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March 14, 2011 - Image 10

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2B - March 14, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Built on heart,'M' basketball sets an example

hen Zack Novak
returned from the
Michigan basketball
team's trip to Europe this sum-
mer, he was confident in one
thing:
The Wolverines were going
to make the
NCAA Tour-
nament.
Safe to say,
Novak was
one of the few
who could
say that with
a straight RYAN
face. His KARTJE
own mother
couldn't even
certify her son's pipe dream.
"I thought you were stupid,"
she told him the other day, when
the two spoke on the phone.
"No one thought (we would
make it)," Novak admitted after
the Wolverines' Selection Show
gathering at Crisler Arena on
Sunday.
But the thingthat's different
about this team, the one thing
that no one could deny all season
- from the Wolverines' bevy of
devastating losses to its sweep
of Michigan State - is that this
team has heart.
That fact was never more obvi-
ous than when Michigan's name
was called in the No. 8 seed of the

West bracket.
The whole of Crisler Arena
burst likea maize and blue fire-
works show, as players leapt
out of their seats with the same
look of disbelief that most fans
wore all season. The team that
wouldn't win, couldn't win, had
won.
It's a theme that's been miss-
ing from Michigan sports the last
few years. It's somethingthat
you could see written all over
Novak's face as his grin went ear
to ear for the rest of the bracket
selection.
I've written plenty the last
year or so in this column about
how Michigan sports (read:
mostly football) have under-
achieved, missed out on oppor-
tunities and generally just not
carried themselves as Michigan
teams should.
I don't need to tell you that the
football team gave up at times
this year - the lack of execution
speaks for itself. And it took me
until last night, watchingthe
faces of a young, inexperienced
squad of Michigan athletes, to
understand why this basketball
team was so different from the
past three football teams.
This team has heart. And ahell
of a lot of it.
It also has a coach that its play-
ers and fans can trust, through

thick or thin.
"(This team) wasn't goingto
win on experience," Michigan
Athletic Director Dave Brandon
said as the pandemonium died
down inside Crisler Arena. "It
wasn't going to win because it
played an easy schedule in an
easy conference. This was all
about heart - and great coach-
ing."
Michigan sports teams are
supposed to have both of those
at all times. They're supposed to
overachieve, shock and intimi-
date - that's what makes the
alumni and fan network so vast
and the list of wins so long.
That's why underachieving
coaches get fired after three sea-
sons. That's why new coaches are
hired who can unite first and win
soon after.
It's awinning formula that has
been written in pen through all
the NCAA history books in maize
and blue.
You don't become the win-
ningest program in college foot-
ball history without that formula.
Or a softball powerhouse. Or an
Olympic swimming legend. Or
even the best water polo program
in the East.
It's what makes much of the
remainder of the country despise
Michigan fans. It's why the rest
of the country hated the Fab Five.

Fans and students have all heard
people mock the concept of "The
Michigan Difference" - the idea
that Michigan is a notch above
the rest, especially when it comes
to sports.
And it's that formula that made
"The Michigan Difference." It's
that formula that won the 1989
National Championship when the.

Wolverines weren't supposed to. and fast.
It's that formula that put Novak The question is whether the
on his feet to a raucous Crisler rest of the Michigan sports land-
Arena crowd, all watching CBS's scape can learn the same thing
Selection Sunday coverage. from a young, ragtag group of
Novak knew the formula players whose heart was stronger
before he got off the plane this than a nation full of doubts.
summer from Europe. And it was
clear as the season unfolded that -Kartje can be reached
the rest of his team learned it - at rkartje@umich.edu.
Versatile Chidester
steps up at shortstop

SOFTBALL
Blue drops first game of season,
goes 3-1 at Louisville Invitational

By MATT RUDNITSKY
Daily Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Looking
up at the scoreboard after two
innings, the No. 6 Michigan soft-
ball team saw something it hadn't
seen in its first 24 games: the Wol-
verines were trailing at the end of
an inning.
Michigan fought back and
mounted a seventh-inning rally to
pull within one run, but the come-
back against Western Kentucky
on Sunday fell short, as the Hill-
toppers nabbed a 3-2 victory.
It was the Wolverines' first loss
of the season, capping off their
best start in history at 24-0.
Still, Michigan(25-1)wonthree
of its four games on the weekend
at the Louisville Invitational,
defeating both Western Kentucky
and Louisville in Saturday's dou-
bleheader, then the Cardinals
again on Sunday to recover from
its loss.
"This weekend was a very good
test for us," sophomore second
baseman Ashley Lane said. "Com-
ing back from spring break and
comingto play this tournament ...
it was a struggle.
"I'mnotgoingtolie,wewere all
tired, but we pushed through. We
made it count when we needed to,
and obviously we came up short
in the first game today, but we did
give it our all. It was definitely a
good test."
In the weekend's first game,
Louisville wasswithin striking dis-
tance as the game wound down.
Entering the top of the seventh,
Michigan was clinging to a 1-0
lead. But led by a two-RBI single
from senior first baseman Dorian

