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February 17, 2006 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-02-17

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Friday
February 17, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

OERTIiSmgan Bailg

8

. ......... ...... . ... - - . . ... .. .. .. ..... .. .. ....

Cagers fall short
after solid start

N lSOFTBALL
Champs gear up
for title defense

By Daniel Bromwich
Daily Sports Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE - For the first
20 minutes of last night's game against
Purdue, Michigan contended with the
10th-ranked Boilermakers. The Wolver-
ines controlled
play, knocked N 5
down shotsP
played tough
defense and even
held a lead for much of the final five min-
utes of the half.
But it all fell apart in the second frame.
Purdue outscored Michigan 30-7 in the
first 10 minutes after halftime to pull away
with an eventual 75-50 victory.
"We know Michigan plays hard
defense," junior Katie Gearlds said.
"They've always done that for their coach.
They were very active in denial and get-
ting in the passing lanes during the first
half, but (junior) Erin (Lawless) kept us
in it in the first half. In the second half,
everyone kind of picked up the slack for
her, and we started making shots."
The Wolverines (0-13 Big Ten, 6-19
overall) showed that they were ready to
play right from the start, never allowing
the Boilermakers (12-1, 22-3) to jump
out to a lead greater than six in the first
half. Michigan displayed confidence
rarely found in a team still looking to
halt a 12-game losing streak. When
Purdue led 15-9 after a free throw from
Gearlds, Michigan promptly went on a
6-0 run to tie the game. Soon after, the
Wolverines took a 22-19 lead on a pret-
ty spin move and jumper from Janelle
Cooper. The sophomore - whom
Burnett refers to as the unquestioned
leader of the team - was the squad's
top scorer, finishing the night with
a season-high 17 points on 6-for-13
shooting, including 4-for-8 from long

range.
"She is such a warrior" Michigan coach
Cheryl Burnett said. "And it really showed
up in her stat line today. It doesn't always,
because she does all the blue-collar things
that don't make the stat line. She's very
mentally tough as well, and that helps her
play a lot of minutes."
Led by Cooper's nine first-half points,
the Wolverines found themselves tied at 27
with Purdue entering the intermission - a
marked improvement from the first meet-
ing between the teams, when Purdue led by
16 at the break.
Michigan saw five players contribute at
least three points in the half, and Michigan
led in rebounds, steals, 3-pointers and total
field goals.
"You have to give Michigan a lot of
credit for (the first half)," Purdue coach
Kristy Curry said. "You're not going to be
up by 20 or 15 or 10 on them at halftime.
You just have to come out and let things
happen and play with passion and intensity,
and I was very disappointed with our team
in the first half."
The Boilermakers started the second
half determined to put an end to Michi-
gan's upset bid. On Purdue's first posses-
sion, Gearlds drilled a three from the top
of the key. After a steal off a pass from
Wolverine sophomore Melinda Queen,
Purdue forward Aya Traore fed sophomore
Lyndsey Wisdom-Hylton for a lay-up and a
quick five-point lead. Michigan sophomore
Stephany Skrba cut the lead to three off a
pass from Minnfield, but Traore responded
with a score, and Wisdom-Hylton followed
with a lay-up to push the lead to seven. Bur-
nett tried to stem the tide with a timeout,
but Purdue could not be stopped.
"We kept trying to stop that momen-
tum'" Burnett said. "But Purdue has some
players that in time of need are really going
to step up and want the basketball."
Traore gathered another steal and

