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March 29, 2007 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-03-29

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8A - Thursday, March 29~ 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com 10

8A - Thursday, March 29,, 2007 The Michigan Daily - michieandailv.com 6

I

ocki team have special on

By ALEX PROSPERI
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan women's gymnastics
coach Bev Plocki is one of the most
successful gymnastics coaches of
all time.
During her 18 years in Ann
Arbor, Plocki holds a .775 winning
percentage and a .847 winning
percentage in Big Ten competi-
tion.
Her teams have advanced to the
last 14 NCAA Championships and
have won 13 of the last 15 Big Ten
titles. She has also been named Big
Ten Coach of the Year eight times
and was named NCAA National
Coach of the Year in 1994.
But that's not the most impres-
sive testament of Plocki's coaching
career - it's the relationships she
develops with her gymnasts
"She's not just a coach," senior
Lindsey Bruck said. "She's part of
our team."
Said senior Clare Flannery:
"She's a motivator. She cares
about every girl on the team as if
she was her daughter. You know
if anything would happen to you,
she would have your back."
Plocki's ability to create strong
relationships with her gymnasts
stems from her capacity to under-
stand their mindsets.
"If they've been training for 17
to 18 years with other people, they
are not going to come into my pro-
gram, and I'll just be able to snap
my fingers and they will automati-
cally adapt to me and to the way
that I coach," Plocki said. "That
means I have to be able to learn
about them and be perceptive
about what they need from me."
Her strategy for the past 18
years is more similar to a mother
figure than a coach.

"It's a lot of talking," Plocki said.
"There's a lot of hugs, and there's a
lot of emotional talks about gym-
nastics-related things as well as
personal related things."
With such a solid relationship,
it's nearly automatic for the gym-
nasts to trust Plocki. So her gym-
nasts respond when she tries to
push to the next level.
Earlier in Plocki's career, she
wasn't considered a great coach,
but rather as a coach that har-
bored great gymnasts.
If there was any reason to
believe that was still true, this
year has put that myth to rest.
As the season began, the team
was excited. Michigan was a tal-
ented, veteran group, including
two-time All-American Bruck.
But before the team could even
witness its potential on the mats,
Bruck went down with an ACL
injury.
Soon after, freshman Jordan
Sexton and Sarah Curtis went
down with similar injuries. All
three were all-around competi-
tors and were lost for the season.
The future looked bleak.
But on Feb. 12, about a month
into the season, Plocki had the
Wolverines ranked ninth in the
country.
Plocki was pleased after the
early success.
"I was excited about our season
now for different reasons," Plocki
said. "You really kind of change
your perspective. We haven't
changed our goals at all, but we've
kind of changed the way we are
looking at the season in perspec-
tive."
Then came the Utah meet on
Feb. 23, where Plocki's ability to
make an adjustment was put to
the test.

The Wolverines traveled to take
on the Utes and scored a season-
low 193.800.
The team had hit rock bottom
- but the answer came from the
top.
With a now-overachieving
freshman- and sophomore-led
team, Plocki turned her team's
season around.
Following the meet, the gym-
nasts all had theirheads down and
the locker room was quiet when,
Plocki addressed the team.
"I told them, 'Our problemis notf- "
that we're not trying hard enough,
or that I don't think you guys careM
enough," Plocki said. Our problem
this season is that you guys are
trying too hard, you're trying to
be too perfect. You need to relax
and be able to go out and just do in
competition what you do for me in
practice every single day.'"
Plocki took own her words to
heart and made her team's first
priority simple - have fun.
"After Utah, we didn't have
our best meet," Bruck said. "She
brought us back to life. Now when
we go out there and have fun, we
just enjoy what we're doing and
get into the crowd. That's when
we have our best meet. That's
what she's trying to instill now
and it's working a lot."
Although Plocki was reluctant
to take any credit for her team's
success, it's clear that with a team
that has gone through such adver-
sity, there must be something spe-
cial about the coach, especially
since the team is still ranked 11th
in the country.
"Gymnastics is a very mental
sport and she has mentally kept us
all together and motivated," Flan-
nery said. "We would not have
been as successful without her." Michigan coach Bev Plocki has a close relationship with all the

