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January 27, 2003 - Image 14

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - January 27, 2003

Georgia hands tumblers first loss

By Albert Kim
Daily Sports Writer
There is such a thing as being pleased with a loss, at
least for the Michigan women's gymnastics team.
Sure, the ninth-ranked Wolverines definitely don't like
losing, aren't used to it and aren't going to make it a
habit. But there were a lot of positives to take away
from Friday's 197.200 to 195.750 loss to No. 2 Geor-
gia.
"Overall, I think I'm happy with how things went,"
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. "I think it gave the
kids a lot of experience.
"I knew for a lot of the kids they had no idea of
what they were walking into."
For a team that is still growing and definitely not yet
back to full strength, it was an impressive showing.
Senior captain and Big Ten co-Athlete of the Week
Janessa Grieco and junior Calli Ryals were the only
two Wolverines who had ever competed at Stegeman
Coliseum in Athens, Georgia before Friday. The
Wolverines came back strong in the last two rotations,
shaking off early jitters and a hostile and vocal crowd.
"It's really, really overwhelming going in and com-

peting against Georgia," Ryals said.
Ryals placed second in the all-around while Grieco
finished third, and freshman Becca Clauson had a
career day. Clauson scored a 9.850 on both the vault
and balance beam, and added a 9.925 on the floor.
But the Wolverines' inexperience didn't bode well
for the team on its first road trip of the season.
"We did have a couple of mistakes, I think just from
inexperience," Plocki said. Michigan had a decent
start, posting a team score of 48.900 on the uneven
bars.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs came up with a 49.300
on the vault during the first rotation to take an early
lead.
The Wolverines went into the second rotation look-
ing to make a run at Georgia, but had to count a fall
because both freshman Jenny Deiley and sophomore
Lauren Mirkovich failed to land their vaults. Plocki
was still encouraged though.
"Only tallying one fall in the meet was a positive
accomplishment," Plocki said. "I think we're pleased
with the whole situation, and we'll continue to
improve."
The third rotation saw the Wolverines start strong

on the floor with three straight gymnasts posting
career high scores. It set the stage for Ryals, who
responded with a season best 9.950. Michigan made
up ground as Georgia faltered a bit on the beam, but
the Bulldogs' final rotation on the floor proved to be
too much, as they posted a meet-high 49.625.
Michigan only outscored Georgia on the beam. Not
surprisingly, the biggest difference was on the bars,
which was the Wolverines' first event. From there, the
gap between the teams steadily decreased, showing
that the Wolverines were gaining confidence through-
out.
"We don't peak up until the end of the season,"
Ryals said. "We definitely could give them a run for
their money later in the season."
The road doesn't get any easier for Michigan, as it
has to once again travel away from the friendly con-
fines of Cliff Keen Arena to No. 4 Alabama's home
gym. The Wolverines hope that they learned some-
thing from this weekend -hlow to win on the road.
"We'll continue to improve," Plocki said. "Going
into Alabama next weekend, I think we'll be much bet-
ter prepared mentally to handle it, because now they
know what it's like."

SETH LOWER/Daily
Michigan tri-captain Delia Sonda and the rest of her Wolverine teammates defeated"
Indiana on Saturday, improving to 9-041 against the Hoosiers.
Polo establishes its
E astern domnane

By Ellen McGarrity
Daily Sports Writer

This weekend, the Michigan
women's water polo team settled, at
least temporarily, the biggest rivalry
in the East. The Wolverines domi-
nated Indiana with a 12-6 win,
moving to 9-0-1 against the
Hoosiers all-time.
"It's great when there isn't a
hatred, but a healthy (rivalry),"
Michigan coach Matt Anderson said.
"(Michigan and Indiana) is the most
intense rivalry outside of California."
The team opened its season this
weekend as hosts of the Michigan
Invitational. The Wolverines faced
San Jose State, Indiana, Eastern
Michigan, Hartwick College (N. Y.)
and Michigan State in the tourna-
ment, finishing with a 4-1 record.
Anderson's goal for the invita-
tional was to establish the team as a
force in the East. The team accom-
plished this, but learned that it has a
ways to go before it is ready to take
on the best of the West.
Saturday, No. 11 Michigan
matched up with the less familiar
Spartans from San Jose State to
start off the invitational. The
Wolverines were outplayed 8-3 by
their seventh-ranked opponents.
Despite the loss, Anderson felt
the team showed a lot of skill and
determination.
"For three of the quarters we
played very well - unfortunately we
had first quarter jitters, and you can't
do that to one of the nation's best
teams," Anderson said. "You give
them a lead and the game's over."
Anderson was assistant coach at
San Jose State from 1999 to 2001
and knew how tough the game would
be.
"San Jose State was brought out
here for a reason," Anderson said. "I
had to show the (team) where we are
right now and where we need to get."

