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February 09, 2011 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-02-09

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.c©m

Wednesday, February 9,2011 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 7A

International addition
making strides for'M'

Male practice players help Blue
prepare for stronger opponents

For the Daily
In recent years, there's been a
major influx of international stu-
dents into collegiate men's tennis.
This year, the top three teams
in the preseason - Virginia, USC
and Tennessee - each boast a
roster nearly half filled with top-
tier international players. With
the exception of Antarctica, every
continent is represented among
these international additions, all
wielding rackets.
While the Michigan men's ten-
nis team has traditionally been
comprised mostly of Americans,
this year the Wolverines made an
international addition of their own
- New Zealand-born freshman,
Barrett Franks.
Though Franks has provento be
a strong addition to the team, win-
ning four of his last five matches,
Michigan coach Bruce Berque still
has confidence that his team can
remain competitive with mostly
American players.
"The problem is that a lot of the
international players are border-
line legit when it comes to ama-
teurism," Berque said Monday. "A
lot of them are older, failed profes-
sionals who come to America to
use this system to get an educa-
tion. I feel there are enough good
players in this country, and if you
are willing to take the time to work
with them, they can learn to be
competitive at a high level.
"When we recruit internation-
ally we look for the best players
that are also true amateurs, and
Barrett fits that perfectly."
Playing tennis at Michigan has
given Franks the opportunity to
study economics and to get a taste
of life in America, which for him
almost exclusively revolves around
the Green Bay Packers. Franks has
been a cheesehead since the Pack-
ers' playoff win over the Bears
in 2008, during his first visit to
America. But he is adamant about
not being called a bandwagon fan,
especially after Sunday's Super
Bowl win over the Steelers.
Outside the Packers and his eco-
nomics homework, Franks's life
is all about tennis, a sport he has
been playing since the age of four.
But in his hometown of Christ-

church, men's tennis is relatively
obscure in comparison to rugby,
New Zealand's premier sport.
While Franks is the first to
admit that he's not built for rugby
with his 6-foot-4, spindly frame,
he says he didn't seek out tennis
as an alternative. His start in the
sport was actually quite an acci-
"My dad loved playing squash,
but he realized that it was too hard
of a game to play at four years old,
so in the meantime he decided
to introduce me to tennis until I
could grow up and play squash,"
Franks said. "I'm pretty positive
he also did it to tire me out. But
overall, the more I won, the moreI
began to really love the sport."
Unable to find suitable com-
petition in Christchurch, Franks
joined the junior national team to
"The more I
won, the more I
began to really
love the sport."
fill that void and compete in the
international circuit.
"Being on that team allowed me
to see the world," Franks said. "As
I grew older, I would travel farther
and farther away from home for
tournaments. It was a great expe-
rience that both made me more
competitive as well as more trav-
Despite Franks's early success
in the preseason, Berque has been
helping to improve some critical
elements of his game to get him
ready for the regular season.
"Coming from New Zealand,
where he was probably the best
player in his area, it's good for him
to be out here competing against
people as good as him every day,"
Berque said. "We're currently
working on his backhand and
how he handles adversity dur-
ing a match ... but he has already
improved a great deal. He is just
scratching the surface of what he
can do here at Michigan."

Daily Sports Writer
Michigan women's basket-
ball coach Kevin Borseth holds
a tryout at the beginning of each
year - but it's most likely not the
type of tryout most people think
of when they think women's bas-
It's a tryout for male players
who are interested in helping out
at practice, running drills against
the team.
"Guys give you a look because
they're quicker, stronger, more
athletic," Borseth said after prac-
tice on Tuesday. "We're just look-
ing for players that understand
basketball, that have some skill.
We might need a big guy to stand
behind (our players) and defend,
or maybe some little guards who
can penetrate."
Playing against bigger oppo-
nents has become the norm for
the undersized Wolverines (7-4
Big Ten, 14-9 overall), whose tall-
est starting player, sophomore
forward Rachel Sheffer, is only
Having practice players around
to imitate players like Ohio State's
6-foot-4, three-time defending
Big Ten Player of the Year Jan-
tel Lavender or Michigan State's
rebounding machine Lykendra
Johnson, has paid dividends this
Michigan has beaten a multi-
tude of bigger teams this season,
and part of that success has to be
credited to the effort of Borseth's
practice players. Phil Wendland,
the team'sgraduate manager, is in
charge of the practice players.
"(Borseth) scouts the upcom-
ing opponent, and he'll see if
there's a girl who drives left, (for
example)," Wendland said Tues-
day. "If she can drive left, we
have some of our practice players
come in and drive left. They're
important to simulate other
players on other teams."
But Borseth hasn't always
been an advocate of a male
practice squad. During his first
year as coach at UW-Green Bay,
his team started off the year
3-8. After the eighth loss, he
decided to get rid of the prac-
tice team.
The Phoenix went on to fin-

Sophomore forward Rachel Sheffer is Michigan's tallest starting player at 6-foot-t.

