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March 14, 2006 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-14

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Tuesday
March 14, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

OReTigSn tiig

11

. . . ....1 1

Cagers try
to focus on
task ahead
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Editor
It got to the point where he had to turn off his
phone.
After Michigan discovered it wouldn't be in the
NCAA Tournament, senior Daniel Horton couldn't
bear the phone calls.
"I got a few calls, but after two or three from my
mom and my dad, I just turned my phone off," Horton
said. "When you let everybody call and have something
to say to you, it affects you even more.... I just kept my
thoughts and feelings to myself."
Coming into this season, Michigan's ultimate goal
was a bid to the Big Dance. Now, after their bubble
burst on Sunday, Horton and the Wolverines must settle
for the NIT. The team will face with winner of today's
UTEP/Limpscomb game.
But the Cedar Hill, Texas native isn't ready to let his
time at Michigan come to an end quite yet.
"Any time you have a chance to wear a Michigan
jersey, that means a lot to us," said Horton, who was
named the NIT's Most Valuable Player in 2004. "I
don't think other people see it that way because every-
body views making the NCAA Tournament as the end-
all-be-all, but we feel like any time we have the chance
to represent this school and this university out there on
the basketball court, we are going to do it to the best of
our abilities, and we're going to be happy doing it."
For the Wolverine seniors, the NIT game on Thurs-
day night may feel like deja vu. Two years ago, this
group took. home the championship with a 62-55 vic-
tory over Rutgers in the finals.
The victory extended Michigan's already-succesful
NIT record, which now rests at 20-5. The Wolverines
have won three titles in its eight appearances.
But the feeling of optimism surrounding that team
hasn't been as widely felt this time around. Back
then,the seniors were sophomores, and fans believed
that with more maturity, Michigan could grow into a
NCAA Tournament team.
This season, it looked like the seniors would finally
have the opportunity to experience March Madness.
But a horrid finish in the last nine games ultimately did
Michigan in.
"I think that everybody was kind of disappointed,
but like I said, we brought this on ourselves," senior
captain Graham Brown said. "We lost a good portion
of games the last couple games and that's a tough thing
for us. But like I said, we'll have to build off it."
The underclassmen echoed Brown's disap-
pointments.
"It hurt a lot," freshman Jerret Smith said. "We have
seniors on the team, and they put it all on the line....
They're about to graduate, and they've still never made

Blue-collar help
on the way with
return of Bailey

By H. Jose Bosch
Daily Sports Writer
On Jan. 31, a chilling scene in
the rink transformed the raucous
Yost Ice Arena crowd into dead
silent spectators.
Just minutes after a Western
Michigan player was laid out on
the ice, Michigan freshman Jason
Bailey laid motionless along the
boards, the victim of a nasty hit
from Bronco defenseman Chris
Frank.
The hit sidelined Bailey for five
weeks and forced the forward to
watch final four series from the
stands.
"It was extremely tough for
me," Bailey said. "You have to try
and stay positive and be a good
teammate and cheer your team
on and be ready for when you get
back in the lineup."
But Bailey finally returned to
the lineup this weekend against
Ferris State.
In his first game back, Bailey
didn't have an impressive stat line
- he attempted one shot and col-
lected four penalty minutes. And1
according to Michigan coach Red
Berenson, the decision to play
Bailey on Saturday night was a
difficult one to make.
Berenson saidahe was con-
cerned he may have played Bai-1
ley too early, and worried that the
team might suffer as a result of
that decision. But his gut feeling1
was to play the freshman again
because Bailey could only get
better.
"He's such a hardworking kidi
and such a strong skater," Beren-
son said. "And he gets up to speed
pretty quick. Now his puck han-
dling and his timing may not;
be as good as some of the other
players who have played every1
night (while he was out). But I
don't think anybody is going to
be quicker and faster and stron-

ger as Bailey is now. Every game,
you're going to see a little more
(progress)."
Bailey failed to notch a point
in Saturday's game as well, but
he looked more comfortable on
the ice, and his intensity never
dropped off.
That physicality has been Bai-
ley's trademark this season. He
is more than ready to deliver a
big hit along the boards or in the
middle of the ice.
"Hockey is a pretty physical
game, and I'm putting my body
out on the line for us every night,"
Bailey said. "I love playing the
physical game, and injuries are
a part of the game. So, if it hap-
pens it happens. But I'm going to
be playing that physical game for
our team and bring some energy
and help us out a little bit."
Michigan will need that physi
cal presence come Friday when it
faces in-state rival Michigan State
in the CCHA semifinals. The last
time a game was decided by more
than two goals was in the 20022
2003 season, when the Spartans
beat Michigan 4-0.
"Friday night is where it's at
and Friday night is all that mat
ters," Bailey said. "That's all
that's in our heads."
The nature of the rivalry means
that Bailey's kind of play - the
dirty work that doesn't show up
on the stat sheet - will now be in
the spotlight.
But this unselfishness is noth-
ing new for Bailey, who came
into the season expecting to fill
that roll on a team already loaded
with scoring talent.
"I've always played a physi-
cal game, a high-energy gam
and have been a power forwarti
type player," Bailey said. "I was
hoping I would come in here ans
create some space for the more
skilled guys. Just be a real good
energy guy."

