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September 21, 2010 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-09-21

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8 - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Rodriguez speaks on 'D' problems*

By JOE STAPLETON
Daily Sports Editor
In previous years, when his team's
defense has struggled, the mostly offensive-
minded Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez
has tended to get more
involved on the other side NOTEBOOK
of theball.
After the defense gave up 439 total yards
and 35 points to Massachusetts on Satur-
day, it's looking like the Michigan defense is
going to be seeing a little bit more of Rodri-
guez this week.
"I'll probably spend a little bit of time
with them today," Rodriguez said in a press
conference on Monday. "Our defensive staff
knows what we got to do to get it fixed."
According to Rodriguez, part of what
needs fixing is simply the fundamentals:
wrapping up, taking the right angles, etc.
"The biggest disappointment was that we
took a step back fundamentally," Rodriguez
said. "We missed some open-field tackles
and I don't think we did a good job of get-
ting off blocks, which our guys have been
pretty good at."
For Michigan fans, the defensive letdown
against the Minutemen was very familiar.
Defensive struggles plagued the Wolverines
throughout Rodriguez's first two years as
the head coach.
While Rodriguez said there were some
issues on the defense that are similar to last
year, he prefers to think about them on a
game-by-game basis.
"Last year was last year, last week was
last week," Rodriguez said. "What's impor-
tant now is to fix the issues we had on Sat-
urday and play a lot better going forward or
we'll be in trouble again."
A possible explanation for some of the

guys on the team and if he gets a hold of you
he's not letting go."
STRAIN OF THE JOB: After the last
football season, the college football world
was shocked when Florida coach Urban
Meyer declared he was retiring because
of health reasons. He came back to the job
soon after.
Following his team's overtime victory
over Notre Dame, Michigan State coach
Mark Dantonio was hospitalized after suf-
fering a heart attack.
According to Rodriguez, those health
risks are something you take when enter-
ing the business of big-time college football
coaching.
"Most coaches have probably known this
for years," Rodriguez said. "It's a different
lifestyle, and you have to take care of your-
self."
Rodriguez acknowledged that it may
be a more stressful job now than it was in
the past, but that it's a very public position,
regardless.
"When you're in certain professions, and
coaching is one of them," Rodriguez said,
"you don't just work your job, you live your
job. So you're never really away from it."
The only thing you can do, Rodriguez
said, is take care of yourself as bestyou can.
The coach has a Stairmaster and has been
working out with Michigan strength and
conditioning coach Mike Barwis for a while
now.
However, sleep has still been scarce for
the third-year coach.
"I'd like to say five (hours)," Rodriguez
said when asked how much sleep he gets.
"But I haven't slept probably three hours
straight in years.
"The last three years, I probably haven't
even slept that much."

0

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez looks on during the Wolverines' 42-37 win over Massachusetts on Saturday, in which his defense underperforred.

troubles the defense experienced on Satur-
day was the fact that the Wolverines were
coming off two straight weeks of important,
emotional victories.
Rodriguez said he wasn't expecting a let-
down, given the team's preparation during
the previous week.
"You worry about that, a letdown after a
good win when you have an FCS opponent,"
Rodriguez said. "I worry about it more in
preparation than in the game. Is the focus
going to be there during the week? I really
thought it was and that's why I was sur-

prised when, defensively we didn'tplay very
well."
TACKLE COMPETITION: Redshirt fresh-
man offensive tackle Taylor Lewan saw
his first extended game action on Satur-
day against Massachusetts and said after
the game that after the first drive, "Things
started going really well."
Judging by Monday's depth chart, things
went really well, indeed.
Lewan was listed Monday as the backup
at left tackle behind redshirt junior Mark
Huyge, but the depth chart now has an

"or" next to his name, meaning the two are
locked in an ongoing competition.
"He played really well," Rodriguez said.
"For the last 20 snaps, he was physical,
knew what he was doing and he's jumped
right ahead. That's a definite 'or."'
Lewan is known as one of the most
aggressive guys on the O-line - maybe, at
times, a little too much so.
"He's finding a happy medium between
being aggressive and holding a lot," sopho-
more linebacker and good friend Craig Roh
joked. "He's just one of the most aggressive

W 0ENS
Withyoun talnt, M' opesfor urnaoun

t

:~
' F

By MATT RUDNITSKY
and JOHN EPPLER
Daily Sports Writers
The Michigan women's soc-
cer team doesn't exactly have the
resume of many of the Wolverine
sports teams on campus.
The 'squad is just 17 years
young, with just two Big Ten
Championships and no first-place
finishes in the conference regular
season. '
Not to mention Michigan (6-1-
3) is coming off a one-win season
in Big Ten play, and its most suc-
cessful season in recent memory
was a mere third-place finish in
2004.
But a 180-degree turnaround
isn't out of the question. Former
U.S. Women's National Team
coach and current Wolverine
head coach Greg Ryan thinks he
might have the young, talented
Wolverines ready to compete for
their first Big Ten title since 1999.
Ryan, entering his third year
as head of the program, could
finally have enough of his players
in place to challenge the confer-
ence's elite.
"It's going to be very interest-
ing because this is the first time
that I've had a Michigan team
that really has the same level, or
even more talent, than very good

