minnesota's Nate Baker?
"I'm going to be thinking and
analyzing what we did wrong the
entire ride back," Michigan coach
Joe McFarland said.
One could play with hypothetical
scenarios about Michigan's per-
formance all day, but the fact is that
when it came down to it, the
Wolverines failed to perform in the
clutch.
The inability of Michigan
wrestlers to beat opponents whom
they had topped earlier in the season
led to their disappointing third-
place finish.
"You have to step it up and we
didn't do a good job of that,"
McFarland said.
Third-ranked Iowa did everything
that Michigan couldn't as it cruised
to a second-place finish behind
seemingly unbeatable Minnesota.
The seventh-seeded 125-pounder
Eustice pulled off two stunning
upsets - one over Michigan's Grant
and the other over second-seeded
Chris Fleeger from Purdue - en
route to a second-place finish.
Iowa's 141-pounder Luke Moffitt,
seeded sixth, beat Ohio State's
Robert Sessley in one of the best
matches of the year. In double over-
time, Moffitt needed to stand up and
escape to win. With three seconds
left, Sessley shoved Moffitt out of
bounds and it looked like the match
was over as Sessley just had to hold
down Moffitt and run the clock out.
To the delight of the boisterous

Iowa fan base sitting directly behind
the mat, Moffitt exploded up and
scored an escape as the buzzer
sounded to upset the second-seeded
Sessley. In the finals, Moffitt --
voted the "Outstanding Wrestler" of
the Big Ten Championships - upset
another higher seed by pinning Min-
nesota's Chad Erikson in the second
period.
"It's the end of the year and you
have to wrestle with a lot of emo-
tion. Their program (Iowa) has
made a living out of that kind of
wrestling," McFarland said.
One can be sure that the Wolver-
ines were missing Forward; a 141-
pounder. Forward, who suffered an
ankle infection last month, was
unable to compete, so redshirt
freshman Nick Velissaris was asked
to step in.
Velissaris lacked experience and
was out-matched in the tournament
as he lost by fall and then technical
fall in his first two matches and was
eliminated.
"I think Clark not being here will

Mid-Continent Conference. But the
Crusaders lost in their conference
tournament final to Oakland, and
their low strength of schedule left
them out of the NCAA field.
If the Wolverines can get past the
Crusaders, they will play either
Louisville or Ball State this week-
end. Michigan has applied to host
every game that it participates in
through the final, but the site of
each game will not be announced
until after each round. Other teams
on Michigan's side of the bracket
include Virginia Tech, Rice, Hous-
ton and Georgia Tech.
"At this point everybody is a
strong team," Guevara said.
Teams from the Big Ten have
done extremely well in the tourna-
ment over the past few years. Ohio
State, Wisconsin, and Penn State
won the tournament in 2001, 2000,
and 1998, respectively, and Wiscon-
sin also made it to the final in 1999.
Illinois and Michigan State also
made the field this season as the
Fighting Illini will host Western
Kentucky and the Spartans will host
DePaul on Thursday. The only other
WNIT team Michigan played this

season in the field is Washington,
which Michigan beat on two last
second free throws by LeeAnn Bies
in Seattle back in December.
Michigan, after making it to the
second round of the NCAA Tourna-
ment last season, was predicted by
many to be in the tourney again this
year and by some to be a high seed.
And after the team's 10-1 start and
the program's highest ranking ever it
seemed like that was going to hap-
pen. But Michigan's 6-10 Big Ten
record leaves it with unfinished
business.
"We're in the NIT, so let's win the
thing," Guevara said.
Michigan would hope the way it
played last week in Indianapolis in
the Big Ten Tournament can be a
stepping stone of better things to
come in the WNIT. The Wolverines
defeated Illinois by 20 in the first
round and took Purdue, which got a
No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tourna-
ment field also aniounced yester-
day, to overtime before falling apart
in the final minutes.
The one-and-done atmosphere
brought out the best of the Wolver-
ines, and Guevara hopes the intensi-

Without Blue, Selection
Sunday's' not the same

DAVI D AOHIND/Daily
Michigan's LeeAnn Bies will lead the
Wolverines against Valparaiso this week.
ty te team displayed will continue
into March.
"They were really disappointed
after losing to Purdue and they did-
n't want their season to end," Gue-
vara said.

