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April 02, 2010 - Image 8

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8 - Friday, April 2, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Robinson talks defensive
improvement in year two

a

Junior Chris Cameron is among the favorites to win the Big Ten AII-Around crown in
Colombos this weekend atter finishing in second last year.
Men's gymnastics
headst BighTens
to face tough foes

By RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Editor
When Greg Robinson came to
Michigan last season after his pre-
vious job as head coach at Syra-
cuse, he immediately became part
of the upheaval
that has come NOTEBOOK
to characterize
Rich Rodriguez's tenure as head
coach.
It was a season full of struggles
on defense, and the Wolverines
finished in the lower tier of every
Big Ten statistical category. Dur-
ing the second half of the sea-
son, Robinson refused to speak
with the media. His first meeting
with reporters since then yester-
day was abounds with questions
about possible improvements on
the defensive side of the ball.
"I don't know that the outside
world needs to be confident,"
Robinson said of his defense this
upcoming season. "You might
want to be, but you know what,
you're not going to be confident
until you go out there and see
a group play well. I can sit here
and say all this and say that, but
I think that every year is differ-
ent."
And according to Robinson, the
biggest issue was the Wolverines'
serious lack of depth.
"If you go back and look at all
the things I said prior to the sea-
son last spring and summer, I like
to think that I told you the biggest
concern I had was depth," Robin-
son said. "And I said it to you all
the time. And quite frankly, that's
really what came to hurt us. We
had inexperience. We had some
issues with personnel. We just
didn't have alot of depth."
Despite the unit's troubles,
Robinson specifically referred
to losses at Iowa and Michigan
State as examples of the defense's
improvement.
But even in those games -
which were both lost in the clos-

a

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson spoke with the media for the first time yesterday after last

By MICHAEL LAURILA
Daily Sports Writer
Having tied with Illinois last
year for the Big Ten Champion-
ship, the No. 4 Michigan men's
gymnastics team will be looking to
claim the out-
right crown BigTen Men's
this upcom-
ing weekend GyninastiCS
in Columbus. Championships
And its big-
gest hurdle Matchup: Big
will be the Ten conference
third-ranked When: Tonight
Fighting Illi- at 7 p.m.
ni. During the Where: St.
season, the John Arena
Wolverines
beat Illinois by a single point in a
dual meet.
"(Illinois) is goingto be right up
there with us," junior Chris Cam-
eron said. "There are no two teams
that are easily as matched as us
and Illinois in the entire country.
They're going to be right with us
and right with us at NCAA too, and
it's up to us to beat them. We defi-
nitely recognize them as a threat
to our possible titles."
Another hurdle, almost as dan-
gerous as the Fighting Illini, will
be No. 5 Ohio State.
Michigan is coming off a 10.65-
point trouncing of the Buckeyes in
the final dual meet of the season.
Last year, then-sophomore
Thomas Kelley won the all-around
competition, and Cameron fin-
ished right behind him. And after
senior Mel Santander's record-
breaking performance against
Ohio State, he is hoping to join
Kelley and Cameron in the ranks
of the all-around crown winners.
"I feel that between Chris,
Mel and I, if we have a solid per-
formance on five events, then
that's going to be pretty good for
our team standings," Kelley said.
"That's the number-one goal right
now."
Throughout the season, Michi-
gan has had trouble putting
together a complete performance.
Before the team's March 20
matchup with Ohio State, when it
had a season-best score, it usually

had one or two sloppy events.
But after that performance
against the Buckeyes, Michigan
coach Kurt Golder is seeing his
team peak at the right time.
"I think it's an accumulation
of all the work we've been doing
and it finally started to pay off,"
Golder said. "We've done a lot of
intersquad meets following the
same format that we'll compete
in and that will help the guys to
be familiar and know what to
expect."
Though it will probably be a very
close competition, the Wolverines
are looking to use their experience
and their ability to remain calm to
their advantage this weekend.
"We're just going to be aggres-
sive," Santander said. "Attack each
event one step at a time. Last year
around this time,tthe coaches
reminded us of three things: be
confident, be aggressive and also
be relaxed while doing it. That
definitely helped us last season so
hopefully it will this season, too."
In a tournament-style meet like
Big Tens, each team begins at a
specific rotation. Not only is the
opening event important, but it
also determines the event that the
team will end on. And Michigan
has had many meets this year in
which they have closed very well,
so they will hope to do that again
this weekend.
"It's the combination of the two
because you definitely want to get
off to a good start, but then the
pressure is on at the end," Golder
said. "Those are the two pressure
points, the first event and the last
event. You always try to end on an
event that's either high scoring or
you're comfortable with."
After this weekend in Colum-
bus, the Wolverines will have just
two weeks before their final meet
of the season - NCAAs, which
take place in West Point, N.Y.
"If we win, we'll be motivated to
continue what we're doing," Kel-
ley said. "If we lose, we'll be super
pissed and even more motivated to
avenge our loss. Ultimately, we're
taking one meet at a time and los-
ing isn't really an option. We're not
going in there with that mindset."

