10 - Friday, December 1, 2006
By ANDY REID
Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan volleyball team
has been fighting an uphill battle
throughout the 2006 season, and it
won't have any opportunity to rest
Last weekend, the Wolverines
finished one of the most brutal
regular-season schedules in the
nation only to be placed in one of
the NCAA Tournament's toughest
Michigan will kick off its Tour-
nament run against Cal Poly, the
host of the sub-regional, today at
11 p.m. at Mott Gym in San Luis
Very few teams envy the level
of competition the Wolverines
have faced this year, with eight of
Michigan's opponents currently in
or receiving votes for the top 25.
Six of these teams are in the Big
Ten, which means the Wolverines
had to play them twice.
But being so battle-tested might
give Michigan an advantage over
its tournament opponents.
"This (sub-regional) is one of
the toughest three in the whole
tournament," Michigan coach
Mark Rosen said. "We've seen this
level of competition week-in and
week-out, though. None of these
teams really scare us, but at the
same time we know they're very
If Michigan makes it past Cal
Poly (13-1 Big West, 22-5 overall),
it will square off tomorrow night
at 10 p.m. EST against the winner
of the Louisiana State-California
Cal Poly and Michigan played
three common opponents in the
regular season - Minnesota, Pacific
and UC Irvine. The Wolverines beat
Pacific and UC Irvine while split-
ting their series against Minnesota.
Cal Poly swept Pacific in its series,
split with UC Irvine and dropped its
match with Minnesota.
Second-year coach Jon Steven-
son has revitalized Cal Poly, which
is just two years removed from
posting a five-win season. Steven-
son has led his Mustangs to the
Big West conference title and the
team's first NCAA Tournament
berth since 2002. Cal Poly has won
15 of its last 16 matches this sea-
By NATE SANDALS
Daily Sports Writer
If you ask NHL scouts, Michi-
gan should have no problem
beating Western Michigan in
this weekend's home-and-home
series, which beings tonight in
Twelve NHL Draft selections
pad the Wolverine lineup, includ-
ing four first-round picks. Just
two draftees skate for the Bron-
cos - and both were selected in
the seventh and final round.
Although Western Michigan
appears to pose a limited chal-
lenge to a skilled Michigan squad,
senior alternate captain T.J. Hen-
sick knows the contests will be
more difficult than the numbers
"They're usually tough," Hen-
sick said. "Last year (when) we
played them, we had two injuries
in the first five minutes based on
hits. It's really a game that we
look forward to playing because
of the intensity."
Adding to Hensick's fun is the
fact that a number of his friends
from high school attend the uni-
versity. His father is a Western
Michigan graduate as well. The
Howell native's 13 points in six
games versus the Broncos doesn't
take away from the enjoyment of
playing them, either.
But despite the "intensity" of
the matchups, Michigan (7-2-0
CCHA, 11-4-0 overall) has had
the better of the Broncos recent-
ly. The Wolverines have won six
consecutive games against their
conference foe, and no member
of their current roster has ever
lost to Western Michigan (4-6-1,
That said, Michigan's coaching
staff is making certain its play-
ers don't look past the Broncos to
next week's series against No. 5
"(Western Michigan) always
plays us tough," Michigan coach
Red Berenson said. "We know
we're going to get their best
Berenson added that Lawson
Ice Arena in Kalamazoo is a par-
ticularly difficult place to play.
Michigan's last loss to Western
Michigan came at Lawson in
January 2003, when the Broncos
scored three goals in the final 12
minutes to win, 4-3.
Western Michigan 'and Michi-
gan are also members of the same
conference cluster, which means
the teams will meet four total
times this season.
All season, Berenson has
stressed the importance of doing
well within the cluster, and the
Wolverines have obliged his urg-
ings, holding a 4-1 record thus
When the Broncos arrive in
Ann Arbor hoping to win their
first game at Yost Ice Arena since
1995, they will see a slightly dif-
ferent Michigan lineup.
One change is the addition of
freshman Anthony Ciraulo, who
is slated to skate on the fourth line
with Brian Lebler and Jason Bai-
ley. Bailey and Lebler's strength
should complement Ciraulo's
Ciraulo has been scratched in
every game this season, but the
coaches have been impressed
with his work ethic in practice,
especially since he came back
from a separated shoulder he suf-
fered in early November.
The Clinton Township native
hopes to make the most of his
first opportunity, but said he isn't
expecting too much.
"I'm just looking to keep it
simple and, hopefully, get two big
wins out of this weekend," Cirau-
NOTES: Junior forward Kevin
Porter was named the CCHA
Player of the Month. The North-
ville native was Michigan's lead-
ing scorer on the month with
eight goals and 10 assists in just
nine games. The Wolverines went
7-2-0 over that stretch. Porter is
currently riding an 11-game point
streak, and his 1.80 points per
game rank fourth nationally.
Junior Katie Bruzdzinski, Michigan's offensive star, and who some of the Big Ten coaches call the league's best player, will hope
to get Michigan past Cal Poly in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines' first game is tonight at 11 p.m.
son. nament teams - they played 14 ment.
Despite their opponents' recent matches against teams in the field "Pound-for-pound, I think she
success, the Wolverines believe of 64 - is also a bonus for the Wol- is the best player in the Big Ten,"
they have a good matchup. Michi- verines, but their offensive star, said Purdue coach Dave Shondell.
gan, registering almost 17 kills per junior Katie Bruzdzinski, is the On Nov. 10, Bruzdzinski tallied 24
game, is the more aggressive of the true key to success. kills to lead Michigan's upset of the
two teams, but the Mustangs have Last weekend, Michigan State then 16th-ranked Boilermakers.
a slightly higher hitting percent- was the first team this year to bot- "Cal Poly will be prepared to
age. tle up the powerful outside hitter play Michigan, but they won't
Rosen, who is 4-1 at Michi- effectively. The Michigan offense see many players as good as her,"
gan in the opening round of the struggled to get into rhythm with- Shondell said.
Tournament, emphasized that out her presence. With Bruzdzinski andher team-
the Wolverines (8-12 Big Ten, It could be a tough weekend mates getting a shot to play on the
21-12 overall) have more experi- for the Wolverines if Bruzdzin- national stage for the first time
ence against higher-level compe- ski - who was awarded first-team since her freshman season, expect
tition. All Big Ten honors this week - is the Wolverines to be ready for the
More familiarity with Tour- heavily guarded in the tourna- challenges that face them.
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