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March 10, 2005 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-10

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 10, 2005

Merchant finds second love

By Danielle Ravich
for the Daily
Jessica Merchant might seem like a
typical senior who has learned to deal
with the stress of college life by keep-
ing a "no stress policy." She might find it
difficult to leave behind the friends and
team she has been a part of for the past
four years, but she is one of just 21 college
seniors in the country who was drafted to
play softball in the Big Leagues. It is not
only her outstanding .287 career average
and 92 career RBI that caught the scout's
eyes as much as her love and passion for
the game itself.
If you asked Merchant five years ago
what sport she would be playing during
her college career, she probably would
have replied basketball, but during her,
years of playing shortstop for Michi-
gan, she has proven she is a true softball
star. The talent and passion for the sport
runs through her veins. It stems from her
grandfather who played the sport. Both
her parents, her three sisters and one of
her aunts played for Michigan State. In
addition, two of her aunts have played
college basketball.
"Sports are what we do," Merchant said
of her family.
Although Merchant has been playing
softball her entire life, her passion for bas-
ketball still remains. If given the opportu-
nity to choose any other sport to play, she
would pick "basketball in a heartbeat." In
fact, her uniform number, 24, was cho-
sen because her aunt Jennifer Ritz wore
it when she played as a forward on Michi-

gan State's basketball team. Other schools
looked to recruit Merchant for basketball,
but playing softball was a sacrifice she
made to be a Wolverine.
"I wouldn't trade Michigan softball for
the world," Merchant said:
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins tries to
tell the players that the softball program
at Michigan is bigger than the individuals
that make up the team.
"There are only 20 people in the world
who can wear the Block 'M.' Tradition cre-
ates a sense of pride and ties the past to the
present," Hutchins said.
In order to evoke this sense of unity for
the team, Hutchins has created some tradi-
tions of her own, including a dinner where
the seniors cook a meal for the rest of the
team. She also started California Day, a
day when the team is allowed to wear any
type of clothes it wants to practice.
Sports tend to offer many life lessons,
and Merchant has successfully caught on to
the mentality. According to Hutchins, her
most significant improvement has been not
letting the weight of expectations become
overwhelming.
As a freshman, Merchant started all
61 games at shortstop, the second highest
season total for a freshman in Michigan
history. As a sophomore, she fielded a per-
fect 1.000 rate in conference action. Last
season, Merchant became the first Michi-
gan shortstop to achieve an All-America
honor. While helping her team reach the
World Series in Oklahoma.
But not everything is all fun and games
for Merchant. While Merchant covered
second base in a game against Iowa last

year, a base runner rammed into her, and
broke her ankle.
"It was really emotional because I
thought my season was over," she said.
Through hard work and dedication, Mer-
chant overcame the challenge with flying
colors. She looked to her father, who also
successfully conquered serious injuries
from a car accident. Merchant knew that
her situation could have been worse. Even
though she missed a total of five games
and played only a majority of two others,
she managed to set Michigan's single-sea-
son home run record with 15.
"If people work hard, they can
achieve more than they think they can"
Merchant said.
Said Hutchins: "I was so impressed
with the way Jessica dealt with her injury
- more than I thought I would be. She
practiced her hardest during that time, and
that was when I knew.
"She's a tough kid, tougher than I ever
knew, and we needed her."
Hutchins firmly declared that she
was not surprised at all when she heard
that Merchant got drafted into the Big
Leagues, because from her enthusiasm
for the sport, it is obvious that she loves
what she does.
"I don't know, I just love to go out there
and play," Merchant said.
Said Hutchins: "Something I'll miss is
that she loves the game for what it is. She's
a ballpark rat ... The kid wears a smile as
soon as she gets on the field. That doesn't
happen to everyone. I'm certain she'll play
on national teams, and they'll love coach-
ing her."

TONY DING/Daily
Jessica Merchant has led Michigan throughout her career, including career marks of 92 RBIs and a .287 average.

Netters hope team meetinghelps

By Daniel Levy
Daily Sports Writer

An overall record of 3-6. A current
losing streak of three. These aren't pret-
ty numbers for any team - especially
the Michigan women's tennis team.
Coming into this year, the Wolver-
ines were ranked No. 21 and ready for
success. With the rough start to the
season, the team sensed a need to rally
around each other and right the ship.
This is precisely what Michigan did
when they decided to hold a team meet-
ing following the loss at San Diego last
Thursday.
The Wolverines knew they had to re-
evaluate the team and their season. They
hadn't given their best effort, and they
weren't living up to their own expecta-
tions.
"The San Diego State match was
definitely a letdown," senior co-cap-
tain Leanne Rutherford said. "We
held a team meeting afterwards and

discussed where we are and where we
want to be."
The Wolverines are hoping that the
team meeting will provide the spark
they have been missing over the last
few weeks. An honest and open meet-
ing like that between teammates can do
great things for a team - especially one
in need of a lift. In the few days after
the meeting, the players have noticed a
more focused and energetic approach to
practice.
"The discussions we had during the
meeting were really encouraging,"
Rutherford said. "Players seemed
more fired up and determined,
and that should help us turn things
around."
The self-evaluation is another positive
outcome of the meeting.
"It forced us to look at ourselves,"
Rutherford said. "That will help us get
better and, move on from here."
They have decided that they shouldn't
get too down on themselves because they

have been playing top-notch competition
- five of their six losses have been to a
top-25 team. While it might seem that
Michigan would want to erase the losses
from their memories and move on, the
exact opposite is true. The Wolverines
are very aware of the fact that the early
season struggles have taught them a lot
about themselves.
"The losses have been a little discour-
aging," Rutherford said. "But you can
always take something from a loss even
though it hurts."
One thing the Wolverines have
learned from their losses is to stay tough
and fight in their matches. This ability to
hang tough could lead to success down
the road.
"Everyone is learning how to fight,"
Rutherford said. "It can only get better
from here."
Michigan will put that statement to
the test and try to end their losing streak
when they host Marquette on Saturday
at the Varsity Tennis Center.

6

ALEXANDER DZIADOSZ/Daily
Senior co-captain Leanne Rutherford helped lead a team meeting, which she hopes will refocus the struggling Wolverines.

I

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III . i+l

I4

e 7

You're invited to 4 i104, a series of free, fun workshops sponsored by the
Alumni Association that are full of practical advice and tips to help you get ready
to enter the real world.
You'll get:
Helpful information- from seasoned professionals in lively presentations geared
specifically to college students
Take-home materials that you can use for future reference
Free pizza, pop and a special gift
The chance to win a $50 Best Buy gift card at each session
Register in advance for two or more sessions and you'll be entered to win a
$250 Best Buy gift card (can you say new iPod?)

Tuesday, March 15
Good Credit: Bad Debt
Christine Riggenbach, Account
Executive, MBNA Business
Development
The importance of establish-
ing good credit
" Effective tools to manage
debt

Thursday, March 24
Six Degrees of Separation:
Building Your Network
Through People You Know
Vickie Austin, Founder, CHOICES
Worldwide: Business, Executive
and Career Coaching
The importance of loving
what you do and doing what

Tuesday, March 29
Investing in Your Future
Ronald Eppler, Senior Portfolio
Manager, Beacon Investment
Company
Investment options with
limited resources
Understanding stocks and
mutual funds

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