By Dan Feldman
Daily Sports Writer
It's a great time for the Michigan softball
program.
The Wolverines reached new heights
last season, becoming the first team east of
the Mississippi River to win the Women's
College World Series.
"Regardless of what happened last year,
this is a new year,' senior Jennie Ritter
wrote in an e-mail. "We've always had a
target on our backs. Nothing has changed
really, except that we had a good season last
year."
This year's team has already impressed
the voters of the ESPN.com/USA Softball
Collegiate Top-25 and the USA Today/
NFCA Coaches polls, both of which slot-
ted Michigan No.1 in their preseason rank-
ings.
"I don't assume anything is deserved,"
Ritter said in the e-mail. "It's up to us to
prove that we belong there."
Michigan's top ranking shouldn't come
as a shock to anyone. The Wolverines
return all but one of their starting position
players from last year meaning this year's
team will benefit from plenty of postseason
experience.
Ritter and junior Lorilyn Wilson will
return as Michigan's No. I and No. 2 start-
ing pitchers, respectively.
Senior Becky Marx is back at catcher.
Sophomore Samantha Findlay - last
year's Women's College World Series Most
Outstanding Player - returns to first base.
Senior Tiffany Haas, last year's leadoff
hitter and stolen bases leader, will stay at
second base, and senior Grace Leutele will

once again occupy third.
The starting outfield will remain the
same, with juniors Rebekah Milian and
Alessandra Giampaolo and senior Stepha-
nie Bercaw returning to left, center and
right fields, respectively.
The Wolverines lost some offensive pop
with the graduations of shortstop Jessica
Merchant and designated player/pitcher
Nicole Motycka. Merchant led the team
with a .378 batting average (minimum 13
at-bats) and tied Findlay with a team-lead-
ing 21 home runs. Motycka hit .344 with 13
home runs and 48 RBI.
Freshman Teddi Ewing replaces Mer-
chant at shortstop, but the former player
will stick around as an assistant coach to
aid the transition.
"It's been amazing having (Mer-
chant) there to help out," Ewing wrote
in an e-mail. "There's no one better
than Jess herself giving me advice."
The Wolverines open the season at the
GRU Classic in Gainesville,Fla. this week-
end. They will face DePaul and Longwood
today, Florida and Penn State on Saturday,
and Florida once again on Sunday.
Even though these early-season games
may seem insignificant to a team coming
off so many pressure-packed postseason
contests, Michigan knows that these games
are the foundation for any postseason run.
"Our team feels that every game is at
a high level of importance - no game
more important than the other," Rit-
ter e-mailed. "That's how we've been
coached. ... (Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins) does a great job reminding
us of our focus. I'm not worried about
losing it."

Sophomore Janelle Cooper's 17 points weren't enough to deliver an upset at Purdue.

made a coast-to-coast lay-up following
the timeout, and after two more free
throws from Wisdom-Hylton, Purdue
led by double digits. Michigan would
briefly cut the lead to 42-33 on a Cooper
lay-up, but the Boilermakers went on a
12-1 run, culminating in a three from
Traore, who scored nine of her 11 points
in the second half and notched three of
her game-high four steals in the period.
"(Traore) just had a sense of urgency"
Curry said. "We had a lot more to lose than
they had to gain today because we're com-
peting for a Big Ten title, and we didn't want

our opponents to take something from us.
And that sense of urgency that we needed
to have starts on the defensive end."
After a media timeout, Purdue
extended its lead to 57-34 on a three-
point play from center Danielle Camp-
bell before Queen put a stop to the run
with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
But the game had already been decided,
and after a first half that showed the
potential promise of Michigan's first
conference win, the team is left still
searching for an end to its losing streak,
which has now reached 13 games.

0

M WRESTUNG
Grapplers set to
take on No. 1

Hunter 's start supplies
Blue with needed spark

By Robert Kaitz
Daily Sports Writer

also owns an undefeated slate and is
the returning Big Ten champion in
the heavyweight division. With No.
3 Wagner and No. 1 Konrad ready
to face off against each other, one of
these streaks will end this weekend.

Wrestling fans have had Feb. 17
circled on their calendar for months.

By Jack Herman
Daily Sports Editor
When your team allows an average of more
than 90 points per game over a three-game span,
it's tough to make any coaching change that will

an unfamiliar position.
He gave his replacement the thumbs-up.
"He played big today," Sims said. "He started
us off on a good track."