BERENSON
From page 5A
years in the minor leagues."
He doesn't see that happening
with Johnson.
Johnson has already reg-
istered for spring classes and
plans on completing his Michi-
gan degree over the next few
years.
"He's coming back; he's going
to get a degree from Michigan,"
Johnson, Sr. said. "That's the No.
1 thing, too. He promised Red he
will graduate."
It's often said Berenson takes
more pride in how his players
fare off the ice.
When Berenson played hock-
ey, most professional careers
lasted just a few years. He con-
tinuously looked to the future
by earning both a BBA and an
MBA from the Michigan Busi-
ness School.
His personal experience may
contribute to his unyielding
commitment to his players' edu-
cation.
After winning the 1965 Stan-
ley Cup with Montreal, Beren-
son drove back to Ann Arbor
through the night to be in his
MBA class the next morning.
"He knows that as he's sit-
ting there, his name is being
engraved on the Stanley Cup,"
Bacon said.
Long car rides have been pin-
nacle moments in Berenson's
life, and he passes that symbol-
ism onto his players.
When he thinks one of his
players is ready to go to the
NHL, he offers to drive them to
the airport.
It's become a rite of passage.
He never had the chance to
drive Jack to the airport because
he was already in Denver.
"Maybe, I'll pick him up from
the airport," Berenson said. "I
told him that. He wants to take
me up on that."

BASEBALL
Freshman catcher makes instant impact for-Blue

0

By COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
Daily Sports Writer
He may work in the dirt, but he's
aiming for a rock.
One of freshman catcher Chris
Berset's first memories with the

Michigan baseball team came this
fall during a ceremony honoring
last year's accomplishments.
"All the guys had these big dia-
mond rings for winning the Big
Ten (championship)last year," Ber-
set said. "I definitely want to be a

I

big contributor to that. Right now, been expected to make an immedi-
that's my goal." ate impactbehind the plate.
After the departure of catcher And during the team's spring
Jeff Kunkel, who was an instru- trip, he did just that - with both his
mental part of lastseason's champi- glove and his bat.
onship run and was drafted by the "He's done a good job so far,"
Detroit Tigers, the freshman has Michigan coach Rich Maloney said.
"It would be best for him to wait a
year, especially because, physically,
he'll be so much stronger next year,
but we've had to throw him into the
fire because we didn't have much
-- - - -- depth."
While a sophomore in high
school, Berset moved to catcher
and learned to switch-hit. Though
he is a natural right-hander and
initially had difficulty hitting left-
handed, Berset is 4-for-9 on the left
side and 0-for-4 on the right side
this season.
His first collegiate hit, a double
that brought in two runs, came on

March 11 against Oklahoma and
helped Michigan to erase a 2-0
deficit.
"I was working the count, the
bases were loaded, and I knew he
was coming with a fastball," Berset
said. "I was just on it. It definitely
was amazing. It was kind of a lucky
hit, but hey, I'll take it."
Berset and junior Doug Pickens
have caught for the Wolverines this
season, but Pickens has also played
second base and right field to com-
pensate for early-season team inju-
ries. With Pickens covering open
infield positions, Berset has found
himself behind the plate early in
his career. During his few appear-
ances, he said he has been strongest
at receiving and blocking the ball,
defensive traits that Maloney is
looking for in both of the Wolver-
ines' catchers.
Need more Daily?

"The pitchers need to be able to
have trust that, when they throw
the ball in the dirt, the catcher's
going to sacrifice his body for the
good of the team and make sure that
the runners don't advance," Malo-
ney said. "We just don't want the
catching position to be a negative
for us. We want tobe where people
respect us behind the plate."
And with the departure of one
catcher, two mightbe necessary for
success this season.
"I think that there's always
going to be a need for two catch-
ers, with especially as many games
as we play and playing a four game
series in a weekend," Pickens said.
"He's throwing the ball and con-
trolling the run game extremely
well. I think he's done a great job
of stepping up and being our other
catcher."
6

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