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October 28, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-28

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Friday
October 28, 2005
sports.michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

(Th e irbiigau Ba il
PORTCS

8

. . . ......... .

Final road
test on tap
for Varsity
By Stephanie Wright
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan and Northwestern are two clear examples of how
unpredictable the Big Ten has been this season. After under-
achieving to start their season, the Wolverines are barely in the
Big Ten race. After failing to receive a single vote in the pre-
season AP poll, the Wildcats are one of four one-loss teams at
the top of the conference.
With a 3-1 conference record, Northwestern will earn at
least a share of the Big Ten title if it wins its final four games.
But Michigan wants to spoil Northwestern's;relatively clear
road to the title and keep its own hopes alive in the process.
Michigan passing offense vs. Northwestern passing
defense:
Michigan quarterback Chad Henne appears to have
snapped out of his sophomore slump and turned the corner
for good. He completed 14-of-21 passes for 207 yards and two
touchdowns against a solid Iowa defense last weekend. Half of
Henne's completions went to senior co-captain Jason Avant,
who has nearly kept pace with Braylon Edwards's receiving
numbers from a year ago.
Michigan's receivers should be licking their chops at the
chance to face the Wildcats' struggling pass defense. But the
one thing the Wildcats know how to do is notch interceptions.
Northwestern leads the conference with 12, and three Wildcats
defenders have at least two picks. Henne has thrown just four
interceptions this season, though, and the Wolverines should
have little trouble against the Wildcat secondary.
Edge: Michigan
Michigan rushing offense vs. Northwestern rushing
defense:
The Wildcats aren't much better against the run. Their
rushing defense ranks 10th in the Big Ten. But North-
western has improved against the run as the season has
progressed. The Wildcats have held their opponents under
200 yards rushing in three of their past four contests.
Still, Michigan's deep backfield should be a tough
test for the Wildcats. The Wolverines managed to gain
122 yards on the ground last week without Mike Hart.
Freshman Kevin Grady received the bulk of the car-
ries, but junior Jerome Jackson stepped up late in the
game, gaining 44 yards on 11 carries.
Hart's health is a concern, but the Wolverines' three-
headed monster of Jackson, Grady and Max Martin
should expose Northwestern's weakness against the

Mike Hart, battling injuries, is questionable for tomorrow's matchup with Northwestern.
run if called upon. Young to gain 153 yards

ICE HOCKEY
Blue prepares
for grueling
9 - *
Fairbanks trip
By Dan Levy
Daily Sports Writer
Five games into this season, the No. 1 Michigan hockey team has
once again established itself as a national power. A win over then-No.
5 Boston College and a tie with No. 10 Michigan State have high-
lighted the team's 4-0-1 record and resulted in a climb in the polls
from No.7 to the top.
But those five games all had something in common - they were
all played at Yost Ice Arena. This weekend, the Wolverines will go
on the road for the first time all year - and this is no quick bus ride.
Michigan will travel to Alaska to take on No. 20 Alaska-Fairbanks for
their first test away from Ann Arbor.
"It's a four-hour time change," Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
"There's no question it's a tough way to make your first road trip."
The Nanooks (2-1-1) offer a unique road challenge besides the usual
rowdy fans and unfamiliar surroundings. Alaska-Fairbanks plays on
an Olympic-sized rink, which features different dimensions than
Yost.
"The rink is wider, not longer," Berenson said. "You have to make
sure you don't get caught out of position, especially defensively."
The wider rink allows Alaska-Fairbanks coach Tavis MacMillan
to build his team around speed to create a deadly offensive attack. If
Michigan finds itself out of position, it may also find itself behind on
the scoreboard.
"Tavis MacMillan has put his own style in there, and they are more
of an offensive attack team," Berenson said. "They still have a big
team, but now they have a skating team."
Despite skating to two relatively easy 5-2 wins over the Nanooks
last year, the Wolverines are aware that this year's Alaska-Fairbanks
team is very dangerous. The Nanooks brought in a large freshman
class last year. Now sophomores, they provide a strong base for an
attack that has already knocked off one No. 1 team this year - Alas-
ka-Fairbanks beat Minnesota 4-3 on the road to begin the season.
"That big freshman class are now all sophomores," Berenson said.
"They have a good nucleus."
The most important sophomore for Alaska-Fairbanks is undoubt-
edly goaltender Wiley Rogers. He posted a solid 2.88 goals against
average last year and has improved that number to 1.97 early this sea-
son.
"They have good goalkeeping," Berenson said. "Wiley Rogers is as
good as anybody in the league."
With half the team playing its first road game for the Maize and
Blue, it will be up to the Wolverines' more experienced players to step
up their games and provide leadership in a hostile environment.
"We've got some veteran players on this team that have been on
this team when we've been really good on the road," Berenson said.
"They'll be counted on more on the road than at home."

. The Wolverines have given up an

average of 153.4 yards on the ground per game, which doesn't
bode well if they attempt to stop Sutton tomorrow.

