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March 31, 2005 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-31

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 31, 2005

Seniors look for
first national title

M MEN'S TENNIS
Far from home,
Hung in for Rubin

By David Spielman
For the Daily
The Michigan water polo team's
final regular season home game of the
season on March 20 - a 12-2 victory
against California Lutheran - was
preceded by a sentimental tribute to the
team's graduating players. But the Wol-
verine seniors - including Jo Anton-
sen, Betsey Armstrong, Vicky Brown,
Erin Brown, Rebecca Godek, Sheetal
Narsai and Meg Knudsten - didn't get
too caught up in the occasion because
they believe they haven't played their
final games in Ann Arbor.
On May 13-15, Michigan will host
this year's NCAA women's Water
Polo Championship for the first time
in school history, and this year's squad
has reason to believe that they should
contend for a berth in the prestigious
tournament.
"Senior Night didn't really kick in for
us," senior striker Knudsten said. "Even
though it was our last regular season
home game, we anticipate that we'll
be back in our pool mid-May for our
real last home games - in the NCAA
Championship."
A main reason for the team's confi-
dence is the Wolverines' strong senior
class, which has amassed an impressive
overall record of 91-40 over four years and
has won three College Water Polo Asso-
ciation Championships in the process.
Though the group has enjoyed great
success, one goal has eluded them: an
NCAA Championship.

The No. 13 Wolverines (6-1 CWPA,
17-10 overall) have played well thus far,
and, in the final few weeks, they will have
their eyes fixed on their ultimate goal.
"The NCAA Championship is always
in the back of our minds," Knudsten
said. "The last two years, we've been
favored to win but have come up short,
so we're really hungry."
Coach Matt Anderson - who was
honored as National Water Polo Coach
of the Year in 2004 - explained that
this year's seniors share a close bond
that helps them during games.
"They came into a program that had
only been around for one year and never
competed within the group," Anderson
said. "They get along so well inside and
outside of the pool that they live togeth-
er, socialize together and even travel
around the world together."
The players themselves agree.
"Our friendships outside of the water
definitely translate to great team chem-
istry in it," Knudsten said.
Of course, a little talent can't hurt
either.
This group of seniors includes Arm-
strong - a goalkeeper who was last
year's Division I MVP and runner-up
for National Player of the Year - and a
wealth of talent at the field positions.
These experienced players know that
the road ahead will be a tough one. In
order to gain a berth in the tournament,
the team must close out the season in
Bloomington on April 29-31 by winning
the East Championship, which should
include a rematch with rival Indiana in

By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer

AILs E PHOTO
Senior Jo Antonsen hopes to play in the NCAA Championships, which Michigan will host.

its home pool.
"We foresee a championship game
with Indiana, but we don't overlook any
team," Knudsten said. "Still, the Hoo-
siers have beaten us twice this year, and
we're hungry for revenge."
Having never lost to No. 9 Indiana
before this year, the seniors know

their great potential and want to
capitalize on it.
"We don't talk about the NCAA
Championship all that much, but they
know," Anderson said. "They're seniors,
and they know what they have to do. It's
a lot easier to walk away with a good
memory than with a bad one."

Just a year ago, sophomore Brian
Hung of the Michigan men's tennis
team was learning to acclimate to
a new country, a new school and a
new life away from his friends and
family in Hong Kong. This year,
Hung has proven to be one of Mich-
igan's most consistent players, hav-
ing won six of his last seven singles
matches.
With a current overall singles
record of 15-11, Hung has compiled
impressive marks, specifically, at
the No. 3 position (6-1). But with
senior Michael Rubin out indefi-
nitely with what appears to be a bro-
ken wrist, Hung will probably move
up to either the No. 2 or No. 1 spot,
according to coach Bruce Berque.
"I look at it as a bigger challenge
for me," Hung said. "I think I play
well when I have a tougher oppo-
nent. I sometimes relax and do not
play to the best of my ability when I
play an opponent that's not as good.
I would like that opportunity to play
higher up in the lineup and hope-
fully do well."
Berque explained that Hung is a
candidate for moving up in the lineup
because of the marked improvement
he has made since the fall season.
"For awhile, he was struggling,"
Berque said. "(Now) he's more like-
ly playing with more confidence and
playing how he's supposed to be
playing. We're working on him com-
ing to the net more and on his serve.
He'll have more chances of being
successful."
But just a year ago, Hung had
other things on his mind besides
tennis. Moving to America after liv-
ing and playing in China, Hung not
only had to deal with the transition
to college that most freshmen worry
about, but he also had to learn to live
in a new country.
"At first, it was pretty 'difficult,"
Hung said. "I went to internation-
al school, so I spoke in English in
school. But I wasn't with my fam-
ily and friends from home. I think
the team helped me a lot, especially
(my freshman year roommate Steve)
Peretz."
Although he competed in many
international tournaments before
coming to the U.S. - including the
World Youth Cup in 2001 where

