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March 19, 2008 - Image 8

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4

8A - Wednesday, March 19, 2008
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
'M' lands NIT bid,
first-round bye

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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By CHRIS MESZAROS
Daily Sports Writer
It's been 149 games since the
Michigan women's basketball
team last played in a postseason
tournament. But the Wolverines
will never make it to 150.
The Wolverines (10-10 Big Ten,
17-13 overall) were invited to the
Women's National Invitational
Tournament at midnight Tues-
day, receiving a first-round bye in
the tournament. They will host
a second-round game Monday at
Crisler Arena against the winner
of Saturday's first-round matchup
between Virginia Commonwealth
(25-7) and Charlotte (18-13).
"To host is just unreal," sopho-
more Krista Phillips said. "Every
one of us is just ecstatic to play in
front of our home crowd and we
just want to get (our fans) back out
here."
Admission to Monday's game
willibe free for students.
The postseason bid is the first
for anyone on Michigan's roster.
Senior housemates Krista Clement,
Katie Dierdorf and Janelle Cooper
and junior Carly Benson all stayed
up late last night, refreshing their
computer screens, to find out if
Michigan would be one of 18 teams
to receive an at-large bid.
"We were in our house check-
ing the Internet, checking the
Internet, checking the Internet,"
Clement said. "We were watching
the NCAA selection show to see
how many Big Ten teams made the
NCAA Tournament. We were hop-
ing many Big Ten teams got in the
tournament so we would have a
better chance to getinto the NIT."
On Monday, Big Ten teams
received four bids to the NCAA
Tournament. Michigan State's sur-
prisingsnub meant that it would be
bumped down to the WNIT and
left less of a chance for Michigan
to grab a spot in the tournament.
With one more Big Ten team in
the mix, Borseth and the rest of
the Wolverines were concerned,
because they didn't know if the

I

WNIT would choose teams like
Wisconsin, Indiana or Illinois over
Michigan.
"It was nerve-wracking, think-
ing that they'd put five Big Ten
teams in there," Michigan coach
Kevin Borseth said. "We were
wondering if we'd beat out Wis-
consin or Indiana in the process."
But, all five teams were invited
to the WNIT, meaning nine of
eleven Big Ten nine will play in
postseason tournaments.
Virginia Commonwealth, with
its stronger regular season record,
appears to be the more danger-
ous potential opponent. The Rams
made it to the CAA Championship
game before losing to No. 14 Old
Dominion.
If the Wolverines win their sec-
ond-round matchup, they will not
be able to host a third-round game
at Crisler Arena. Michigan is host-
ing the Big Ten Women's Gymnas-
tics Championships that weekend.
Instead, the Wolverines will likely
travel to either Mississippi or
Arkansas to play against Missis-
sippi State, Southern Mississippi,
or Arkansas-Little Rock.
But, for now, Borseth is just glad
his team has made it this far.
"We've jumped a few hurdles
that the program hasn't jumped
the past few years," Borseth said.
"We get a chance to have a winning
record and play in a postseason
tournament. Everything has really
added up, and it's pretty exciting."

ROBMIGRIN/Daily
The Michigan baseball team's home opener was scheduled for 3:05 this afternoon but was called off by Michigan coach Rich Maloney more than 24 hours in advance.
GROUNDS FOR POSTPONEMENT

By JASON KOHLER
Daily Sports Writer
At 3:05 today, the Michigan base-
ball team planned to take the field
for its home opener against Oakland
University.
But, if fans head down to Ray
Fisher Stadium this afternoon, the
only people they'll find willbe work-
ers standing in the rain in muddied,
tan coats, putting final touches on
the new nine-million-dollar com-
plex for its inauguration.
Michigan cancelled its first con-
test in the Wilpon Baseball and
Softball Complex yesterday, more
than 24 hours before game time.
The game has been rescheduled for
next Monday, March 24.
A game is usually called off on the
day of the contest unless there are
extreme weather circumstances.
This raised the question of whether
the stadium is ready for a crowd.
But Michigan coach Rich Malo-
ney won't hear of it.