ing moments - inexperience and
a shallow depth chart, according
to Robinson, were the main rea-
sons for defeat.
With a full season under their
belt though, defensive players are
beginning to look more comfort-
able in his system, which would
presumably give the Wolverines
more options at each position.
"I think our guys are absorb-
ing fine," Robinson said. "As the
offense comes at us with another
wrinkle here, another wrinkle
there, it's testing us, which is
good."
FORMATIONS THEY ARE A
CHANGIN': Last week, Rodriguez
announced that the Wolverines
will increasingly work out of a
3-3-5 set, with slight tweaks to
Robinson's hybrid system from
last season.
But Robinson was quick to
point out that the new defense
was more of an adjustment than a
change in philosophy.

"I don't know that I've ever
been in a defense where there
wasn't areas altered each year
to your personnel or to what the
offensive world is doing," Robin-
son said. "You have to do that. You
tweak constantly, and you do it
throughout the season."
Scheme changes, especially
those as slight as the team's
recent implementations, are also
nothing new to Robinson who
referenced his time in the NFL to
justify his idea of an ever-chang-
ing defense.
"There's very little that I
haven't done in my past," Rob-
inson said. "If you go back to
the New York Jets, we ran a 3-3
scheme ... When I went to Den-
ver, we were listed as a four-man
front, but we used a hybrid ... I've
coached for a while, and there's
been alot of time for me to do a lot
of things."
STEVIE AND THE SECOND-
ARY: One of the more important

positions in Robinson's scheme
has been the hybrid spinner posi-
tion, which last year was filled by
departing senior Stevie Brown.
As one of the positions in Rob-
inson's defense that requires the
most athleticism, Brown will be
hard to replace, especially with an
inexperienced secondary.
So far this spring, sophomore
Floyd Simmons has been taking
reps at the position, along with
redshirt freshman Thomas Gor-
don and junior Mike Williams.
After a much-maligned season at
safety last season, Robinson feels
that Williams's athleticism is
well suited to move to the spinner
position.
At the safety position - which
is even less experienced with Wil-
liams's departure - Robinson
also said he was impressed with
the development of safety Cam-
eron Gordon who moved from the
wide receiver position this offsea-
son.

WOMEN'S BASK ETBALL
Foul issues doomed'M'inWNJT

By ZAK PYZIK and
ALEX HERMANN
Daily Sports Writers
Freshman guard Dayeesha
Hollins scored eight points in the
first half of the Michigan women's
basketball team's 76-59 loss to
Miami on Wednesday night. But
during the 10 minutes before half-
time, she rode the bench due to a
pair of quick fouls.
Along with Hollins on the pine
sat the Wolverines' momentum
with a towel over its shoulder.
The 11-point lead Michigan
enjoyed in the first six minutes of
the WNIT final four match slowly
evaporated every minute Hollins
sat.
And the Hurricanes had an
opportunity to rally back and take
a 37-33 lead into the half.
"Dayeesha was playing huge
in the beginning of that game,"
junior guard Veronica Hicks said.
"She was doinga dynamite job out
there. She had a few tough calls....
As a unit we have to learn to pick
it up no matter what, and unfortu-
nately we didn't."
When Hollins did play, she had
the hottest hands in the game.
She led the Wolverines in points
scored, though she played just

26 minutes. When
so long in the firs
pulled Michigan o
"When Dayeest
the game it hurt,"]
Kevin Borseth sai
lead. We didn't pl
we wanted to play.
came out that lea
away."
In the second
was back on
the hardwood
and quickly
regained her
momentum.
Sophomore
forward Car-
men Reynolds,
Hicks and Hol-
lins recorded
seven points on
three straight
possessions.
But then it ha
senior center B
recorded her for
about three minut
ond half, momenta
again.
This time it
back.
"Whenever sm
around, she is1
gan coach Kevin.

