The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 11A
By Melanie Kebier
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan women's gymnastics coach Bev Plocki is
so passionate about getting the student body to come
out to home meets that she's willing to pay students
just for showing up.
Well, almost. Plocki helped initiate
a contest this year that promises at
least a $500 tuition credit for one
lucky football, basketball or hockey
season ticket holder who is in atten-
dance at a Wolverines' home meet.
Why would Plocki fund such a contest with her
own money when Michigan already has a solid fan
base in the Ann Arbor community?
"It's really an effort to get more support from our
student body,' Plocki said. "Like basketball came up
with the Maize Rage, we would love to be able to get
a 'superfan' type of group from our student popula-
tion together. And this is one way to start going in the
Plocki thinks most students just need to come to
one meet before getting hooked on the sport.
"I think that women's gymnastics is one of the best-
kept secrets (on campus)," Plocki said. "I am
extremely convinced that if students come and watch
it once they will come back."
PR FOR THE SR: Senior Christine Mantilia stepped
on to her home mat and flourished on Friday night,
putting up career-best performances on the vault and
the floor exercise, earning a 9.825 on both events. It
was Mantilla's first competition in front of a home
crowd this season and only the second time she com-
Blue leaves bruising
West Coast for East
By Brad Johnson
Daily Sports Writer
While mnost Michigan s
stuck inside watching the;
fall each weekend, the No.
water polo team is criss-c
country, traveling to the F
West Coast and everywherei
Last week, the Wolverin
sixth out of eight teams in t
Invitational. This weeken(
looks to get back on track w
New Jersey for the Princetor
al, where Michigan will fac
ranked in the collegiate'
national top-20 poll - No
and No. 18 Princeton.
"We are going to have to
go through what we went t
weekend," Michigan coach b
After the Invitational, the
will have faced nine ranke
their first 13 games. Las
Michigan (6-3) lost to No.
Cal. and No. 3 Stanford.
"Those two teams are on
lose to each other during t
there's a clear separation,'
said. "Even with the loss, w
water, having a very success
Our only three losses are age
In Anderson's eyes, there
tion between the teams on t
East Coasts, with the west t
being much stronger. Mi
Junior Lauren Mirkovich posted a 9.900 on the uneven bars against Michigan State last weekend, despite
falling during warmups. It was only her second meet after returning from a wrist injury.
peted two events in a meet this year.
Mantilia missed her junior season with a torn ACL.
"It felt really good. It was really exciting to get back
into it again," Mantilla said. "Training's been going
well, and competition's pretty similar to training, so it
went really well."
Plocki hopes Mantilla will build on this performance
and become a solid contributor for the Wolverines.
"This really needs to be her year, and it's looking
like it could potentially shape up to be a great year for
her," Plocki said. "I hope that this will springboard
her into having more confidence and going out there
to continue to perform and improve."
BoUNCIN' BACK: After falling during her warm up
routine on the uneven bars, junior Lauren Mirkovich
showed the crowd her mental toughness by notching a
9.900 on the event, boosting her team to its best bars
score of the season. It was only her second meet after
returning from a wrist injury suffered in early January.
"It doesn't really faze me, because you know
you're going to mess up sometimes," Mirkovich said.
"I just think about the technique first, and think 'This
is the meet, I have to do it like I know how.' "
The Wolverines have already shown their ability to
remain focused even when the worst mistakes happen.
Plocki says this is all part of the gymnast mentality.
"It's all about when you get ready and you're star-
ing down the apparatus you're about to mount," Ploc-
ki said. "It's all about being 100 percent confident in
your mind that, 'I'm going to hit this."'
Indiana are the only top-10 teams out-
side of the West Coast.
"On the West Coast, it is very physi-
tudents are cal, very fast and (the players are) very
snowflakes big," Anderson said. "On the East
8 Michigan Coast, it's not as fast and they don't let it
rossing the get as physical.
