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April 16, 2003 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-04-16

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 16, 2003 - 15

Netters overcome disarray

Netters look for momentum

By Eric Ambindr
Daily Sports Writer
After each win, the Michigan women's tennis
team's MVP for the match writes the score on a
board in its lockerroom.
Every spring, Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt evalu-
ates the board to help her select the year-long MVP.
But there's a problem this year - the handwrit-
ing for each score is different.
"Our team is so balanced this year," Ritt said.
"There have been so many players who have
stepped up, worked hard and improved this season.
I couldn't name (the MVP) right now."
At week's end, the No. 40 Wolverines (5-3 Big
Ten, 12-6 overall) rank near the top of the Big Ten,
but are a bubble team for the NCAA Champi-
onships in May and are in as much disarray as the
WNBA - literally.
Half of the team is injured.
Four of the eight girls on the team are currently
suffering ailments that could keep any one of them
out of action this weekend against Wisconsin (3-5,
8-11) and No. 23 Northwestern (5-2, 14-8).
Junior Kavitha Tipirneni has been sidelined for a
majority of the dual-match season with a fractured
left arm. Senior Jen Duprez sprained her ankle dur-
ing Saturday's match and won't be able to practice
until Friday. The other senior, Joanne Musgrove,
has been feeling intense pain in her shoulder for
the past two weeks and is not slated to practice
until the end of the week. Junior Chrissie Nolan
almost collapsed with severe arm and leg cramps
after Sunday's match, and her status is uncertain.

Ritt admitted that this year's team has faced
more adversity and injury than any other team she
has ever coached in 19 years, but said this may not
be such a bad thing.
"This is a very tough team psychologically and
emotionally. I think that's one of the reasons why
we have been able to overcome adversity," Ritt
said. "Everyone at some point in the season has
stepped up and made a significant contribution."
Filling in for injured Duprez and Musgrove,
freshman Debra Streifler has not lost a doubles or
singles match in the past four matches.
"Debra is good under pressure, and she always
finds a way for us," Ritt said.
Michigan No. 1 singles player Michelle DaCos-
ta has also helped relieve the weight of injury, not
dropping a set in her past four contests and win-
ning seven of her last eight matches.
DaCosta's doubles partner, Leanne Rutherford,
is playing some of the best tennis of her career.
She has won 18 of her past 21 matches and leads
the team in most statistical categories. Rutherford
was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week in late
March for her accomplishments.
Despite all the injuries, Ritt feels this team is as
confident as ever.
"Our morale is high. Things haven't gone our
way, but (the team) has accepted it and has been
doing the best they can, given the situation," Ritt
said. "We have been able to win a lot of matches
with that mindset."
And with only two matches remaining for the
Wolverines before the Big Ten Championships,
they will need to heal quickly.

heading towar
By Brad Johnson
Daily Sports Writer
After facing the nation's No. 1 team last
weekend, the road ahead does not get any
easier for the Michigan men's tennis team.
The Wolverines play Northwestern and
Wisconsin at home this weekend and then
travel to Evanston to participate in the Big
Ten Championships the following week.
"Coming into the tournament, the players
are excited," assistant coach Dan Goldberg
said. "They're looking forward to it."
Last Sunday, Michigan fell 6-1 to top-
ranked Illinois. The match was a positive
learning experience for the Wolverines, who
were able to finally get used to playing out-
doors after a long winter of indoor tennis.
"We adjusted a little bit better outside
(against Illinois)," Michigan coach Mark
Mees said. "You get a couple days under
your belt, and then you adjust."
But against Purdue the previous day, the
Wolverines had substantial difficulty mak-
ing the adjustment to play outside.
"Right across the board, we had some sit-
uations where the guys struggled with their
timing outdoors," Goldberg said.
Getting a handle on that timing will be
crucial during the next two weeks of the
season. Both of this weekend's matches
will be played outdoors, as will the Big Ten
Championships, which begin April 24.

d postseason
One of the things that will work in
Michigan's favor during the tournament is
that the squad will not be dealing with the
unknown.
"We have faced all of these teams
before," Goldberg said. "It boils down to
peaking at the right time. There are no
secrets; we know all of these players."
In order to give themselves the best shot
at being successful, Goldberg feels that the
Wolverines need to improve several aspects
of their game, including the team's shaky
doubles play.
The doubles lineup has been reshuffled
several times in order to find a successful
combination. The latest pairings feature
junior Anthony Jackson and sophomore
Josef Fischer at the top spot.
The coaches would also like to have the
team firing on all cylinders in singles com-
petition as well.
"When we've had success and done well,
we have had six guys that have gone out
and given us a chance to win at all six (sin-
gles) spots," Mees said.
This weekend is an opportunity for
Michigan to gain momentum and make
final adjustments before the Big Ten
championship.
"We haven't done as much winning as we
would have liked this year," Goldberg said.
"But the guys come back recharged, refo-
cused and ready to go."

SETH LOWER/Daily
Michigan freshman Debra Streifler has won four
straight matches filling in for injured starters.
On Saturday, the Wolverines will play Ritt's
alma-mater Wisconsin before taking on North-
western on Sunday.
With a sweep this weekend, and a little help,
Michigan could snag a share of the Big Ten regular
season title.
"Our goals haven't changed," Ritt said. "We
haven't given up and looked to next year - we
look to next practice. We have high expectations
for the rest of the season."

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