he qualified for the finals - Hung
had mostly played individual tennis.
Playing for Michigan was one of his
first opportunities to participate in
team tennis.
"I like the team atmosphere here a
lot," Hung said. "Tennis comes down
to playing (individually), but, with
teammates supporting you from the
stands, it's really exciting. It helps a
lot with people behind your back."
In terms of team tennis, Hung has
enjoyed success with doubles part-
ner Matko Maravic. The freshman-
sophomore duo has compiled a 7-3
record at the No. 1 position. Berque
said that their games complement
each other very well and that they
feed off of one another's energy.
"(Hung) is a great doubles player,"
Berque said. "He's very natural. He's
got a lot of instincts, quick hands
and moves well at the net."
But Michigan was not the only
school Hung was interested in. He
also looked into playing for Berkeley
and Duke. But Hung weighed sever-
al factors in his college decision, as
evidenced by his decision to apply to
the Business School this year.
"I was looking at academics
... and where I would have a bet-
ter chance of playing higher in the
lineup," Hung said. "I've definitely
enjoyed my experiences here. The
weather is kind of cold, but it's get-
ting better."
All joking aside, Hung's quiet but
commanding presence on and off the
court ha's been a welcome addition
to the team. As one of four interna-
tional student-athletes on this year's
squad, Hung brings a diverse record
of experience to Michigan.
"It keeps things interesting when
you have people from different cul-
tures," Berque said. "Most of the
teams I've been a part of have been
predominantly American. It's an
educational thing for the rest of the
team. (Since Hung has) played a lot
of international tennis in the past, he
brings more experience than some of
the other guys."
This weekend, Hung looks to con-
tinue his recent success, as well as
help Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 10-6
overall) bounce back from its most
recent loss to Notre Dame last week-
end. The Wolverines will resume
conference play on the road against
Minnesota on Friday and Iowa on
Sunday.

M MEW'S TRACK & FIELD
Gras back to full strength after injury

By Ian Robinson
Daily Sports Writer

Like any freshman athlete, Victor Gras wanted
to improve upon his high school achievements.
Although he did not have concrete goals or specific
time expectations before the school year began, he
wanted to continue to lower his times.
After an outstanding prep career - he represent-
ed France at the 2004 World Junior Championships
- his time at Michigan started on a positive note.
He placed in the top-30 in his first three cross-coun-
try meets, and the start of his collegiate career was
highlighted by a personal-best time of 25:06 and
an eighth-place finish at the Spartan Invitational in
September. But his season came to an unfortunate
end when he began suffering from Achilles tendon-
itis, which forced him to miss the end of the cross
country season.
"It was the first serious injury I have had to deal

with," Gras said.
After Gras received a medical redshirt for the
cross-country season, coach Ron Warhurst was
apprehensive about the freshman returning for the
indoor season. So Warhurst redshirted him. Gras
appreciated Warhurst's decision to let him take
three months off to allow his Achilles to heal.
"Instead of rushing me back for the indoor season,
(Warhurst) said I could take my time," Gras said.
After the respite, he started his training slowly.
"There was no point in rushing him to get him
into running too fast indoors," Warhurst said.
At the end of the indoor season, Gras competed
as an unattached competitor in three meets. His best
performance came in the Alex Wilson Invitational
in South Bend on March 5. He ran a personal-best
time of 8:10.70 in the 3,000-meter run.
"Now he is back up to the mileage, volume and
quality," Warhurst said.
As he continues his training, Gras is excited about

the upcoming outdoor season.
"I am in the best shape of my life," Gras said.
He believes that he is a much better runner than
he was before his injury, and he hopes that his
improvements as a runner will lead to a successful
outdoor campaign.
"I want to make it to nationals and be healthy,"
Gras said.
On an individual level, he wants to break the
French junior record in the 1,500-meter run and win
the European Junior Championships in Lithuania.
This season, Warhurst plans to run Gras in the
1,500- and 800-meter runs.
"He is a competitive young man, and he wants to
compete," Warhurst said. "I have no doubt that he
will ... start his career off where we anticipated he
would start it."
Gras will restart his Michigan career this Satur-
day as the team travels to Atlanta to compete in the
Yellow Jacket Invitational at George Griffin Track.

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