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April 16, 2002 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-16

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The Michigan Dailv -Tuesdav. Anril 16. 2002 -13A

___- rs.. urr uul Yr r

Polo ready for postseason run
Mixture of youth, experience should lead Wolverines to the NCAAs

I9NoTES
Fox, Hill earn Big Ten honors after split against Illinois

By Daniel Bremmer
Daily Sports Writer

The players that were around two years ago
on the club team never dreamed that the
Michigan water polo program would have
made this much progress in such little time.
"I grew up in Ann Arbor and I always knew
I wanted to come here to play water polo, but I
figured it would be club the whole time," said
senior co-captain Delia Sonda. "I was lucky
that it went varsity the last two years."
After the team's success as a club team -
including a trip to the NCAA tournament in
2000, the only club team to do so - the Uni-
versity granted the team varsity status for the
2001 season.
Going from club to varsity status impacted
the program in many ways, most importantly
increasing the time allotted to use University's
facilities.
"The extra time that is allowed has made a
huge difference," Sonda said. "Our condition-
ing and strength is so much better than it
could have ever been before, since we have so
much time to practice."
Last year, the team completed its first varsi-
ty season with a 21-11-1 record and finished
15th in the nation. Having won 15 straight
games heading into the postseason, the

Wolverines had high expectations.
In the Southern Division Championship,
Michigan got off to a quick start, defeating
Bucknell, Grove City and George Washington
in its first three games. Despite its loss to
Princeton, the Wolverines advanced to the
Eastern Championships, the winner of which
would go to the NCAA tournament.
Though the Wolverines finished the Eastern
Championships with a 2-1 record, the lone
loss cost them dearly. In its first round of the
competition, Michigan allowed Brown to seize
a come-from-behind victory, 7-4, which cost
the Wolverines a chance at an NCAA Champi-
onship berth. The team took home a disap-
pointing fifth-place finish in the Eastern
Championships.
Heading into this year's postseason, the
team is looking to put last season's disappoint-
ment behind it. But it certainly doesn't want to
forget what happened.
Sophomore Julie Nisbet sees last year's loss
as motivation for Michigan heading into this
postseason.
"We know the reason that we didn't go (to
the NCAA Tournament) is ourselves," Nisbet
said. "We were beating Brown last year, and
then they ended up outscoring us and winning
the game, and it was basically just a break-
down of our team. We know (why we lost),

VILLANOVA, PA.
Who: Michigan (17-11) at Southern Division Championships
When: Friday through Sunday
Latest: The Wolverines start their march to NCAAs, and need a
good performance to advance to the Eastern Championships
and the NCAA Tournament.
and we don't want to let that happen again."
The most important difference between the
last two years is the current team's increased
depth. Michigan added 16 new freshmen this
season, and all of them have seen significant
playing time.
The team has been able to play two full
lines of players, and most other teams can not
play that many people in each game.
"It has helped us become a more competi-
tive team," Nisbet said of the team's depth.
Scheduling has also helped the Wolverines
this season. Last year, Michigan had a rela-
tively easy schedule leading into postseason
play.
This season has been a different story, as the
team faced eastern rivals Indiana and Prince-
ton twice each since spring break. The higher
level of competition has forced the team to
"get up" for close games, simulating the post-
season atmosphere.
The team's high number of freshmen could
be viewed as a weakness because this will be
their first time competing in the postseason.
But because a lot of the team's freshmen
have played in important tournaments in the
past, the team is hoping that they will make
the adjustment quickly.
"I could probably say that half of the fresh-
man are used to the experience," freshman
Sheetal Narsai said. "Half of us are from Cali-
fornia, and I think the competitive level out
there is a lot more intense than here, so I think
a lot of us are used to it already."
Michigan is counting on the leadership of
its upperclassmen to have a strong effect on
the freshmen heading into this weekend.
"I'll probably tell them that we just have to
do what we've done all season: Not be nerv-
ous, trust each other and trust our coaches,"
Sonda said.
Said Nisbet: "My biggest advice is that (the
postseason) is a completely different ball
game. It doesn't matter what happens during
the regular season. You can beat a team five
times during the season, and then if they come
out fired up and ready to go during the post-
season - it can really surprise you."
Combining their youth with their experi-
ence, the Wolverines are hoping that they will
be ready for any surprises that may come their
way as they try to return to the NCAA Cham-
pionships.
This weekend, Michigan will head to
Philadelphia for the Southern Division Cham-
pionships, which take place on Friday, Satur-
day and Sunday. The top five teams from that
tournament will qualify for the Eastern Cham-
pionships.

