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October 06, 2010 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-10-06

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8A -- Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

ICE HOCKEY
Merrill, Langlais
adjust to new roles
as season begins

'M'4toys with position changes
By JOE STAPLETON
Daily SportsEditor

By MICHAEL FLOREK
Daily Sports Editor
One is a 24 year-old who took a
circuitous route to Ann Arbor. The
other is an 18 year-old who has
been in town the past two years
with the National Team Develop-
ment Program.
One is an undrafted free agent.
The other is a second round pick.
But for the Michigan hockey
team, senior Chad Langlais and
the freshman Jon Merrill, have
made up the top defensive pair in
the first weeks of practice as well
as in the Wolverines' season-open-
ing tie with Mercyhurst. Together,
they're adjustingto their new roles
- Langlais as a senior leader, and
Merrill as a player at the college
level.
"They're both smart," Michi-
gan coach Red Berenson said after
Tuesday's practice. "Merrill's got
an offensive side to him, and he's
got a defensive side to him, so right
now I think he's a good fit with
(Langlais). Now, we'll see when we
get into some serious competition
in our league."
The pair saw a good amount of
time on the power play and both
had an assist on No. 4 Michigan's
first goal of the season. But Mer-
rill's freshman mistakes became
evident as the Lakers mounted
their comeback. His errant pass
up the boards resulted in Mercy-
hurst's third goal. He was the on
the ice for the tying goal as well.
These defensive miscues leave
Merrill like many other freshmen
defensemen - focused on his own
zone far more than the opponent's.
"The hardest thing for a young
defenseman when they come in is
just gettingthe puck out of our own
zone and playing good defense just
so you're not on the ice for minus,
minus, minus," Berenson said. "I
think that's his focus right now is
just making that first pass a good
pass, playing good defense, and

then if he gets any offensive chanc-
es, that's fine."
Merrill finished minus one
against Mercyhurst. But the 38th
pick in last June's NHL Draft can
learn from his free-agent coun-
terpart. Late in overtime, a puck
trickled behind senior goalie
Shawn Hunwick and lay in the
crease. Langlais turned around
and swiped it away with his stick
to preserve the tie.
More important than his defen-
sive heroics is Langlais's newfound
leadership role. After the gradu-
ation of Steve Kampfer and Chris
Summers, Langlais is one of two
seniors on the blue line. And he has
jumped at the opportunity to lead.
"He's had a good role right from
day one," Berenson said. "He's
been a go-to defenseman, but now
you can just see. He's got that extra
swagger, that extra confidence on
the ice, that extra authority on the
ice that goes with experience."
Also absent with Kampfer and
Summers leaving is offense from
the back end. They combined to
account for just over 40 percent of
scoring from defense last year.
Langlais, known for his quick-
ness and puckhandling ability, was
the second-leading scorer among
Michigan defensemen last year
with 21 points, just two behind
Kampfer. But he isn't as eager to
put the added pressure of produc-
ing more points on himself.
"I'm always tough on myself but
I know we have a lot of good defen-
semen that can carry the load too,"
Langlais said.
The members of Michigan's top
defensive pair have their separate
roles iri practice as well. Langlais is
one of the first to get off the ice for
practice, while Merrill has to wait
and pick up all of the pucks. But
all their differences become less
important when the puck drops.
Even the generation gap.
"I didn't even realize he's six
years older than me," Merrill said.

The defensive struggles for the
Michigan football team this year
have been well documented. One
of the most common explanations
for the issues on the defensive
side of the ball is
the unit's lack of NOTEBOOK
experience, espe-
cially in the secondary. So against
Indiana last week in Bloomington,
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez
decided to spread around what
little experience he had.
Specifically, he spread two of
his most experienced defensive
players around to different areas
of the field.
Junior Mike Martin, who has
started 17 straight games at nose
tackle, found himself playing defen-
sive end at times during Michigan's
42-35 win over the Hoosiers.
And redshirt sophomore J.T.
Floyd, who has started every
game this season at cornerback
along with two games last year,
was moved to safety at certain
points in Saturday's game.
The move worked out well for
Martin, who registered a sack
rushing from the end spot.
"It was fun, it was different,"
Martin said after the game. "It
was something coach (Rodriguez)
put in at the end of the week, so
I didn't get a chance to run it in
practice."
Floyd, arguably the Wolverines'
most consistent cornerback, had a
good afternoon against Indiana,
registering a pass breakup and 15
tackles, with one for loss. Some of
those tackles occurred when he
was playing safety.
"J.T., we put him in some dif-
ferent situations too," redshirt
sophomore Jordan Kovacs said
during Monday's press confer-
ence. "We had a couple different
packages that we ran, I thought
for the most part it worked."
It only worked to an extent,
considering the Michigan (5-0
overall, 1-0 Big Ten) second-
ary was once again torched last
weekend, allowing Hoosier quar-
terback Ben Chappell to have a
record-setting day. The fifth-year
senior completed 45 passes for
480 yards and three touchdowns,