A nother year of wondering,
"Where will Michigan State be
eeded?" rather than "Where
will Michigan be seeded?" has turned
me off to Selection Sunday. This was
once a day that I looked forward to
because it was the day when I got to see
who Michigan was playing coupled
with all sorts of analysis about the big
game. But now, Selection Sunday
seems about as important as any other
Sunday.
Now for all of you freshmen, sopho-
mores, juniors and seniors, there was a
time when making the field was a given
for Michigan. This day wasn't that long
ago, really just one coaching tenure.
And it was during this time that the
Michigan name meant something.
College basketball fans nationwide
went to the local Footlocker to buy a
Michigan No. 54 jersey or a pair of
Michigan shorts. This was especially
true come March.
This was a part of the excitement of
coming to a school like Michigan.
Michigan stands for excellence in both
the classroom and the stadium-- or at
least some stadiums.
When I was a freshman, Michigan
just missed the field of 64 by about 80
teams. "Next year we're-bringing in a
top recruiting class, so we'll be a shoe-
in to make the tournament," I thought.
"After all, this is Michigan. It's only a
matter of time before I get to road trip
to a tournament game." I'm sure that
there are many others who thought the
same thing.
But now that it's official - I'll have
spent four years here without seeing
Michigan play in just one lousy NCAA
Tournament game - there's a feeling
of disappointment that I have never felt
before, even after all these years. Think
about it, over the last four years, the
most exciting tournament win Michi-
gan has had came Thursday in the Big
Ten Tournament's play-in game! And
that was against Northwestern! Four
years!
What makes matters even worse is
that there's no guarantee things will be
any different by next year. And to think,
when LaVell Blanchard first signed
with Michigan, the talk was, "Will he

bring Michigan a national title?"
It's because of this that listening to
Dick Vitale yammer about teams
deserving a higher seed feels like listen-
ing to friends.talk about what Christmas
presents they got when all I got was
some Hanukkah gelt and another drei-
del. Sorry Gonzaga, but I don't feel for
you because you just got a Playstation
2.
Meanwhile, one quick look at the
bracket shows that the joke's on us.
Think about it. Duke's the best team in
the country. Michigan State's gone to
three straight Final Fours and is prepar-
ing for another potential tournament
run. Ohio State won a share of the Big
Ten title, the Big Ten Tournament title,
and now has a very favorable Tourna-
ment draw.
Even Michigan castaways Steve Fish-
er and Brandon Smith are in the NCAA
Tournament with San Diego State.
And for the fourth-straight season,
I'll fill out my michigandaily.com/
Pizza House Challenge bracket without
so much as seeing Michigan in the
bracket. Considering how long it's been
since Michigan last made the NCAA
Tournament, you'd think that making
the field of 65 was inordinately tough.
But it's not that hard. Aside from rival
Northwestern, every other Big Ten
school has played in the NCAA Tourna-
ment over these last four years. Yup,
every single one of them.
Don't bother counting. I already did.
Hell, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michi-
gan State have even qualified for the
Final Four during this stretch. For some
reason parity has hit college basketball
while disparity has hit Michigan.
Not only has Michigan failed to qual-
ify for the NCAA Tournament, but dur-
ing this time, our bubble has popped
some time in January, if not earlier.
So with my hopes for one NCAA
Tournament berth officially dashed, I
only have one question - how's the
hockey team doing this year?
Raphael Goodstein fully expects Duke,
Michigan State, Ohio State and San
Diego State to reach the Final Four He
can be reached at raphaelg@umich.edu.

LAUREN BRAUN/Ualy
Andy Hrovat (left) and the rest of the Wolverines entered the Big Ten wrestling championships ranked No. 2 in the country, but
they couldn't come through in the clutch. As a result, Michigan finished a disappointing third place.

L

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