Next was the contest against No.
14 Indiana. As a sizable crowd of
Michigan fans cheered on the team,
the Wolverines won 12-6, which
was the largest margin the team has
ever won by against Indiana.
The difference between this game
and the San Jose State game was
that they started off the game confi-
dently, making five shots while the
Hoosiers scored none.
Anderson also just came off a
season as Indiana's assistant coach,
so he was familiar enough with the,
players to know how to approach
the game.
"I did have an advantage, but the
difference was that we put together
four quarters of great water polo,"
Anderson said. "When two good
teams are playing and one team is
really hot, that doesn't mean the
other team isn't good."
Anderson knows that Indiana
won't always be so easy to beat.
Michigan's last tough game came
Sunday against New York's No. 16
Hartwick College. Winning 11-6, the
Wolverines had come a long way
since their loss to San Jose State.
Sophomore Sheetal Narsai was
the highest scoring Wolverine in
this game, tallying four goals.
"Right now we're just proving
that we are the strongest team in the
East and that (in the future), we
could dominate and bang with the
big boys in the West," Narsai said.
The games against Eastern
Michigan and Michigan State were
only exhibition games, since neither
school has a varsity squad. Michi-
gan waxed Eastern Michigan 12-4,
and topped Michigan State 11-6.
After their strong showing in the
Michigan Invitational, the Wolver-
ines hope to improve as the season
goes on.
"We have a whole season to go,
and still haven't reached our pinna-
cle," Narsai said.

Grapplers
upset lilini
in Big Ten
opener
By Eric Chan
Daily Sports Writer
The No. 10 Michigan wrestling
team's 19-13 win over No. 7 Illinois
could be considered an upset of
sorts - but it shouldn't be. With
four returning All-Americans and a
boatload of young talent, the
Wolverines should have dominated
the inexperienced Fighting Illini
team on Friday night.
But Michigan needed a 3-2 win
from veteran 125-pounder A.J.
Grant in the final match to pull off
the "upset" over Illinois.
"I don't really consider it an
upset," Michigan coach Joe McFar-
land said. "I'thought our team was
very capable of beating Illinois."
The Wolverines jumped outto an
early 10-0 lead in their Big Ten
opener. The match started at 133
pounds where Michigan's Foley
Dowd - ranked No. 7 in the coun-
try - continued his winning ways,
beating No. 13 Mark Jayne. At 141
pounds, Michigan's Clark Forward
got some revenge against Cal Ferry.
Forward routed Ferry, 7-1, avenging
a loss to the freshman earlier in the
season. With the momentum on his
side, freshman phenom Ryan
Churella picked apart Illinois' Tony
Pedrosa.
Pedrosa scored the first take-
down, but it was all Churella from
then on. Churella scored five sets of
near fall points to win a 17-6 major
decision.
"We got off to a great start with
those matches at 133, 141 and 149
pounds," McFarland said.
After Churella's impressive per-

TONY DING/Daily
Michigan senior Pat Owen, who has an overall record of 10-5 and has scored seven points this season, bites into his
opponent. The wrestling team, which is ranked No. 10 in the nation, defeated No. 7 Illinois this weekend.