The same can't be said for Sims.
began his day smoothly, finishing

The junior
off a mis-

It features the matchup
Minnesota and No. 3
Michigan at Cliff Keen
Arena.
The Gophers (6-0 Big
Ten, 19-0 overall) are
the nation's only unde-
feated team. Their claim
as the nation's top team
was bolstered by a 19-16
victory over No. 2 Okla-
homa State last weekend.

cause things to get worse.
With that reasoning in mind, Michi-
gan coach Tommy Amaker shook up his
lineup in search of a defensive boost.
Out: Courtney Sims - last time off
the bench, March 10, 2005.
In: Chris Hunter - last start, Feb.
16, 2005.
Hunter's performance left no room
for second guesses.
The senior sparked the Wolverines
out of the locker room, launching them
to a 35-6 lead. In total, Hunter scored

of No. 1

placed Daniel Horton lay-up with a dunk. But

TONIGHT
No. 1 Minnesota at
No. 3 Michigan
7 p.m.
Cliff Keen Arena

The Golden Gophers
boast another top-ranked
wrestler, freshman
Dustin Schlatter, in the
149-pound class.
The timing of this
dual meet is especial-
ly crucial because it
occurs during the last
weekend of the regular

SATURDAY
Michigan at
No. 16 Michigan State
4 p.m.
Breslin Center
ESPN

things fizzled after that. Sims played
14 minutes, the fewest of Michigan's
top four post players, and scored just
four points.
To ensure there were no hard feelings,
the regular starter and his replacement
connected for a basket in the second half.
Hunter dished the ball inside to Sims to
earn his only assist of the game.
TIME AND TIME AGAIN: Fans have
become accustomed to the tradition
of senior Amadou Ba earning playing

13 points while collecting six boards, one steal, one
assist and one block in his first start in 364 days.
"I thought that Chris Hunter was a catalyst,"
Amaker said. "(He was) tremendous and allowed
us to get out of the box early."
By early, Amaker meant 40 seconds into the game.
Hunter justified his coach's decision on the
Wolverines' first possession. He received a pass
from Graham Brown down low and drew the foul
before hitting both shots from the free-throw
line. Just a few possessions later, sophomore Ron
Coleman dished the ball to Hunter, who skied to
the basket and hit the long lay-up. Hunter closed
the half with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting.
The move came as a bit of a surprise, given that
Brown and Sims, the Wolverines' two most tradi-
tional post players, composed the starting frontcourt
for the first 22 games of the season. But Sims said he
knew before Wednesday he would begin the game in

time in the waning minutes of a Wolverine blow-
out. On Wednesday night, Ba had company.
With 1:21 remaining in the game, Amaker
inserted both Ba and sophomore Alex Brzozowicz
into the game. Brzozowicz played in two games
last season but had yet to see the court this year.
RE-STATEMENT GAME: On Jan. 25, Michigan sent
a message to the college basketball world when it
beat then-No. 11 Michigan State for the Wolver-
ines' first win over a ranked opponent this season.
On Saturday, Michigan heads to the Bres-
lin Center hoping to send another, Attn: NCAA
Tournament Selection Committee.
With four games remaining in the season, a big win
on the road could be the difference between a trip to the
Big Dance and another NIT bid for the Wolverines.
The Spartans enter the contest on a two-game
losing streak, having dropped their previous two
games on the road (to unranked Minnesota and

TREVOR CAMPBELL/Daily
In a rare start, senior Chris Hunter gave the Wolverines
a big boost against Minnesota on Wednesday.
No. 20 Iowa). But Michigan State is undefeated
at home this year.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo criticized the offi-
ciating following the last game between the two
teams, after seeing his squad shoot 24 fewer free
throws than the Wolverines.
Michigan may finally see the return of one of
the trio of players that have recently been nursing
injuries. Freshman Jerret Smith (mononucleosis)
and junior Dion Harris (ankle) both said after
Wednesday night's game that they would play
Saturday. Amaker said yesterday that both would
be game-time decisions.
Amaker said that it is "highly unlikely" that
Abram will be available on Saturday.