Hollins sat for Phillips. "Whenever there is a
:t, it essentially rebound, she gets the rebound.
ut of the game. I think when she was out, espe-
ha came out of cially in the second half, they just
Michigan coach outrebounded us. They had a lot
I. "We had a big of rebounds."
ay quite as well Michigan was out-rebounded
As soon as Day 45-36 and Phillips watched from
d kind of went the sidelines until there were just
seven minutes remaining with
half, Hollins Michigan trailing 58-51. Then,
about a min-
ute after she
came in, Miami
"m issing 6-foot- drained three
3-pointers in as
6 in the post, many posses-
sions to essen-
you can't really tially end the
game.
replace that." "Missing
6-foot-6 in the
post, you can't
really replace
ppened. When that with anything but 6-foot-6
Krista Phillips and higher," Hicks said. "You need
urth foul just that size in the post. When she's
es into the sec- not in we are not as aggressive of
um got benched putting it toward the block."
That's when it was over.
wasn't coming Because with 3:45 remaining in
the game, Phillips committed her
omebody gets fifth foul and was taken off of the
there," Michi- court permanently. '
Borseth said of "She is just a bigger target,"

Hicks said. "You miss her on the
rebounds and you miss her on the
boards. She just got some pretty
bad calls today, I just think its
frustrating for her all around."
Not only did Michigan have to
sit two of its starters for a signifi-
cant amount of time, but it also
was forced to rely on others, most
of whom aren't necessarily battle-
tested this postseason.
Suddenly freshmen Nya Jor-
dan, Rachel Sheffer and sopho-
more Courtney Boylan were
thrusted out on the court without
having seen much playing time in
the WNIT aside from late minutes
in the Wolverines' several blow-
outs.
The foul trouble didn't just
force Borseth to substitute start-
ers, but it was the first - and
last - time Michigan dealt with
foul trouble in its tournament
run. The fouls disrupted the
patterned offensive roster that
Borseth had instituted the entire
tournament.
"I didn't think we had any
chance unless we did it," Miami
coach Katie Meier said regarding
getting Phillips in foul trouble.
"That was definitely part of our
game plans ... we have to try to get
her away from the basket."

Blue prepares for Pitcher of the Year candidate _

By CAITLIN SMITH
Daily Sports Writer
Despite having already played 22
games, the Michigan baseball team
is determined that its 2009-10 sea-
son begins today.
The Wolverines will travel to
Bloomington,
Ind., where Michigan at
they will open
their Big Ten Indiana
season with a Matchup:
weekend series Michigan 13-9,
against Indi- Indiana 12-11
ana. Michigan When: Today
(13-9) is look- at 3 p.m
ing to extend
its current sev- Where: John Mel-
en-game win- encamp Pavilion
ning streak Live Blog: michi-
and take home gandaily.com
its first Big Ten
wins of the year.
"Getting back into conference
play, all the teams step it up and it's

really good baseball," senior pitcher
Eric Katzman said following Tues-
day's game against Eastern Michi-
gan. "I want to see how our team
will compete - the most hostile
atmosphere you are going to find is
within the conference."
Like most sports in the Big Ten,
baseball is wide open for teams to
reach the top. The Wolverines are
currently ranked third in the con-
ference according to their overall
record, following Michigan State
and Ohio State. But that is all apt to
change after a competitive Big Ten
opening weekend.
Michigan began its play at Ray
Fisher Stadium just a week ago, eas-
ily sweeping its three-game series
against Indiana University - Purdue
University Fort Wayne. On Tuesday,
Eastern Michigan gave the Wolver-
ines a greater challenge, as they bat-
ted back into the game from a 7-2
deficit. But Michigan maintained a
one-run advantage, and senior out-

fielder Mike Kittle made a big base
hit in the bottom of the seventh to
get the winning tally on the score-
board.
For the Wolverines to claim the
series this weekend at Sembower
Field, as with all their conference
games, they'll need to overcome
the inconsistency at the mound and
the plate that has been plaguing the
team for most of the season.
"We're just going to have to battle
and claw like the rest of the teams
in the Big Ten to find a way to get it
done," Michigan coach Rich Malo-
ney said. "It's just a matter of (the
team) executing a littler bit better."
Although the Hoosiers are in
fifth place with a 12-11 record, they
will still prove to be a tough series
for Michigan, with their main
threat being sophomore left-handed
pitcher Drew Leininger.
Leininger was recently named to
the College Baseball Foundation's
National Pitcher of the Year Watch

List and he has established himself
as one of the most improved college
baseball players this season. Leini-
nger boasts a 0.79 ERA, a 3-0 record
and 26 consecutive scoreless innings.
"They know that they're facing
[Leininger]," Maloney said. "But
he's not a big, overpowering type of
pitcher. But aleft-hander who mixes
up his stuff and hides the ball can be
difficult, so we're going to be in for
a dogfight."
Michigan will be utilizing its ace
pitcher, Alan Oaks, to return the
pressure on Indiana. If Oaks can
control the mound and Wolverine
batters produce at the plate, then
the team should be able to subdue
Leininger's golden arm.
"Every year, Michigan's expecta-
tion is to win," Katzman said. "We
don't think there is a team better
than us. So, if we play our game,
no matter how good anybody else
plays, I think we are going to finish
on top. We should."

9

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