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September 30, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-30

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 30, 2004 -11A

Blake better than ever as senior

By Max Kardon
Daily Sports Writer
Talent comes naturally, but dominance is
Over the course of her first three years at Mich-
igan, senior midfielder Jessica Blake has embod-
ied this principle.
Tearing through the competition in her final
season on the field hockey team, Blake has
reached the pinnacle of her game.
Blake, an SNRE environmental studies major,
has developed an extraordinary ability to dictate
the atmosphere on the pitch.
"I like to work outside," Blake said. "We have
six hour labs in the School of Natural Resourc-
es and it is really relaxing to study in a natural
setting. I definitely want to pursue a career out-
The No. 8 Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 7-3 overall)
have struck gold in the natural resource of Blake's
sparkling play.
The stats reinforce the fact she is on top of her
Blake leads the Wolverines with 33 points as
they approach the midpoint of the season. She
has already surpassed her career high of 27
points that she posted during her junior year. Last
year's marks eclipsed the combined totals from
her freshman and sophomore years, and Blake
appears poised to blow past her combined career
totals again this year.
With performances like a four-goal effort
against Central Michigan on Sept. 17, this lofty
milestone is not far from becoming reality.
A native of Perth, Australia, Blake retains a
charming accent that makes her exotic origins
evident. Her amiable disposition gives no hint of
her on-field dominance.
After carrying the Olympic torch in 2000 before
the Sydney Summer Olympics, Blake began her

Michigan career in style, starting 16 games for
the Wolverines' 2001 National Championship
team. Her performance this season illustrates her
determination to book-end her career with anoth-
er championship.
"Back in 2001, we were underdogs, but we
fought until the end," Blake said. "It's a differ-
ent team this year, but I feel the same fighting
She credits the team's early success on their ded-
ication to improvement over the offseason. Under
the direction of trainer Jason Cole, Blake and the
Wolverines worked on their speed, strength and
agility in tandem with the women's soccer team.
They endured grueling workouts in the oppressive
heat and humidity of a Michigan summer as they
battled exhaustion with their will to win.
"It really helped that we worked out with the
women's soccer team," Blake said.
"They're really quick and added a competitive
edge to our training that made us push ourselves
to the limit. We got to see what we were made
"I feel we are capable of achieving more this
season because we work together so well. We
can employ many different tactical systems dur-
ing games because we worked - and continue to
work - so hard together."
When asked about the secret to her offensive
explosion, Blake has one answer:
"Experience. I am constantly learning, and my
improvement can be credited to maturity. You
can't just pick up a stick, be an athlete and assume
you can be a master of the game. It takes a lot of
patience and hard work. Understanding the nature
of the game is a credit to maturity."
Blake has been fine-tuning her game since her
arrival in Ann Arbor.
"It was an adjustment to adapt to the American
game," Blake said. "We play more of an attacking
style in Australia with a different lineup of for-

wards. There was more of an emphasis of pushing
the ball straight to the goal. I wasn't used to so
much passing in the backfield."
It is clear that the globe-trotting Blake has
made the full transition to the American game.
Blake has played a major role in the Wolverines'
success - they have won seven of their last eight
games - and she is currently riding a 10-game
point streak.
Her superior performance hasn't gone unrecog-
On Sept. 20, she was named the Big Ten Con-
ference Player of the Week for the first time in her
career, only to be awarded the same distinction
the following week.
Individual accolades have not made Blake for-
get that team success is her top priority.
With the departure of superstars April Fron-
zoni and Kristi Gannon, Blake feels the team is
more determined to compete for a national title as
a tightly knit unit.
Blake has stepped in as a leader as the team
continues to step up its play.
"Every game and every practice builds our con-
fidence," she said.
"We are reaching the midpoint of the season
right now, and this weekend will be a turning
point. Our momentum increases as the season
goes on."
With nine games left in the regular season, the
Wolverines know they have a lot more grilling to
The Wolverines hope to build on their success as
they battle it out on home turf against conference
rival Northwestern at I p.m. on Saturday. Sunday
will feature an Ivy League showdown against a
very challenging Harvard squad at 1 p.m.
Blake expects big things, and expresses the
positive sentiment of the team with a native term
for awesome:
"Everything's bonza for us right now."

Senior midflelder Jessica Blake has shown marked improvement over the course
of her Michigan career. She has already set a career-high in points this season.

Rowers ready for head of the season

By H. Jose Bosch
For the Daily
While students across campus wake up
disheveled on their friend's floor, or franti-
cally calling different cab companies for a
ride back to North Campus, a special group
of girls are waking up at the crack of dawn
to begin work. Though it is still very early -
their competitive season starts in the spring
- the Michigan women's rowing team
wakes up before sunrise everyday to head off
to practice.
"Nothing gets people more united then
waking up at five in the morning and work-
ing out while the sun rises," senior Crystal
Culp said.
Not that the Wolverines have had a
problem with cohesiveness. Last year,
Michigan finished first in the Big Ten

Championships, third in the Lexus Cen-
tral/South Region Sprints and third in the
NCAA Championships.
But the fall is no time to reminisce about
last season.
"We're staring to build up the mileage
and starting on a good physiological page
so we can move ahead to the winter and
the spring with training, as well as devel-
oping technical skills in the water," coach
Mark Rothstein said.
And nothing is more important than
technical skills in the sport of rowing. Dur-
ing the fall, a team is more concerned with
how it races and not whom it races. In events
such as the Head of Charles or the Head of
the Elk, Michigan and as many as 40 other
schools race against the clock more than
against each other. Featuring more time tri-
als than actual regattas, these events allow

the team to work on the technical aspects of
racing, yet still have the experience of going
against another team. The Wolverines have
multiple varsity teams racing, giving the
coaches a chance to tinker with differ-
ent line-ups and see who works well with
whom. Despite Michigan's success in regat-
tas, events where multiple schools partici-
pate, last spring, the team went just 1-3 in
dual meets, including two losses to peren-
nial rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
But the girls didn't let that bother them.
"We peaked when we wanted to last year
... and I think those losses taught our team
how to be tough and come back from behind,"
senior coxswain Tara Medina said.
The team has a chance to show Ohio State
how much it has improved from last season
during its exhibition with the Buckeyes this
Saturday on Belleville Lake. This will not be

a race, though, as both teams are just using it
as an opportunity to match up against a top
opponent and see where they stand.
"We're trying to stay within the structure
of our plan - in the preparation within that
plan," Rothstein said. "We want to row hard
and row our best on that given day ... we
want to perform our absolute best."
While students sleep away their Saturday
morning after a long Friday night, it will
be just another day for the women's rowing
team. Another day to improve - another day
closer to the start of the 2004-05 season.
When asked if there is the same intensity
during an exhibition against Ohio State as
there is during the regular season, Culp's
answer seems to sum up how hard the team
works during the fall.
"There always is and there always will be,"
she said.

The women's rowing team will compete against Ohio State.

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