0

tAKt FROMM/Daily
Sophomore defensive back J.T. Floyd andjunior defensive lineman Mike Martin are two of Michigan's most consistent defend-
ers. And after playing at different positions in Michigan's win over Indiana, the coaches are thinking about keeping the change.

numbers that would make any
defensive coordinator cringe.
Moving Martin and Floyd
around to different positions
could be indicative of a more
desperate search for answers on
defense, which will be tasked next
week with stopping Michigan
State quarterback Kirk Cousins
and sensational freshman run-
ning back Le'Veon Bell.
RODRIGUEZ TALKS ROBIN-
SON'S RECRUITMENT: Sopho-
more quarterback Denard
Robinson has been, without a
doubt, the nation's best player
through the first five games of
the season. But how did he get to
Michigan? Rodriguez shed some
light on his recruitment of Robin-
son during the Big Ten teleconfer-
ence on Tuesday.
According to Rodriguez, one
of the keys to landing Robinson
was promising him that he would
remain a quarterback as opposed
to moving him around the field,

which is what Florida and other
schools aimed to do.
"It was a battle to the end
because Florida and other schools
were recruiting him as an ath-
lete," Rodriguez said. "We told
him quarterback and we were
able to show him that we'd used
similar quarterbacks in the past."
The most noteworthy of those
past quarterbacks was obvi-
ously Pat White, Rodriguez's last
quarterback at West Virginia and
a gifted athlete. Comparisons
between White and Robinson
have abounded since the sopho-
more arrived at Michigan, but
the comparisons have mostly cen-
tered around running ability..
Rodriguez said the comparison
could go beyond that.
"I think the biggest comparison
that I've seen so far is their ability
to lead a team and the attention
they get is not going to faze them
at all," Rodriguez said. "Pat was a
tremendous leader whose team-
mates rallied around him and I

see the same thing with Denard."
DANTONIO TALKS DENARD:
Last week, Michigan State coach
Mark Dantonio was forced to
watch his team's victory over
then-No. 11 Wisconsin from his
hospital bed. His assistants have
said they were in constant contact
with the coach throughout the
game on his cell phone.
On Saturday in the Big House,
they'll only need a headset. Dan-
tonio said during the Big Ten tele-
conference Tuesday that he'll be
coaching from the press box.
The Spartans have a much
different challenge in front of
them this weekend. While they
may have just beaten one of the
best teams in the Big Ten, they
now face Heisman frontrunner
Denard Robinson.
"He is certainly special," Dan-
tonio said of Robinson during the
teleconference on Tuesday. "We
have not come across a player like
him in a long, long time."

SOFTBALL
All three pitchers dominate in exhibition

Freshmen impress
in fall-ball season

0

Payne, Taylor and
Speierman combine
to give up only one
run in nine innings
By EVERETT COOK
For the Daily
In a theme that promises to be
recurrent throughout the upcom-
ing season, the Michigan softball
team rode
its pitch- LAK ESUPERIOR ST. 1
ingto a 5-1 MICHIGAN 3
exhibition
victory against Eastern Michigan
on Tuesday night at Alumni field.
Junior Hilary Payne, senior Jor-
dan Taylor and sophomore Stepha-
nie Speierman held the Eagles to
one run off of six hits ina game that
was scheduled to go nine innings
instead of the usual seven.
Perhaps the most encourag-
ing part of the game for the Wol-