*I

I JIVIIV U M.) UIV fLuLany
Senior Daniel Horton will help defend Michigan's homecourt on Thursday, where the Wolverines have an all-time 12-0
record in NIT play.

it (to an NCAA Tournament). That's what will hurt me
the most."
Said junior Brent Petway: "I at least wanted them to
make it to (the NCAA Tournament), especially since
they were the first recruiting class (of Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker's) to be able to go to the Tournament
one time before they left. I just feel sorry for them."
Amaker hopes the previous trip to the NIT won't
hamper his team's motivation to end the season with
a win.
"I would hope that we want to finish better than
the way that it's just ended for us," Amaker said. "I
am hoping that we're going to have mature veteran
seniors. They get a chance to have a different kind of
feeling, hopefully, on the Crisler court than they did

on Senior Day."
For this group of seniors, the finished product never
matched the potential. They stepped into a reeling
Michigan program and started the rebuilding process
in the post-Brian Ellerbe era. In their four years, the
disappointments always waited around the corner.
Still, the fight that they stepped onto the court with
their freshmen year hasn't left them yet, even though
the chance to play in an NCAA Tournament has.
"I think that at the same time if you know me, if
you know a few of the guys on this team, that we've
liked this challenge - we wanted this challenge com-
ing here," Horton said. "And it didn't work out. We
didn't end up making it, but we've still done some
good things here."

Multiple injuries a blessing in
disguise for embattled senior

By Colt Rosensweig
Daily Sports Writer
Senior Luke Bottke is already
the tallest member of the Michigan
men's gymnastics team. But when
the competition gets more dif-
ficult, he seems to become larger
than life.
"Luke is a real good competitor,"
Michigan coach Kurt Golder said.
"As you approach a championship
meet, some people get bigger, and
some people get smaller. And when
the competition gets bigger, Luke
gets bigger."
Even as a 6-year-old, Bottke
was intrigued by gymnastics. Not
only did he watch as many compe-
titions as he could on TV, he also
enjoyed doing flips off couches
and performed cartwheels in the
backyard.
Once Bottke began participating
in organized gymnastics, he dis-
covered his natural affinity for the
floor exercise and vault, now his

specialties.
"I grew up with a trampoline
in my backyard," Bottke said. "I
know a lot of kids did, but I spent
a lot of time on it. I've just always
been pretty naturally acrobatic,
somehow inclined for air sense and
tumbling, knowing where the floor
is underneath me, just having tim-
ing for that kind of stuff. Vault and
floor are related; it's the same type
of thing."
A less fortunate reason for
Bottke's status as a two-event spe-
cialist are repeated wrist injuries.
The problem began with a stress
fracture in his navicular joint that
didn't show up on X-rays.
Told by doctors he could prac-
tice as much as he could toler-
ate, Bottke almost broke the bone
in half before having it checked
again.
"If I would have taken a little
bit of time off (when the wrist was
first injured), it would have prob-
ably just healed, but I didn't know

that's what I was supposed to do,"
Bottke said. "Now it's completely
healed, (and) there's a screw in
the bone. It's healed, (but) it's just
never going to be 100 percent."
Since suffering the injuries,
Bottke has learned to make every-
thing he does in gymnastics count.
Because of his wrist, he can't per-
form unlimited repetitions of floor
routines or vaults in practice, so he
treats each one as if he's in a com-
petition.
Additionally, by competing in
just two events, Bottke can put
more concentration into perfect-
ing his routines than an all-around
gymnast is able to. He usually
focuses on just one apparatus per
day. Consequently, he doesn't have
much trouble with the pressure in
meets.
"I know that the team relies on
me, but I use that as motivation,"
Bottke said. "I actually prefer to
go up later in the lineup, to be the
last one to go, because I like to go

all-out and ... to know that I've
been able to put up a good score
for my team. If anything, I feel
more confident than if I was doing
more events, because I have the
opportunity to work on perfection
and work on getting all my land-
ings down, rather than having to
worry about all these other skills,
on every other event."
In early February, Bottke's
confidence received a further
boost at the Winter Cup in' Las;
Vegas. Competing against some'
of the best gymnasts in the coun-
try - including some Olympians;
- Bottke placed 12th on the vault
and seventh on the floor exercise
Michigan's highest finish by an
individual.
"It feels really good, knowing I
can compete and be in the top 10
with these guys," Bottke said. "It
takes a lot of weight off my shoul-
ders for the rest of the season. It
helps me build a lot of confidence
for what's to come."

FILE PHOTO
Senior Luke Bottke has battled through injuries and still been successful at Michigan.

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