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April 17, 2002 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-17

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14- Th@ Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Gynmasts need perfection to give
coach Plocki well-deserved title

By Matt Kramer
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan women's gymnastics coach Bev
Plocki is going to win an NCAA Champi-
onship someday - she
has to. In her 13 years as GYMNASTICS
head coach, Plocki, gym- Commentar
nastics' own Susan Lucci, ________y_
has guided the Wolver-
ines to 10 Big Ten titles and an astonishing 10
consecutive NCAA Championship appear-
ances. But for all her accomplishments, there
is still one thing missing from Plocki's mantle:
An NCAA title.
In the last three years, Michigan has fin-
ished second, sixth and third at the NCAA
Championships. In 1999 and 2001, the
Wolverines finished a mere .3 points behind
champions Georgia and UCLA, respectively.
"I don't think I've ever had a team that was-
n't excited going into the national champi-
onships," Plocki said. "They know that
everything we've done since September is all
for this payoff."
While Plocki and the team have been opti-
mistic all year, the time for action is now. The
No. 5 Wolverines head to Tuscalosa, Ala. this
week to compete in the NCAA Champi-
onships, which begin tomorrow.
CHAMPIONSHIP
Continued from Page 13
because we have to put everything we have on
the floor in order to get to Friday."
Both Arizona and Nebraska have earned
victories over the Wolverines this year. The
Wildcats beat the Wolverines in January at the
Maui Invitational, while the Huskers' victory
came just two weeks ago at the Northeast
Regional in State College. The Wolverines
have, however, beaten the highest ranked
teams in the session (Georgia and Utah) at
home meets, in which Michigan was nearly
perfect. It appears they may have to do that
again before earning a shot to compete for the
national title.
Reaching the Super Six or even winning the
title is by no means impossible. Michigan

If the gymnasts are going to follow this sea-
son's field hockey team and win Michigan's
second national championship in a women's
sport, the Wolverines are going to need to be
as close to perfect as they have been all sea-
son.
Michigan will need to hit all of its routines,
all the time. It's the kind of meet that Plocki
and her staff talked about and looked for all
year. It's the kind of meet that the Wolverines
had against No. 2 Georgia earlier this year
when they shocked the Bulldogs 197.125-
197.025 in Crisler Arena.
For Michigan to win it will need sophomore
Calli Ryals' to regain the touch she had during
the middle of the season, when she scored two
perfect 10s in consecutive weekends on the
floor exercise and was named the Big Ten
Gymnast of the Week three weeks straight.
Ryals has been Michigan's constant high scor-
er all year, but her confidence will be tested
this week after she uncharacteristically fell on
the beam at the Big Ten Championships and
again on the bars two weeks ago at the NCAA
Northeast Regional Championships.
Senior leadership will be important this
weekend. Seniors Jodie Rosenberg and Shan-
non MacKenzie will have to lead by example
and have stellar performances. The duo has
stepped up for the Wolverines with high
does have a few things going for it, the most
notable being their new Donald R. Shepard
Gymnastics Center that they moved into last
Monday in an attempt to give the team one
extra boost before heading to Alabama.
There were worries that a move so late in
the season would interfere with the team's
rhythm, but the gamble seems to have paid
off.
"It's very exciting to come in here and train.
It's been very refreshing," senior co-captain
Jodie Rosenberg said. "We've had great prac-
tices since we came in here last week."
Energy levels are up and the team is
relaxed. The past season has shown that relax-
ation has been Michigan's formula for suc-
cess. The Wolverines posted a 197.775, the
program's highest score ever, on senior night
in March. The gymnasts were visibly enjoying

scores on routines and with leadership for a
young Michigan squad that has nine freshmen
and sophomores.
Michigan will also need a little luck. Michi-
gan is paired with No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Utah,
No. 6 Louisiana State, No. 8 Nebraska and
No. 12 Arizona in the afternoon bracket of the
preliminaries. Only three out of the six teams
will move on to the final round. While Michi-
gan beat both Georgia and Utah at home in
February, it was defeated by Nebraska at
Regionals and by Arizona earlier this season
in Maui.
"We're going to go out there and compete
the same way no matter who we're against,"
senior co-captain Jodie Rosenberg said. "If we
want to win, we have to beat them all any-
way."
The Wolverines can approach perfection.
They have shown throughout the year that
they can beat the best, but only with their best
stuff.
These NCAA Championships may be even
more important to Plocki than the previous
ones. Plocki was once a gymnast at Alabama
before transferring to West Virginia, and noth-
ing would give her more satisfaction than
going to Tuscaloosa and winning her first
NCAA title.
Now that would be perfect.
themselves the entire meet. If their attitude
reflected the score, it is a state of mind the
Wolverines want to find themselves in again.
"We will do our best if we can stay relaxed
and loose;' Plocki said. "If we try to make
something better than it is and get tensed up,
that's when we make mistakes."
Whether that formula will garner repeat
success has yet to be seen. The Wolverines no
longer have the comfort of Crisler Arena and
will be forced to travel down to SEC country.
The 15,000 fans of the University of Alaba-
ma's Coleman Coliseum will not be welcom-
ing.
"It's good that we have a tough round. It
should fire us up even more," sophomore
Elise Ray said. "We know we have a big chal-
lenge ahead of us, but I think it makes it that
much more exciting."