verines was Payne's bounce back
performance. Payne, a transfer
from Loyola Chicago, was lit up
for six runs last time she took the
hill. Since that was the first out-
ing (albeit in an exhibition) of
her Michigan career, no one was
quite sure what to expect this time
around.
Payne struggled with command
out of the gate, but calmed down
enough to throw three dominant
innings, allowing only one hit and
striking out two. Payne showed her
ability to get outs by forcing many
Eagle popups and seemed to recover
from the butterflies that plagued
her last time.
The other up-and-comer of the
Michigan trio is Speierman, who
continued to impress after throw-
ing three innings of no hit ball in the
last exhibition she played in. Spei-
erman allowed one run on two hits
while striking out four and looked to
have better command of her formi-
dable fastball.
Taylor, the wily veteran of the

group, is looking to build on her
stellar junior season in which she
posted a 1.42 ERA and was named
co-Big Ten player of the year. Taylor
pitched three innings, allowing no
runs and two hits with three strike-
outs.
Last season, Taylor could look
to now-graduated Nikki Nemitz
for help, but these days she is the
eldest of the group and has different
responsibilities.
"Usually as a pitcher you are a
leader before your senior year,"
Taylor said after the game. "But it
is definitely different without Nikki
here. We aren't used to each other
yet, but it looks good and we have
a lot of really good, young players. I
think we will be just fine."
On the offensive end, the Wol-
verines took advantage of a lack of
control from the Eagles' pitchers by
scoring many of the runners who
got on base due to walks. Freshman
Mandy Gardner blasted a two-run
home run after senior Dorian Shaw
was walked, and junior Stepha-

nie Kirkpatrick drove in freshman
Lyndsay Doyle with a single after
Doyle was walked.
Shaw, a first baseman, had a hand
in a lot of the offensive production
by getting on base twice. After lead-
ing the team with 21 home runs last
season, she figures to be a integral
part of the team for the upcoming
year. Shawis one of only six seniors
on this year's team, but she doesn't
see the Wolverines' youth as an
impediment.
"There is no reason we can't
accomplish our goals," Shaw said.
"Our goals are always to win the
College World Series and to win a
Big Ten championship. There's no
reason we can't do that with five
freshmen on the field."
"It's just a matter of not getting
caught up in using the freshman
label as an excuse."
The next exhibition for the Wol-
verines won't be for another four
months, but this game gives them
something to build on during the
winter off-season.

By JAMES BLUM
Daily Sports Writer
A talented but youthful Michi-
gan softball team will have to rely
heavily on its six seniors to pro-
vide stability both on and off the
field this season. Last year's cam-
paign ended
in disappoint-
ment as the
second-ranked "The exp
Wolverines
were upset don't char
in the NCAA
Super Region- yOu hav
al by No. 15
Tennessee. freshi
The Wolver-
ines hope their-
young talent
develops quickly so they can hit
the ground running and have
another go ata championship.
"We just have so many kids,"
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
said after Michigan's exhibition

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a r

victory over Michigan State. "And
so many young kids, tonight we
needed to get them all in and get
them some experience."
Senior first baseman Dorian
Shaw is among the six seniors
taking responsibility for the
development of the squad's seven
freshmen and 12
total underclass-
men.
ectations "I remember
being a fresh-
nge when man and being
distracted,"
e more Shaw said. "(Our
duty is) making
nen. sure everybody's
on the same
page and keep-
ing everybody
moving in the right direction."
While mentoring can be bur-
densome, Shaw and the other
seniors are happy to accept the
responsibility Hutchins has put
on them.
"There are six of us and it's all
of our jobs," Shaw said. "(Coach
Hutchins) shouldn't have to tell
us, it's something we want to do
and it's finally our turn to go, 'Oh,
you have a question about your
classes, come to me I can tell you:
On the field everything appears
to be in sync. In limited exhibition
play, the squad's freshmen have
shown their potential. On Satur-
day, freshman leftfielder Nicole
Sappingfield collected two base
hits and drove in a run to lead
Michigan to a 7-6 victory.
Tuesday against Eastern Mich-
igan, freshman infielder Mandy
Gardner - who did not play
against the Spartans - gave the
Wolverines a two-run lead with
a home run in the second inning.
Sappingfield added an RBI single
in the fourth as the Wolverines
defeated the Eagles 5-1.
Despite the Wolverines' youth,
the veterans like Shaw are confi-
dent in their team.
"The expectations don't change
when you have more freshmen,"
Shaw said. "We're Michigan soft-
ball and we expect to win the Big
Ten and we expect to go to the
World Series. The expectations
don't change based on who's on
your roster."

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