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September 29, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-29

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Wednesday
September 29, 2004
sports. michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTS

8

Icers tabbed preseason's best

By Gabe Edelson
Daily Sports Writer
DETROIT - Al Montoya has no mis-
conceptions about the importance of pre-
season rankings in ice hockey. The junior
goalie only cares where his team stands
when the dust settles.
"The only rankings that matter are at the
end of the year, when the season is all said
and done," Montoya said after captains'
practice yesterday. "But it's an honor to be
ranked highly (now)."
As usual, expectations are soaring for
Michigan, which received the No. 1 rank-
ing in the U.S. College Hockey Online
preseason poll and the No. 2 spot (behind
Boston College) on the USA Today/USA
Hockey Magazine list, both released on
Monday. Last season, the team was No. 2
in both national polls behind Minnesota.
Yesterday, at the CCHA Media Day
FILE PHOTO at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan
coach Red Berenson's squad was picked

first in both the Coaches and Media polls
for the conference. In addition, the 2004-05
CCHA Preseason All-Conference Teams
were unveiled. Five Michigan players were
honored: sophomore forward T.J. Hensick
and Montoya were named to the first team,
junior forward Jeff Tambellini and senior
defenseman Brandon Rogers were selected
for the second team, and senior defenseman
Eric Werner made Honorable Mention.
Despite such early hype, the players and
their coach remain even-keeled.
"The polls are definitely a benchmark
for some teams, a challenge for other teams
and certainly a disappointment for other
teams," Berenson said. "The bottom line is
Michigan is a team that needs to have the
bar set high ... I'd be disappointed if we
weren't picked high."
At the same time, Berenson will not
allow himself to get too caught up in the
rankings.
"Once the puck drops, it really doesn't
matter," he said. "We're going to have to

earn (our points) even harder than any-
one else does because we get (our oppo-
nents') best game every night. That's a
fact of life."
Captain and senior forward Eric Nys-
trom believes he is ready for the challenge,
having been in similar situations in each of
his first three years as a Wolverine.
"I think with everybody being a year
older and a year more experienced,
we're going to, naturally, be a better
team," he said.
Indeed, it is that very experience that
will fuel the Wolverines' fire during the
course of the season. Ten of the team's 24
players are seniors, and a sense of urgency
has already begun to take hold in the locker
room, where the leadership of alternate
captains Montoya, Rogers and Tambel-
lini also inspires the players. The last time
Michigan won a national championship
was 1998, and the outgoing class is desper-
ate to taste the title for the first and only
time in its collegiate career.

"(The seniors) should feel that, 'This is
it. This is my time,' "Berenson said. "They
still have something to prove. But they're
experienced. They know what it takes, and
they've been through it."
Hensick, Michigan's leading scorer
last season as a freshman, is confident
in the collection of talent he sees sur-
rounding him.
"You just look around that locker room
and you see a bunch of guys who are will-
ing to go that extra mile to win a national
championship," Hensick said.
Nystrom knows the stark reality of the
situation.
"This year there is no next year" the
captain said. "It's scary how fast it goes
by. I see those freshmen come in with the
wide eyes. It feels like yesterday we were
playing here in the regionals in my fresh-
man season. And now we're putting on the
jerseys for the last year. But I think we're
ready to take it for what it is and make it a
great year."

01

Captain Eric Nystrom is one of 10 seniors on this year's team.

California sunshine
doesn't top being home

Michigan should step
in to corral students

By Sharad Mattu
Daily Sports Editor

Early in the fourth quarter against Iowa on Saturday,
the Wolverines were ahead 23-10 and had the Hawkeyes
pinned back near their endzone.
On the third play of that drive, cornerback Grant
Mason put the game away, intercepting a pass and return-
ing it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Mason, a senior, looked like a wide receiver pulling
down a pass and weaving through would-be tacklers. But
then again, that's the position he played before transfer-
ring to Michigan.
When Mason was a senior at Orchard Lake St. Mary's,
he chose to attend Stanford. He considered Michigan, but
the Pontiac native had his reasons.
Stanford is among the top schools academically. The
Cardinal were a promising team. He wanted to live on his
own away from home.
And, maybe most importantly, it's 70 degrees and
sunny all year long.
"I really liked the California weather," Mason said
with a laugh.
After he redshirted his freshman year, Mason saw
time at receiver, as well as on punt and kickoff returns.
Though his 23 receptions put him in a tie for fourth on
the team, Mason realized that leaving home wasn't quite
what he expected it to be.
"Stanford is a great school and I had a great time, but
after a little while I missed playing in front of my family
and friends," Mason said. "The weather was great, but it
couldn't make up for that."