"There's nothing to that," Malo-
ney said from his office on the sec-
ond floor of the new complex. "I
cancelled the game. No one else had
to do with it. I cancelled it because
it's raining outside."
Maloney called the decision a no-
brainer. According to online fore-
casts, it will be about 40 degrees
with showers tomorrow afternoon.
The gloomy weather won't slow
down the workers, though. The sta-
dium is still littered with construc-
tion equipment, including a small
orange lift behind the home plate
bleachers.
The construction of the com-
plex began in December 2006, and
involves renovations to the soft-
ball team's Alumni Field as well as
Fisher Stadium. The stadium reno-
vation is running on schedule to be
completed this March, according
to the construction report that was
submitted to the University Board
of Regents for tomorrow's regents
meeting.

As part of the new complex, a
new brick wall was built in left field.
The wall was Maloney's idea, and
he hopes it will add character to the
field. But behind the wall, the left-
over brick and construction equip-
ment remain.
The biggest areas of concern are
the muddy bullpens, which won't be
completed for another week or two.
"The game itself has nothing to
do with what isn't done," Maloney
said. "Are there still things being
tidied up? You betcha. But that
doesn't change the game. We still
want to play."
Despite the yellow-green, half-
frozen outfield grass, Maloney says
the field is playable because it wasn't
part of the construction. It was
redone two years ago.
"All we really need is the playing
surface and the wall," senior captain
Derek VanBuskirk said. "We don't
really need the extra stuff around
it."
The Wolverines haven't been

able to practice in the new stadium
this year because of the construc-
tion.
"It's special for the kids because
they're going to walk out of that
locker room and they'll be the only
people who will walk into this sta-
dium for the first time," Maloney
said.
Except for the construction
workers, of course.
Since Maloney came to Michigan
in 2002, he dreamed of building a
new baseball complex. He certainly
didn't imagine having to postpone
Opening Day in the new ballpark.
But, as one onlooker passing by
the stadium yesterday said, the
complex will look like a big-time
park when it's complete.
"I want people to say, 'Wow, we
get a chance to play in this ball-
park,"' Maloney said.
Is it the stadium Maloney envi-
sioned? Not yet.
Is it playable? Maloney has no
doubts - as long as it stops raining.

i4

Faceoffs still glaring weakness for Blue

Sophomore pitcher steps into
new offensive role in lineup

By COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan hockey team
can hardly be described as sub-
par, but this season, it has often
found itself on the wrong side of
the draw.
During last weekend's 10-1
and 2-1 wins against Nebraska-
Omaha, the Wolverines domi-
nated in nearly every statistical
category except faceoffs. Michi-
gan won just 37 percent of its
draws in Saturday's win and 46
percent for the weekend.
The Wolverines' performance
against the Mavericks was con-
sistent with their .477 season
percentage. But even though
Michigan has made faceoffs a
priority in practice, its opponents
still consistently win more.
"We've been doing everything
from looking at tapes, to practic-
ing after practice, to even threat-
ening the team that we're going
to bring Steve Yzerman down
and work with our players to
show them how to take faceoffs,"
associate head coach Mel Pear-
son said. "I can't tell you why we
haven't gotten better."
Pearson named mental tough-
ness and tenacity as two key traits
needed to be strong on the draw,
while Michigan coach Red Beren-
son said confidence and quick
hand-eye coordination are most
important.
Freshman Louie Caporusso,
one of the team's best in the
faceoff circle, said Michigan also

percent, that's not bad."
Caporusso (52 percent) and
freshman Matt Rust (51 percent),
along with senior Kevin Porter,
take the most faceoffs for Michi-
gan. Berenson said he felt the
freshmen were doing "as good
or better" than the upperclass-
men taking faceoffs. Porter, who
switched to center at the begin-
ning of the year, has won just 42
percent of his draws.
Pearson said difficulty with
draws was an expected part of the
learning curve during Porter's
transition to center this season,
and Berenson said Porter's strug-
gles may lie in making faceoffs an
integral part of his game.
"When I was a player, one of
the things I knew was that if I
was going to have a good game, it
was going to start with faceoffs -
so I was pretty good at faceoffs,"
Berenson said. "Players that have
never done that, that's the last
thing on their mind when they
walk in the building, so we're
trying to reeducate some older
players like (junior forward Tim)
Miller and Porter."
Though the Wolverines have
hovered below .500 for much
of the season, faceoff ,statistics
can sometimes misrepresent the
team's focus.
"Even if we don't get a lot bet-
ter, if we can survive by winning
important faceoffs," Berenson
said. "For me, I'd rather win all
my faceoffs in my zone and then
maybe take it with a grain of salt
in the offensive zone."