a

I

Senior Amy Kuczera performs her floor exercize at the NCAA Regional. She and her classmates will
need to lead by example this weekend in Tuscalosa.

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By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Writer
Despite the struggles it has faced
this season, the Michigan women's
tennis team has the opportunity to
secure its first winning season since
1997 - the same year the Wolver-
ines won the Big Ten and NCAA
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regional titles.
The Wolverines enter the final
weekend of the season facing Indi-
ana and Purdue. Michigan coach
Bitsy Ritt wants her team to improve
its ability to win the close sets,
especially tie-breakers, which
proved costly in a 5-2 loss to Iowa
last week.
Against the Hawkeyes, Michigan
(3-5 Big Ten, 10-9 overall) broke a
stretch during which it won six of its
last eight matches, upsetting two top-
40 teams. Upon returning to practice
yesterday, Ritt hoped the Wolverines
would be ready to return to competi-
tion and maintain consistency, some-
thing she has preached all season.
But the loss took the wind out of
Michigan's sails when a win would
have propelled them into a more
favorable draw in next week's Big
Ten Tournament.
"We have to be aware of what we
did poorly (against Iowa)," Ritt said.
"But we also need to spend time
evaluating what we did well in order
to prepare for our next opponent."
One of the key focuses during
practice this week has been adjusting
to playing outside for the first time
in Ann Arbor. Weather permitting,
one of the matches will be played on
the outdoor courts at the Varsity Ten-
nis Center in preparation for the Big
Ten Tournament. The Wolverines

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VARSITY TENNIS CENTER
Who: Michigan (3-5 Big Ten, 10-9 overall) vs.
Purdue (44, &10), Indiana (44,157)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday.
Latest: Michigan hopes to use this weekend's
matches to improve its draw for the Big Ten
tournament, which begins next Thursday.
have played one match outside this
season - a 7-0 victory in Tampa
Fla. against South Florida on March
2 - but Ritt feels the Wolverines
need to play "smarter" outside and
adjust to nature's interference.
"We need to makethe necessary
adjustments to the elements," Ritt
said. "We need to take advantage of
what the wind gives us, and because
we haven't played a competitive
match outside in quite awhile, we
need to be ready for anything."
The experience in South Florida
gives Michigan an advantage, as
Tampa provided warm conditions
and wind gusts, similar to what Ritt
expects this weekend. But no amount
of indoor preparation can imitate the
way wind can affect competition.
"Only by playing outside can you
feel comfortable playing in that situ-
ation, and (South Florida) gave us
that opportunity," Ritt said. -
On Sunday, Michigan will take on
one of the most successful women's
tennis programs in Big Ten history
- Indiana. The Hoosiers (4-4, 15-7)
dominated the '80s and '90s, win-
ning 15 of the last 22 Big Ten titles.
But this season's conference sched-
ule hasn't been kind to Indiana. The
Hoosiers dropped a 4-3 contest to
Minnesota - the worst team in the
Big Ten - two weeks ago, and suf-
fered a 4-3 loss to Ohio State Sun-
day. Purdue (4-4, 8-10) also lost to
Ohio State 4-3. Michigan beat the
Buckeyes two weekends ago.
Indiana and Purdue have fallen on
the same weekend the past three sea-
sons, and the Wolverines have yet to
beat either team when they face both
of them back to back.
"Indiana has been up and down
this season with several 4-3 losses,"
Ritt said. "Although their program
has a lot of tradition and success in
the past, this year's team is just 4-4,
and I feel this is anybody's match."
Next Thursday, the Wolverines will
head to Bloomington for the Big Ten
Championships. Depending on the
outcome of this weekend's matches,
Michigan could be seeded as high as
fifth going into the tournament.
Michigan has gone 1-3 in the Big
Ten Tournament in the past three
seasons.
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