East Coast, "(The eastern schools) are getting to
in between. that point (of the western schools), but
es finished not all of the schools on the East Coast
he Stanford are able to attract those players from the
d, the team West Coast."
vith a trip to Michigan's ability to compete with
n Invitation- the West Coast schools was demonstrat-
e two teams ed during the season's first tournament
water polo in Ann Arbor. Michigan defeated Ari-
. 15 Brown zona State and UC-San Diego on the
way to the Michigan Invite crown.
be ready to "If we were a Michigan State or an
hrough last (Eastern Michigan), we don't get those
Matt Ander- (California teams)," Anderson said. "We
get them out here because we are
Wolverines Michigan, and that does allow us to
d teams in match up against the West Coast
t weekend, schools."
2 Southern In addition to Brown and Princeton,
Michigan will also match up against
ly going to George Washington and Wagner.
he year - The competition may be easier, but the
'Anderson Wolverines will still be playing on the
e are in the road for the second weekend in a row.
sful season. "The fans are about five feet away
ainst top-10 from you on the ground level (at Prince-
ton)," said Anderson. "Every one of
is a separa- them and every one of their fans are
he West and going to be booing Michigan. (Because
raditionally of) jealousy, or whatever it may be, no
chigan and one likes Michigan wherever we go."
e of the Week
ability to finish more points at the net, according t
Ritt, who has noticed the junior working hard on hey
DaCosta has seen much improvement in Ruther
ford's game, even from the fall season. Ruther-
ford's strengthened forehand and increased
competitiveness on the court have contributed to
her recent success.
With such an explosive and competitive tenni$
game, it is a wonder that Rutherford has been nick-
named "L. Woods" after the character in the "Legal-
ly Blonde" movies.
DaCosta explained that Rutherford received her
"L. Woods" nickname on the basis of being "so
cute" and "adorable" on the court. Her opponents
would certainly be surprised by the nickname
considering the way this junior has left them bit=
ing the dust.
Rutherford looks to continue her singles and dogi.
bles success Feb. 21, when she will lead No. 25
Michigan against Tennessee at the final match of' a
six-game home stand.
'L. Train' earns Big Ten Atlet
By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer
To some, she is known as "L. Train," and to oth-
ers, "L. Woods."
She is junior Leanne Rutherford of the Michi-
gan women's tennis team. And now Rutherford
can be called "Big Ten Conference Athlete of
After a thrilling upset victory over Sara Jane Con-
nelly of Notre Dame (4-6, 6-2, 7-5), the Big Ten rec-
ognized Rutherford for the week of Feb. 5. This is
the second time in Rutherford's career that she has
received this award, with the first coming last year.
Rutherford said that she was very excited after
hearing she received the honor, but surprisingly, she
didn't hear the news until her roommate saw a story
Rutherford is currently undefeated in singles in
the dual-match season (4-0) and looks for her mile-
stone 50th career singles win at Michigan. She cur-
rently holds a career mark of 49-26.
"I've been impressed with (Rutherford) since day
one," coach Bitsy Ritt said. "She's a great team
member - you know she's gonna show up every
day for practice and matches."
Junior Michelle DaCosta echoed Ritt's admiration
for Rutherford's competitiveness. As doubles part-
ners, DaCosta and Rutherford achieved early-season
success against Louisiana State and Georgia Tech at
the Michigan Invitational.
"(Rutherford) is a great doubles partner,"
DaCosta said. "She hits the ball so strong and she
is so aggressive."
Ritt acknowledged that Rutherford is much
improved since her freshman year. Rutherford has
transitioned from hitting a flat ball to one with more
topspin, giving the junior increased control, pace
and consistency on her shots. Ritt explained that this
is a much more effective shot for Rutherford.
"(Rutherford) has become a bigger player with
bigger shots and bigger weapons," Ritt said. "It's the
little things that have made such a big difference."
One of Rutherford's improved weapons is her
Junior Leanne Rutherford recently earned "Big Ten Conference Athlete of the
Week," for her upset victory over Sara Jane Connelly of Notre Dame.