Fresh off helping the Michigan baseball
team split four conference games on the
road against Illinois
this past weekend,
Jake Fox and Ric4
Hill were honored by
the Big Ten Confer-
ence.
Fox, a sophomore.
catcher, was named
Big Ten Player of the
Week. Fax
The Milton, Mass. native went 6-for-12
over the weekend with three home runs
and three doubles in three starts over the
weekend.
Motor City n'

He now holds a .292 batting average
with five home runs so far on the sea-
son.
Meanwhile Hill
was named Big Ten
co-Pitcher of the week
following his impres-
sive five-hit shutout in
the Wolverines' easy
10-0 victory over the
Illini on Saturday.
Hill The junior south-
paw is 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA this year, but
he has a meager 0.90 ERA during the Big
Ten conference season.
- Staff reports
LoDDeda an.

I

Leno ridicules 0-11 Tigers

DETROIT (AP) - The 0-11 Detroit
Tigers, off to the fifth-worst start in base-
ball history, aren't just drawing the ire of
local fans. They're also becoming the butt
of Jay Leno's jokes.
Months after ridiculing the Detroit
Lions for their 0-12 start, Leno has gotten
some laughs at the Tigers' expense on
"The Tonight Show."
"Kmart announced today that they will
no longer sponsor signs at the stadium
where the Detroit Tigers play," Leno said
in a recent monologue. "Oh man, how
embarrassing is that - Kmart thinks
you're a loser!"
It's difficult for a baseball team to grab
national attention in the first two weeks of
the season - for any reason - but the
Tigers have done it by being in select com-
pany that they want no part of.
Only four baseball teams have ever start-
ed worse: The 1920 Tigers and the 1904
Washington Senators started 0-13, the
1997 Chicago Cubs lost their first 14
games, and the 1988 Baltimore Orioles set
the major league record with an 0-21 start.
In that season, the Orioles fired Cal Rip-
ken Sr. after just six games, which was the
quickest firing of a manager since 1900.
This year, the Tigers matched that mark by
firing manager Phil Garner after Detroit's
0-6 start.
Now, after five more games, manager
Luis Pujols has the same number of wins
that Garner earned this season: Zero.
The Tigers have wide-ranging problems,
off and on the field.
Off of it, their fans are either apathetic
or angry.
On a mild night last week against the
Chicago White Sox, there were just 11,833
tickets sold for the game - and even
fewer fans showed up - making it the
smallest crowd in the two-plus seasons
since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park.
On the field, pick any facet of the game
- pitching, hitting, defense -- and the
Tigers have struggled with it while being

outscored 79-32 and dropping more than
10 games behind the Central Division-
leading Cleveland Indians.
Pitcher Jeff Weaver was one of about 15
players who showed up yesterday for an
optional workout at Comerica Park.
Like the others in the clubhouse, Weaver
was somber and tired of answering ques-
tions about the Tigers' awful start.
"It's as unbelievable to us as it is to
everybody else" Weaver said. "It might be
it as difficult to lose your first 11 games as
it is to win your first 11. We feel just as bad
as anyone does about this, but we're here,
and we have to do something about it."
The man in charge of doing something
about it, president and general manager
Dave Dombrowski, is faced with the tough
task of helping a franchise be successful
that hasn't had a winning season - or a
winning April - since 1993.
The Tigers hope that their unwanted
attention goes away soon with at least one
win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Wednes-
day or Thursday at home.
Until then, the Tigers will continue to
provide fodder for Leno's joke writers -
even if they're not listening to the punch
lines.
"I don't care what Jay Leno has to say"
outfielder Wendell Magee said. "I don't
even watch him, because David Letterman
is better."
The real 'Bad Boys'
The Tigers' 0-11 start is the fifth worst
in baseball since 1900, and means that
Detroit now holds two of the five worst
losing streaks at the start of the sea-
son since that time. The group
includes:
Losses Team Year
21 Baltimore 1988
14 Chicago Cubs 1997
13 Detroit 1920
13 Washington 1904
11 Detroit 2002.

14 -, ', T- _________________ __
. JESSICA YURASEK/Daily
Tough defense will be a key for the ichigan water polo team when it enters play at this weekend's
Southern Division Championships. The Wolverines currently hold a 17-11 record for the season.

I.

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