ish 19-10 that year and earned a
berth to the NCAA Tournament.
"I was never really a major
advocate of using men's players,
because I thought that it came at
the expense of your other play-
ers," he said. "I think (that year
with UW-Green Bay) is really
where my opinion came from.
"You want your players to get
as many reps in practice as you
can get, and sometimes when you
have male players, they don't get
But this year, with a depleted
squad that now features just 10
active players on the roster, a
male practice squad is about as
important for the Wolverines.
Borseth and his staff have

found 12 male players who rotate
days throughout the week in
which they practice with the
team. The players are asked to
perform different roles in prac-
tice, depending on who Michigan
will be playing in its next game.
"We use them for individual
workouts, skill drills," Borseth
said. "We'll put them in to defend
five-on-five, and sometimes we'll
run the otherteam's plays. We use
them in alot of capacities."
But the players are more than
just robots doing what they're
told on the court. For many of
them, playing on the practice
squad gives them the opportunity
to continue playingthe sport they
grew up with. All of the players

played varsity basketball in high
"They bring so much more to
practice (with) their intensity,"
Sheffer said. "They shove me,
they push me, they're not afraid
to get at me. They're not afraid
to hurt you or do anything to you
- and that makes you a better
And there might be a little
extra motivation for the guys,too.
"I think their mindset coming
into practice is a lot different than
a girl's (mindset)," Sheffer said.
"(To) them, going against girls is
just like, 'Well, we can't get beat.'
"So just knowing that they
don't want to get beat, we want to
go at them hard."

Defensive stalwart Plunkett
explodes on offensive end

Senior earns
CPWA Player of the
Week honors after
11-point weekend
Daily Sports Writer
Her teammates call her
But during Michigan's six-
game sweep at the two-day
UC-Santa Barbara Winter Invi-
tational tournament, senior
Ryley Plunkett didn't exactly
1 conjure up the image of a sweet
old lady. Instead, she was an
offensive force, racking up five
assists and six goals, including
the game-winner against San
Diego State.
Her efforts earned her the
CWPA Western Division Player
of the Week title.
Not too bad for a defender.
Forgive her teammates if they
sound a little surprised at Plun-
kett's offensive explosion.
"It was crazy because she
really is ... a great defender,"
senior Lauren Orth said. "But
then she literally just came right
out of her shell and was scoring
goals left and right."
Plunkett has always been an
* important piece of the puzzle
for the Wolverines.
Her contributions, though,
have almost always come in
Michigan's half of the pool, not
in the offensive zone. According
to Michigan coach Matt Ander-
son, Plunkett is the team's best

In three seasons with the
Wolverines, Plunkett has played
in over 40 games each of her sea-
sons at Michigan, and totaled a
career-high 12 goals last year.
She produced half of that total
in just two days in California.
So what happened at the Invi-
"She's a senior, and I think
she realizes that she wants to be
out there not just for defensive
purposes only," Anderson said.
"Showing that she's not afraid
to score the ball will allow me to
play her more."
According to Anderson, she
showed her willingness to score
before the team played then-No.
11 San Diego State on the second
day of the tournament. The day
before, Plunkett recorded her
second career hat trick against
UC San Diego. With time wind-
ing down and the team going on
a power play, Anderson called a
timeout. Then, he decided to do
something he had never done
He kept Plunkett in the game
for the power play.
"In the UC-San Diego game
... she stepped up and scored
that first goal, and ... we had the
(UC-San Diego) coach yelling
for them to go guard (Plunkett),
which opened up our other
players," Anderson said. "That
showed enough confidence that
against San Diego State, when I
called a time out with 2:30 left, I
had (Plunkett) in for the power
play. The previous three years
that wouldn't have been the
The decision paid off, as
Plunkett netted the game-win-

ner that gave Michigan a 12-11
According to Orth, Plun-
kett actually has one of the
best shots on the team. But for
an Anderson-coached team,
defense always comes first, and
Plunkett best serves the team
when she is defending.
"(Plunkett) definitely puts
the team first no matter what
she does," Orth said. "Every-
thing she does in the water is to
help a teammate or to cover for
a teammate, and she's always
thinking about the team."
Some of her teammates,
though, might ask her for just
one more thing: a later bedtime.
During freshman year, when
practices ended at nine, Plun-
kett would be in bed as soon as
possible, earning her "grandma"
"Riley would be in bed, cov-
ers - she wears an eye sleep-
ing mask too, so she'd have that
on - sleeping by 10," Orth said.
"Every night. She would never
hang out late with us."
The nickname caught on and
spread throughout the team.
And how does Plunkett feel
about being called "Grandma?"
"I just got used to it and it
ended up as just a big joke now,"
Plunkett said. "I like it. It's a
funny nickname."
But Plunkett said that she
didn't always feel so positive
about the moniker. She was
worried that people would think
she's boring.
But with the way she's been
keeping busy on both sides of
the ball, that shouldn't be a

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