When Mason came to Ann Arbor last year, he also
made the switch to defense. Because Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr wasn't sure if a spot would open up at receiver,
and had a year to find a spot for Mason while he redshirted
as a transfer, he had Mason spend time in practice on both
sides of the ball. In the end, cornerback was the best fit.
The transition to defense wasn't difficult for Mason.
In his final two years in high school, Mason recorded
19 interceptions and caught 75 balls (many from cur-
rent teammate Jermaine Gonzales) and was among the
region's top recruits.
But being forced to redshirt a second time was much
more difficult to deal with.
"It was the toughest thing I've ever gone through," said
Mason, who will have one year of eligibility after this
season. "To go from playing my entire life to being on the
sidelines isn't fun. The fun part of football is playing, and
I didn't get to do that.
"But at the same time, last year gave me a chance to
settle down, get acclimated to the program and just keep
improving. It's really made a difference for me this year,
and next year I'll be even better."
Until Saturday's game against Iowa, Mason had seen
playing time primarily on special teams. But in his lim-
ited role, he did enough to get Carr's attention.
"He has made some tackles on the kickoffs that are
bone-jarring, knock-'em-down-where-they-are kind of
plays," Carr said. "They aren't plays where he hits a guy
and the guy runs three of four more yards. These guys go
down."
Against the Hawkeyes, who early on abandoned the run-
ning game, Mason saw significant playing time on defense

BOB HUNT
Unleashed

ELISE BERGMAN/Daily
Grant Mason celebrates his touchdown Saturday.
for the first time. It's an opportunity he appreciates.
"They gave me an opportunity to come back and play
here, and that's all I could ask for," Mason said on Saturday.
"I've been able to contribute on special teams and today I
got a role on defense and was able to make a play.
"I'm having a great time playing on this team, being back
home and being with these guys. It's just a lot of fun."

VOLLEYBALL
Spikers," Gandoiph put away Fighting Irsh
By Stephanie Wright kills and 14 digs, recording her third dou- the ball.' Gamalski got her the ball, and dence that Michigan had before the match.
Daily Sports Writer ble-double of the season. She is now just Gandolph took care of it." When Notre Dame took a 25-23 lead off

The Michigan volleyball team was
relaxed before its match against Notre
Dame last night. Laughing and dancing
during warm-ups and player introductions,
Michigan exuded the calm confidence that
propelled it to a 2-0 lead in the match.
But midway through the third game,
questionable calls shook the Wolverines.
The team began to look tired and senior
Lisa Gamalski argued with the officials
about a call she didn't like. Michigan lost
its poise and looked like it might not get
it back.
Led by the aggressive play of senior
outside hitter Jennifer Gandolph, the Wol-
verines (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten) regained their
confidence and beat the Fighting Irish 3-1.
Gandolph finished with a season-high 26

12 kills away from breaking Michigan's
all-time record.
After Michigan took a 14-13 lead in
game four, Notre Dame went on a 7-3 run
to take the lead 21-17. Both teams commit-
ted attack errors to keep the game close
until a Michigan service error gave Notre
Dame a 27-24 lead. That was when Gan-
dolph took control. She recorded her 22nd
kill of the match to pull Michigan within
one. Notre Dame had a match point at 30-
29, but Gandolph responded once again to
tie the match. On the final point, Gandolph
recorded her eighth kill of the game and
gave Michigan the 32-30 win.
"It's one of the best demonstrations that
she's given us of just taking over a game,"
Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. "She
said to Gamalski, 'Give me the ball. I want

Michigan led through the first half of
game one until Notre Dame took an 18-
17 lead off a Wolverine attack error. But
Michigan went on a 4-0 run and took a 22-
18 lead it would not give up, winning game
one, 30-23.
Game two was close early, but Michi-
gan pulled ahead 7-6 on a hard-fought
point and did not relinquish its lead. The
Wolverines won 30-25.
"In both games one and two, we were
really steady;' Rosen said. "We played
right with them, and kind of went back and
forth until we just kind of pulled ahead.
We were a little more consistent."
Like the beginning of game two, Michi-
gan and Notre Dame went back and forth
to start game three. But this time, the Irish
pulled ahead, exuding the same confi-

a disputed line call, Michigan players and
coaches became emotional and seemed to
lose their focus.
"I thought we got a little bit rattled,"
Rosen said. "We just got pulled out of our
game a little bit. We started doing things
out of the system and not really playing our
game."
Initially, Michigan was unable to regain
its composure, and Notre Dame won game
three 30-27. But the Wolverines came back
in the fourth game, holding Notre Dame
to a .179 hitting percentage and recording
22 kills.
"At the end of the game, they didn't
really make errors," Gandolph said. We
got kills and made digs. I think we stepped
up the defense a little bit. We ended on our
terms and not theirs."