Big Ten teams," Ryan said last
week. "So talent-wise, we should
be fine. It will just come down to
seeing whether we have what it
takes in terms of the experience
to go in and really compete for a
Big Ten title.
"I think that it's going to be
very, very tight."
The Wolverines are relying
heavily on their skilled diaper
dandies, with four freshmen earn-
ing starts in the last game against
Massachusetts. Of the nine-mem-
ber freshman class, eight have
seen playing time. Michigan is
also led in scoring by two fresh-
men, forward Nkem Ezurike with
five goals and one assist, and mid-
fielder Tori McCombs with three
goals.
In years past, the Wolverines
have had to get by with a patient
defensive strategy, trying to hang
with the more skilled and athletic
opposition.
It has taken three years to
get to this point, but it seems as
though Ryan's system is finally in
full swing.
"We're so much faster and
more skilled than we've ever been
as a team," Ryan said. "We're defi-
nitely one of the fastest teams in
the Big Ten."
"It's really more enjoyable for
me, because I'm coaching a style

of soccer that I enjoy, I love see-
ing the girls attack, and giving
them the freedom to attack. It's
just been a pleasure coaching this
group. I'm still pushing them very
hard, like I did to the last two
teams, so that they reach their
potential.
"But the potential this year
is much higher than in the past,
because of the level of players
throughout our squad."
The team is strong at every
position, with its anchor being
redshirt sophomore goalkeeper
Haley Kopmeyer, who led the Big
Ten in saves last year. Kopmeyer
has already recorded four shut-
outs this season.
"Haley's been very, very good
for us," Ryan said. "Not only in
her role as a goalkeeper but as
a very vocal leader on the field,
organizing our defense.
"She's really showing that she's
a fighter. Each game she gets
stronger."
Despite the fact that they are
led by so much youth, don't be
fooled into thinking that Michi-
gan is lacking at all in veteran
leadership.
When asked about the team's
leaders, Ryan didn't hesitate to
single out three players, who
unsurprisingly, are the team's
captains.

"Jackie Carron has been one
of our top players for a few years
now, as a senior defender. She's
a great leader by example." Ryan
said. "(Redshirt senior) Kylie
Neschke has been a great vocal
leader for us.(
"Redshirt sophomore) Clare
Stachel has become a great lead-
er for us. So in terms of veteran
leadership, it's going really well
so far."
With this blend of talented
youngsters and stable leadership,
the Wolverines seem to have all
the ingredients of a successful
team.
So it shouldn't surprise any-
one that they have racked up a
remarkable 131 shots in just seven
contests.
Compare that to the measly 61
shots they have allowed, and one
can see how dominant they have
been.
If the Wolverines can finish
a little bit more efficiently (they
only have 13 goals on those 131
shots), they will be tough to beat
in Big Ten play.
Michigan fans won't have to
wait long to see the legitimacy
of the team tested,'as last year's
second-place finisher, Ohio State,
comes to Ann Arbor to play in the
brand new stadium on Sunday,
September 26.

QUESTIONS FOR 2010

I

BYTOM CLOS11FOR THE DAILY
CAN THE WOLVERINES PROTECT THEIR NEW HOME FIELD?
Since 2007, in 28 home games, the Wolverines have won
only 10. A win percentage of 36 percent at home is hardly
good enough to be relevant let alone an elite soccer program.
There is an old saying in sports: "Good teams go .700 at home
and .500 on the road." If the Wolverines can come anywhere
near those numbers their win total will be much improved in
2010. Michigan must win most of its home games this season
or there is little chance of the team even finishing with a win-
ning record.

1919011L,
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I CAN THE GOALKEEPING DUPLICATE LAST YEAR'S
SUCCESS?
Michigan will need Kopmeyer to perform at somewhere
near the record-setting season she had last year to have a
chance at contending in the Big Ten. How she will handle that
pressure remains to be seen. Keane is a nice backup to have as
3 veteran insurance between the posts in case something goes
wrong with Kopmeyer.
l
CAN THIS TEAM WIN GAMES IN THE BIG TEN?
The Wolverines have won a grand total of three Big Ten
games since 2007. Definitely not enough. If the Wolverines
want to be taken seriously at all, they will have to post more
chance to get off to a fast start in Big Ten play with three of the
first four conference matches at U-M Soccer Complex.
U
WHO WILL STEP UP AND CARRY THE SCORING LOAD?
The parts of the offense not returning include last season's
leading goal scorer Alex Jendrusch and consistent point pro-
ducer Amy Klippert. That leaves a major void in the scoring
department, forcing the team to count on the younger players
to have breakout seasons. Last year's freshman sensation for-
ward Holly Hein and sophomore swing player Kristen.Gon-
calves each tallied three goals, but after them the numbers
drop off dramatically. No other player scored more than one
5 goal last season, so there is a definite need for someone to step
up and make a difference.
CAN THIS TEAM CHANGE THE CULTURE OF THE
PROGRAM?
The last time Michigan had a winning season, no current
player was on the roster. When you have a team full of play-
ers who are used to losing for three straighte years, changing
the mentality and culture of a program from one of disappoint-
ment and irrelevance to one of success and competitiveness is
difficult. It is imperative this team gets off to a fast start and
avoids some early losses because a rough start could implode
the season and reinforce that losing atmosphere the Wolver-
ines have endured the past three seasons.

01

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