CLIF REEDER/Daily
Freshman Louie Caporusso has improved on faceoffs throughout his first season of
college hockey. As a team, Michigan is winning fewer than 48 percent of its draws.

By RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Writer
Last year, pitcher Nikki Nemitz
had just four at-bats.
Just six weeks into this season,
she has already increased that num-
ber twelvefold.
Nemitz has established herself in
the sixth spot of the Michigan soft-
ball lineup, with a.292 batting aver-
age in 48 trips to the plate.
The St. Clair Shores native joined
the lineup as the designated player
in mid-February for the Time War-
ner Texas Invitational. In her first
game at the plate, against then-No.
17 Cal State-Fullerton, she had her
career best day at the plate, going 3-
for-4 with a double and an RBI. -
Since then, she has batted in 19
consecutive games, contributing to
No. 9 Michigan's 14-game winning
streak.
Coming into the season, the
coaching staff hoped Nemitz would
improve her hitting. She led her
Regina High School team in batting
average forthree seasons.Astarting
sophomore pitcher (8-1), she now
has the chance to produce at the
plate as well as from the circle.
As a pitcher, Nemitz is used to
adjusting her mindset from hitter to
hitter. In hitting, where streaks and
slumps dominate, her pitching men-
tality helps her succeed.
"She's got a great mind for the
game," Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said. "Nikki's got a savvi-
ness about her, and I'm certain that

helps her."
Nemitz may not be hitting grand
slams or leading the team in RBIs,
but her consistency has proven
helpful in the lineup. She has tallied
14 hits and has the third-highest on-
base percentage for the Wolverines.
"What she's been doing best at
all year is what we want all our hit-
ters to do - not try to do more than
they're capable of," Hutchins said.
"We just need her to make good
contact with the ball, have good at-
bats, see the ball and drive it."
After feeling nervous during
her first game, Nemitz said she has
settled in and become more com-
fortable at the plate. But though her
offensive output has increased, she
stressed the importance of keeping
her hitting. and pitching accom-
plishments separate.
"I've been hitting and pitching
together my entire life," Nemitz
said. "When it's hitting time, it's
focusing on hitting. When it's pitch-
ing time, it's focusing on pitching."
In last Friday's 7-2 victory over
conference foe Minnesota, Nemitz
earned the win from the mound
with six strikeouts and backed up
her pitching from the plate, hitting
2-for-4 with an RBI.
"When you hit the ball well,
you're not thinking about anything,
and I think that's her approach,"
senior co-captainSamanthaFindlay
said. "(She) wasn't thinking about
her pitching, wasn't thinking about
anything, just wanted to get a hit
and help the team."

'4
a
4
4

tried to be a little innovative this
weekend.
On Friday, his line tried dif-
ferent strategies like switching
defensemen with forwards to get
better scoring opportunities right
off the draw.
"After we went up by a big lead,
our faceoffs started to get a little
creative," Caporusso said. "The
ones that were lost, I can't really
say you should take those into
consideration because we were
trying to practice different things,
that's for sure."

After this weekend, freshman
Carl Hagelin boasted a team-high
.543 faceoff percentage. He won
15 draws and lost 14 against the
Mavericks in his first appearance
at center since Nov. 30 against
Ohio State.
"There's nobody in hockey with
a 70-percent faceoff (percentage)
- it doesn't work that way," Beren-
son said. "There's nobody in the
NHL. I think (Detroit Red Wing
Kris) Draper is the highest with
59 percent or 60 percent. That's
as high as it gets. So if you're at 54

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