Shaw, the Wolverines put up three
runs on three hits, giving them a
4-0 lead.
Louisville finally put up a run
in the bottom of the seventh, but
it wasn't enough. The Cardinals
reached base 10 times - on nine
hits and one walk - but Michi-
gan senior pitcher Jordan Taylor
stayed calm under pressure, leav-
ing nine total runners on base.
After just 15 minutes of rest, the
Wolverines took on Western Ken-
tucky, dominating from the get-go
to earn a7-1 victory.
Michigan put up two runs in
the first and poured on five in the
second. The Hilltoppers decided
to walk the always-dangerous
Shaw to load the bases, but the
Wolverines made them pay,
knocking in all five runs after the
free pass.
Sophomore pitcher Stephanie
Speierman got the win, hurling
a complete game and carrying a
shutout into the sixth inning.
The next morning, the Wolver-
ines had the Hilltoppers nipping
at their heels. This time, Western
Kentucky seized control early and
never let up.
Hilltopper left-hander Mallorie
Sulaskie was magnificent, hold-
ing a Michigan team that averages
over seven runs per game to just
two runs on six hits.
Taylor pitched again for Michi-
gan, allowing Western Kentucky
to load the bases in the third
inning and ceded two runs. But
after that, Taylor went back to her
usual, unhittable form, but it was
too late.
Western Kentucky took a 2-0
lead into the sixth - extending it
to 3-0 in the seventh - and Michi-

gan couldn't get anything going at after she was the losing pitcher
the plate the entire game. against the Hilltoppers.
In the bottom of the seventh, "I expect that (Taylor will)
Lane slammed her ninth home needto dothatattimes,"Hutchins
run of the season - a two-run shot said. "Jordan alone can't win the
well over the left-field wall - but games for us, but she certainly has
that was all of the support Taylor to do her partand she came in and
got. did her part. That's all we need
"We gave them (the game), her to do."
really," Michigan coach Carol Lousiville put a scare into
Hutchins said. "We walked peo- Michigan on the final at bat with
ple, we hit people. But the bottom a 200-plus foot bomb to left field,
line is our offense didn't come but Sappingfield made the catch
through and give us any support. at the wall to end the game. And
"Jordan's not going to be per- despite losing its undefeated sea-
fect every game and we just didn't son, the team isn't discouraged.
have our A-game when it came "It's going to happen, that's
down to either side of the ball. So, obviously the game." Lane said.
I didn't think our approach was "We didn't seize opportunities
verygood today." - including myself - you know,
bases loaded. It happens."
The stars of the tournament
"T i w n were Speierman and Lane. Speier-
man pitched twelve innings, gave
was definitely a upjustone runsand eleven hits and
wRS d finiely recrded10 strikeo uts. Lane went
ood test." 5-for-12, with 9 RBI, including her
gOO eS ,-home run.
"That's somewhat unexpect-
ed," Lane said. "I've always been
To wrap up the tournament, apower hitter, but you know, nine
Michigan faced Louisville in a so far has been exciting for me,
rematch, with the unfamiliar personally."
prospect of needing to recover Next week in Fullerton, Calif.,
after a tough loss. the Wolverines will play five
An RBI-double in the fifth from games in three days, including
junior third baseman Amanda contests against No. 4 Arizona
Chidester gave Michigan a 1-0 and No. 8 Arizona State.
lead and that was all Michigan "We can't start defining our-
needed. selves by who we're playing,"
Speierman started the game Hutchins said. "We haven't done
and went five shutout innings to that yet and if they start doing
move to 12-0 on the season. She that now, they can expect to have
was stuck in a jam in the sixth ahard time. (But) it is going to be
inning with runners at the corners good competition, and I'd think
and nobody out, but Taylor came they're going to be excited about
on in relief just a couple hours it."

By MATT SLOVIN
Daily Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Short-
stop has been an unlucky posi-
tion this season for the No. 6
Michigan softball team.
First, junior Stephanie Kirk-
patrick underwent season-end-
ing knee surgery last week on a
recurring injury.,
Then, at the Louisville Soft-
ball Classic this weekend, a
screaming grounder took a nasty
bounce, clipping sophomore
Amy Knapp. Asked about the
status of Knapp's injury, Michi-
gan coach Carol Hutchins pro-
vided no comment.
Enter junior Amanda
Chidester, the Wolverines' jack-
of-all-trades. During Michigan's
weekend in the Bluegrass State,
she played three different posi-
tions, filling in wherever neces-
sary for any teammates ailing or
simply needing a rest.
With a batting average above
.400, Hutchins knows it's imper-
ative that 'Chiddy' remains
in the lineup, so she plugs
Chidester into different spots
on the field - catcher, third base
or shortstop - and is generally
pleased with the result.
Though Chidester's view
of the field may change dur-
ing a game, her mentality never
wavers.
"There's (multiple) positions
that I've played throughout my
entire life, so I just need to take
it for what it is and do my job,"
Chidester said.
And a loss against a medio-
cre Western Kentucky squad
over the weekend did nothing
to change that mentality. When
Michigan (25-1) travels to Cali-

fornia next weekend for the Judi
Garman Classic, the competition
will be the fiercest the Wolver-
ines have seen this season.
But for Hutchins, it's not so
much about the name on the
opponent's jersey as it is the
mentality of those in Maize and
Blue.
"We just need to compete,"
Hutchins said. "It's not about
the other teams."
Chidester knows there is no
one to blame after aloss - albeit
a rare one - but the team itself.
"We need to go out there with
a purpose every single time,"
Chidester said. "It's an eye-
opener for us."
"We need to go
out there with
a purpose every
single time."
Michigan may not be playing
with the same fire that it started
the season with, but Hutchins
won't tolerate any lackadaisical
efforts from her unit.
With No. 4 Arizona and No.
8 Arizona State awaiting this
weekend, the Wolverines will
have to return to that early-
season form if they want to have
success.
"As long as we're play-
ing together and we're doing
our part, our team is great,"
Chidester said. "When we tense
up ... we get down. But if we stay
positive and have alot of energy,
we'll be okay."

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