The Wolverines (6-0, 14-2) hope to
put the first blemish on Minnesota's
record tonight. Michigan has won
eight consecutive matches, with six
coming against ranked opponents
and five against Big Ten foes.
Michigan knows how competitive
the dual meet will be.
"We are going to have our hands
full with Minnesota," Michigan
coach Joe McFarland said. "They
wrestle tough for seven minutes, so
every match will be a big one."
Both teams are deep. Each has
wrestlers ranked in eight out of 10
weight classes. Michigan possesses
two undefeated wrestlers, senior co-
captains Ryan Churella and Greg
Wagner. Minnesota's Cole Konrad

season. The winner will
emerge with momentum heading into
the Big Ten tournament and national
championships. Individual wrestlers
will also gain important experience
against opponents they might face in
the postseason.
Cliff Keen Arena is sold out tonight.
The Michigan wrestlers look forward to a
vocal and enthusiastic crowd bolstered by
the new cheering section, the Blue Crew.
"The crowd works as a motivator
for us, and it brings a better overall
environment," Churella said. "Plus,
it would be great to get the student
body more involved."
Although students are usually admitted
by showing their M-Cards, the match is
sold out. No further room will be available
for students who arrive without tickets.
after day one.
The 200-yard freestyle relay team
kicked off yesterday with a first-place fin-
ish, setting pool and Big Ten meet records.
The team of Kaitlyn Brady, Hannah Smith,
Abby Seskevics and Lindsey Smith had a
time of 1:30.02, with Brady's 22.39-second
leg setting personal and school records.
Brady's record didn't hold up for long.
The 50-yard freestyle came three events
later, and Brady won the race in 22.37 sec-
onds, breaking her own record.
The championships continue through
Saturday, with 14 events remaining.

t<1KIK
JS

NOTE

0 ICE HOCKEY
Trip to Omaha looms large for Icers

Brady sets, then
breaks, own record
After two days of competition, the
women's swimming and diving team sits
just seven points out of first place at the
Big Ten Championships in Columbus.
Minnesota currently holds the lead, but
record-breaking performances in relays
and individual events have pulled the Wol-
verines up from their third-place standing

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
Omaha, Neb., might be 1,000
miles away from Yost Ice Arena, but
the No. 8 Michigan hockey team is
hoping this weekend's series against
Nebraska-Omaha will be some sort
of a homecoming for the
Wolverines.
For four players, the THIS W'
homecoming is simple. NO.8M
It's a return to the city No. 5 e
where they played their No.15Neb
junior hockey. Juniors 8:051p.
Tim Cook and Jason and to
Dest played for the River Omaha Civ

team needs to take a step and I think
they'll play well there."
Each of the last five trips have
been quite successful. Michigan has
come away with a 7-1-2 record over-
all. The Wolverines hope to experi-
ence similar success and earn their
first sweep since December.

IEEKEND
Michigan at
raska-Omaha
m. tonight
'morrow
ic Auditorium

Since Michigan (13-
8-3 CCHA, 18-11-3
overall) swept Nebras-
ka-Omaha on Dec. 9
and 10, the team has
been unable to come
away with both wins in
a single weekend series.
And although the Wol-

turn the game into a boxing match.
If the Wolverines hope to return to
first-half form and take four points
from Nebraska-Omaha, one key will
be patience with the Mavericks if
scuffles break out after the whistle.
During the Dec. 10 game, Michigan
was slapped with 47 penalty min-
utes, including two ejections. The
second was a game disqualification
to David Rohlfs that resulted in an
automatic one-game suspension for
the junior.
The Mavericks (11-9-4, 17-11-4)
were not far behind, receiving 44
penalty minutes in that game. Should
Nebraska-Omaha begin to rack up
nei iSthisx weekend. Michigain

when we need them to?'"
If Michigan can shore up its power
play and compete with more compo-
sure, it has the opportunity to secure
a first-round bye in the CCHA play-
offs. The week off would guarantee
the Wolverines home-ice advantage
in the second round of the league
playoffs.

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