formance, Michigan's Ryan Bertin
did something very unexpected. He
lost. The usually reliable Bertin,
who recently returned from injury,
lost a 3-2 decision to freshman Alex
Tirapelle.
Bertin, one of Michigan's besf
wrestlers from the neutral position,
could not muster a takedown on the
eighth-ranked Tirapelle.
"He was a little disappointed,"
McFarland said. "He's just getting
his confidence back. Anytime
you're off the mat for six weeks, it's
tough. He just needs a couple more
weeks of practice under his belt."
Senior Mike Kulczycki, an All-
American in 2001 at 149 pounds,
returned to the lineup in the 165-
pound spot last week. Against Illi-
nois, he was "thrown into the fire,"
according to McFarland against top-

ranked Matt Lackey. Lackey put on
a takedown clinic for the crowd,
scoring four of them in the first
period en route to a 20-6 victory
over Kulczycki.
"Mike obviously wrestled a really
tough kid,' McFarland said. "He
lost a scramble towards the end and
gave up five points. The match
would've been a lot closer other-
wise."
With wins by No. 5 Brian Glynn
and Pete Friedl, Illinois captured a
13-10 lead over the Wolverines.
Senior Kyle Smith, who has strug-
gled recently, began Michigan's late
surge with a 4-1 win against No. 20
Tyrone Byrd.
Michigan freshman standout
Greg Wagner then gave the Wolver-
ines the lead with a 6-2 decision
over Chris Little. Wagner, ranked

eighth in the country at heavy-
weight, scored two takedowns in the
third to give Michigan the 16-13
lead.
"(Wagner) is a smart kid. He's
done a great job, and he is getting
better week by week, which is
what's most important," McFarland
said.
At this point, Illinois needed a
win to tie or win the match. It had a
good shot with No. 10 Kyle Ott, a
freshman, matched up against
Michigan's Grant. Grant, a senior,
was down 2-1 in the third period,
but was able to score a takedown to
win the match and the dual meet for
the Wolverines.
"Third-period conditioning won
the match for us," McFarland said.
"We took a lot of those matches in
the third."

*

Strong final relay leads Blue past Wildcats

By Steven Shears
Daily Sports Writer
No lead is ever safe.
For the No. 19 Michigan women's swimming
and diving team, Saturday's 155-142 victory
against Wildcats hinged on the final swim, the
400-yard freestyle relay.
Going into the race, the score was 142-138 and
Michigan held the lead. The only problem for the
Wolverines: A first place-finish is worth 11 points,
second place is worth just four and third earns
two. No matter what the combination, first place
would decide the meet. Michigan could sense this
was going to happen all along:
"The meet went back and forth, back and forth,"
Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. "The coach-
es and I had a feeling that this was going to be
decided with the final meet. Whichever team had
the best last relay was going to win the meet."

The first leg of the 400-yard free was quite sim-
ilar to the rest of the meet. Michigan co-captain
Anne Weilbacher swam neck-to-neck with North-
western's freshman star Sara Petric. The pressure.
was on for Michigan's next swimmer in the relay,
co-captain Erin Abbey..
Once again, a decent lead could not be estab-
lished. Michigan's top two swimmers didn't pro-
vide enough breathing room for the second half of
the relay.
"You can't count on dominating a good team,"
Richardson said. "We had to take over during
those last two legs."
Enter Michigan freshman Abby Seskevics.
Seskevics built on Michigan's slight lead and
put it out of reach for the Wildcats. Amy McCul-
lough was the anchor, and capped off the win. The
team finished with a time of 3:28.09, more than
three seconds faster than Northwestern's time.
"We're glad to come away with the victory,"

Richardson said. "Northwestern, like us, doesn't
have much depth, but they provide competition in
every event. They have good people and they're
well coached."
Indeed, Northwestern came into the meet with a
three-game win streak. In order to prevent the
Wildcats from extending that streak, Michigan had
to take advantage of its fast distance swimmers.
"We had the edge in the distance races,"
Richardson said. "That's where we picked up most
of our points.".
Junior Emily Fenn earned an NCAA considera-
tion time (16:42.94) in the 1650-yard freestyle.
Junior Lori Eberwein finished second in that race
with 17:00.30, her season-best.
But overall, Richardson thought there was more
room for improvement and that the team needs to
swim better to avoid such close meets.
"I thought we'd be faster," Richardson said. "We
still have to keep improving our times."

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