e Wave. It's a Michigan football
tradition like "The Victors" or the
"Go Blue" banner. It also repre-
sents the state of the Michigan football
student section. In the third quarter of
Michigan's game against San Diego
State, fans in the front row of the student
section led the students in waving their
hands in the air with little regard to the
play on the field.
But there was one small problem. The
Aztecs were down just three and driving
in an attempt to tie or take the lead, and
the students leading the cheers didn't real-
ly seem to care. They were like the guys
you see behind a backstop at a baseball
game talking on a cell phone telling their
buddies that they're on TV.
Although the upperclassmen stopped
attempts at the wave last week against
Iowa, there is still a severe lack of coordi-
nation that makes the Michigan student
football experience less than what it could
be. Thousands of students may comprise
the student section, but the only connec-
tion they have with one another is that
they attend the University.
The common bond stops there, as
everyone seems to have their own way of
cheering. Some people like to do the chop
after third down. Others like to do the
claw. Some people like to wave their hand
and yell with the band. Others like to talk
on their cell phone and tell the rowdy stu-
dents behind them to be quiet.
Many have tried to unify the student
section, and, for the most part, have
failed. Student groups made and sold
"Blue Out" and "Maize Out" (make up
your mind!) T-shirts after seeing simi-
lar things done at other schools. Other
individuals have attempted to bring signs
getting those around them to follow their
lead. This past week, the Michigan cheer-
leaders passed out yellow sheets of paper
to some students asking them to become
the "12th man on the field"
One endeavor that has been a suc-
cess, depending on who you ask, was the
implementation of "The Claw." Although
some had previously done "The Claw"
(supposed to represent the ferociousness
of the Wolverine) as an alternative to
"The Chop" (supposed to mock the first
down that the opposing team failed to
achieve), the increased awareness last
year was like throwing a match in an oil
spill. Now, "The Chop" seems to be upon
its dying days.
But situations such as that one are
few and far between. The reality is that,
without the support of the athletic depart-
ment, the Michigan student section will
never be nearly as unified as it is at other
schools, nor will the Big House have the
atmosphere it is capable of.
One place on campus where the atmo-
sphere has improved tremendously is at
Crisler Arena, thanks to the Maize Rage.
A place almost devoid of student involve-

ment during the Fab Five era could have
one of its best seasons yet this year (ticket
applications are due today). Now students
meet each Monday with the hopes of
making Crisler Arena as unwelcoming as
possible.
As anyone whose sat in the bleachers
at a basketball game knows, they make
a newsletter for each game, titled "Full
Court Press," that gives the students
direction on what cheers to say when.
Ryan Shinska, Superfan V and head of
the Maize Rage, said that the group has
tried to crossover its efforts to football,
but the immense size of the student sec-
tion has prevented it from making any
headway.
"With 20,000 students, it's a lot harder
to do, as opposed to 2,000 students for
basketball this year," Shinska said.
Ideas to improve the student section
have been bantered around, such as start-
ing games later in the day or allowing stu-
dents to enter the section in a first come,
first serve basis. But the athletic depart-
ment would likely never allow a night
game, and the way Michigan Stadium is
set up would make free-for-all seating a
recipe for lawsuits.
One initiative the athletic department
should take is to help create a group like
the Maize Rage for football that could
devise and lead cheers from the start of
the section and coordinate cheering with
the band and cheerleaders.
Michigan State has a similar organiza-
tion called the Corner Blitz run by the
MSU Student Alumni Foundation, which
also runs the Izzone that swarms the Bre-
slin Center during each Spartan basket-
ball game. Members of the Corner Blitz
wear special T-shirts and sit in a separate
section from the rest of the students while
leading various cheers. The organization
has grown in recent years and now has
over 1,000 members. Dave Jackson, Cor-
ner Blitz co-director, says that the major
success of the group comes from the sup-
port it receives from everyone involved
- from coach John L. Smith to the band.
"If everyone wants it to happen, it can
happen," Jackson said.
While a completely separate section
may never exist in Ann Arbor, a group
could still create creative cheers and get
the band, cheerleaders and the students
on the same page. The group could also
help put more emphasis on cheering on
the team instead of doing the wave during
a key third down play.
But the first step that would have to
be taken is the realization by many that
Michigan Stadium could be, and needs
to be, a better place to watch a football
game. Watching the Notre Dame student
section a couple weeks ago, I was amazed
by the unification of the students - they
had a ritual for every part of the game.
Since Notre Dame is a small private
school, it'll be difficult to emulate that
enviroment. But that does not mean that
Michigan cannot and should not improve.
For a school with the academic and
athletic reputation of Michigan, one
should expect so much more.
Bob Hunt thinks that Michigan stu-
dents should emulate German soccer
hooligans and light fires in the stands after
each touchdown. He can be reached at
bobhunt@umich.edu.

-1

0

----I

The University of Michigan College of Literature Science and the Arts
presents a public lecture and reception

0

Let the Office of International Programs
show you the M(9
TODAY
Fall Study Abroad Fair
3-6 p.m.
Michigan Union Ballroom',

I

I

L i .1m

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__________________________ -'

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