Edge: Michigan
Northwestern passing offense vs. Michigan passing
defense:
Wildcats quarterback Brett Basanez's name has started to
appear on a number of Heisman watch lists, and with good
reason. Basanez has thrown for 2,181 yards in seven games,
leading all Big Ten quarterbacks.
Michigan boasts the second-best pass defense in the Big Ten.
Although Iowa quarterback Drew Tate completed 27-of-39 pass
attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns last week, the Wol-
verines got constant pressure throughout the second half.
Basanez has been sacked just five times in seven games, and
it will be hard for Michigan to slow down what coach Lloyd
Carr said is the best offense his team will face this season.
Edge: Northwestern
Northwestern rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing
defense:
Northwestern's running game has been just as explosive,
thanks to tailback Tyrell Sutton. With 970 yards in seven
games, the freshman ranks second in the Big Ten in rush-
ing yards per contest. Northwestern posted 200 yards on the
ground against both Penn State and Michigan State.
Those numbers figure to loom large in the mind of a Wol-
verine defense that has struggled against the run this season.
Last weekend, Michigan allowed Hawkeyes tailback Albert

Edge: Northwestern

£

Special teams:
Michigan receiver Steve Breaston has re-emerged as one of
the Big Ten's premier return specialists after a slow start early
this season. After recovering from a hamstring injury, he now
leads the Big Ten in total yards gained on kickoff returns.
But Northwestern has an electric return specialist of its
own. Marquice Cole leads the Big Ten with an average of 27
yards per punt return.

Edge: Push

*6*

Intangibles:
Michigan carries its first multi-game winning streak of the
season into its final road game, but thanks to the parity in the
Big Ten this year, the Wolverines still have a lot to play for.
But Northwestern also has a bit of history on its side. In
2004, the Wildcats upset Ohio State under the lights in Evan-
ston. Memories of that win and the chance for a conference
title will motivate Northwestern at home.

I

Edge: Northwestern

A

Pick: Northwestern 31, Michigan 30

Spikers stay focused on tourney

By Jacob Wolf
For the Daily

In a season of ups and downs, a young
Michigan volleyball team proved last Sat-
urday what it is capable of accomplishing.
Spirits were high after an impressive win
over No. 7 Wisconsin (8-2 Big Ten, 16-
3 overall), the highest-ranked opponent
that Michigan has defeated this year.
Yet, as the second half of the Big Ten
season approaches, Michigan (4-6, 10-
9) knows that there is still a lot of work
to do. The Wolverines' performance in
the team's final 10 games will ultimately
determine whether they will participate
in the NCAA tournament for the fourth
straight year. An overall winning record is
necessary to qualify for the postseason.
"Because there is no Big Ten tourna-
ment, our backs are really against the
wall," coach Mark Rosen said. "Any-
thing less than going six and four in our
remaining 10 games will put things in
doubt.:'
Prior to the Wisconsin game, the
Wolverines scored an impressive win on
Sept. 21 in their Big Ten opener on the
road against rival Michigan State. The
team then improved to 9-5 before drop-
ping four straight three-game matches.
"We really stagnated and can't afford
that," Rosen said. "We are young, but I
don't want to use that as an excuse. We
have to keep getting better every day."
A record close to .500 may not be
what the Wolverines hoped for, but six
of their nine losses have come against

Candace Gay and defensive specialist
Megan Knoebel are the only seniors on a
team that graduated four players last year
- all-Big Ten performer Lisa Gamalski,
team captain Sarah Allen, Alicia Boswell
and Jennifer Gandolph, who is Michigan's
all-time leader in kills and digs.
"Youth has been a big obstacle to over-
come," Rosen said. "For people to learn
how to lead in their own way is difficult."
With each practice and game, the
team gains experience, and wins - such
as the one over Wisconsin - bolster
confidence.
"Last Saturday, everything finally
clicked together,"junior Erin Cobler said.
In addition to picking up a needed
win, the Wisconsin game showed Rosen
a style of play that proved the team's level
of determination. In a normal game, the
winning team can expect seven to nine
kills. In the fifth game of Saturday's
match, the Wolverines had 13 kills.
"To get 13 (kills), it showed how well
the team was playing," Rosen said. "We
flat out won the game on kills, which says a
lot about how we approached the match."
Said Raschke: "We've been trying to
gel and find chemistry. This match really
did that for us."
The team hopes to continue the
momentum starting Friday night at Pur-
due, who defeated the Wolverines in Ann
Arbor on Oct. 8.
"We can never feel comfortable with
where we are," Cobler said. "We must
keep progressing and continue to work
hard every day."

0

Wr

MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily
Lisa Gamalski was one of four key
players who graduated last year.
ranked opponents.
"The tough schedule was a good
thing, because those are the same
types of teams we will face in the
postseason," freshman Elizabeth
Raschke said.
The team's lack of experience has hin-
dered Michigan thus far. Middle blocker

(M

NOTES

Tankers stumble in
season opener to Cal
The Michigan women's swimming
and diving team struggled yesterday
in its season opener, losing 167-128
at home against California. The Wol-
verines, who trailed by as many as
72 points at one time, closed the gap
toward the end of the meet by taking
eight first-place and second-place
finishes in the last five events.
The Wolverines claimed both div-
ing events, with sophomore Elyse Lee
grabbing first place in the one-meter

MAIZE AND BLUE SCRIMMAGE TOMORROW
The Michigan men's basketball
team will hold its annual open
scrimmage for fans tomorrow night
at Crisler Arena. Along with free
admission, the team is offering con-
tests and ticket giveaways for fans.
The scrimmage begins at 6 p.m. and
postgame autograph and photograph
opportunities will be available. Also
following the game, the Michigan
vs. Northwestern football game will
be shown on Crisler Arena's big
screen as well.
While admission is free, the Wol-
verines are requesting that all fans
donate at least $1 to Hurricane
Katri areif

EU IMY U N 1010U=miU U ulA U =- U U aN -U L

I

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