The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 7A
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'M' remembers late-season loss
Michigan's journey to
the NCAA Tourney
By MICHAEL LAURILA
Daily Sports Writer
When the Michigan women's
basketball team tips off against
Oklahoma in its NCAA Tourna-
ment first-round game on Sunday,
it will have been 4,018 days (10
years and 363 days to be exact)
since the Wolverines last danced.
In 2001, then-coach Sue
Guevara led Michigan to its
second-consecutive berth. The
Wolverines have been searching
for a chance to dance ever since.
The journey has been long. It's
seen many different faces, includ-
ing three coaches, and two differ-
ent athletic directors. Most teams
can detail their road to March
in a season but Michigan's road
to March is a bit longer and has
more than a few details.
Michigan women's basketball
B.K.B (before Kevin Borseth):
When Guevara arrived in Ann
Arbor in 1996, the Wolverines
hadn't had a date to the dance
since 1990 - the program's first-
ever bid. Shetook Michiganto the
NCAA Tournament in her second
season, only to suffer a first-round
loss to UCLA.
Following another first-round
loss to Stanford in 2000, the Wol-
verines got over the hump a year
later and defeated Virginia in the
opening round. It was only the
second time Michigan had ever
gone further than the first round
in the program's history - 1990
With three NCAA tournament
berths in four years, it seemed
Guevara had changed the atmo-
sphere of the women's program.
The Wolverines hadn't previously
been known as an elite program,
but Guevara had made them just
that - one of the Big Ten's best, a
team where NCAA Tournament
appearances were the norm.
But the wheels came off
the wagon the next two years.
Between 2002 and 2004, Guevara
compiled a 30-29 regular-season
record, and the team was 9-23 in
conference play. Guevara left the
program following an abysmal
2003 collapse in conference play.
Just as it had appeared that
Guevara had turned Michigan
into a program where an NCAA
Tournament berth was expected,
Cheryl Burnett, who was the next
coach to lead the Wolverines,
The Missouri native, who'd
brought Southwest Missouri
State to glory during her 15 years
there - earning 10 NCAA Tour-
nament berths and two Final
Four appearances - wanted to do
similar things for the Wolverines.
In her inaugural press confer-
ence, Burnett talked about how
proud she was to be the coach
of such a prestigious university
"where academics are the foun-
dation of athletics."
Not only did Burnett not find
similar success as Guevara at
Michigan, she barely found any at
all. After four seasons as Michi-
gan's coach, she'd compiled a
35-83 record and never took the
Wolverines to the postseason. She
abruptly retired from coaching
following the 2007 season.
The early Borseth years:
Borseth took over a program
that had suffered five consecutive
losing seasons and didn't seem to
be making any progress towards
achieving the success it had in the
in Big Ten play during Burnett's
four-year tenure, and the Wolver-
ines were considered one of the
weakest teams in the conference.
Borseth had a solid reputation as
a hard-nosed yet warm-hearted
coach, who'd experienced much
success at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
During his nine-year stint, he
took the Phoenix to seven NCAA
Tournaments and compiled a 216-
62 overall record.
A native of Bessemer, Mich.,
Borseth felt comfortable coming
back to Michigan to coach. He'd
previously coached for 11 seasons
at Michigan Tech from 1987-1998
and had experience recruiting
within the state and the Midwest.
After Burnett went 10-20 in her
final season, it seemed likely that
whoever took the reins would see
a similar losing record in their
opening season. But Borseth
made an immediate impact. The
Wolverines overachieved and fin-
ished the year at 19-13, advancing
all the way to the quarterfinals of
the WNIT. His predictions also
held true in his second season:
the second year was the toughest.
Michigan finished 10-20 on the
year and 3-15 in the Big Ten.
So close, but so far:
Following the atrocious 2008-
2009 season, 2009-2010 found
the Wolverines as the preseason
favorite to finish in the cellar of
the Big Ten. Borseth reiterated
the predictions he'd made during
his inaugural press conference
and the struggles of rebuilding a
Borseth's vision revealed itself
in 2010, as Michigan finished
17-13 following the Big Ten Tour-
nament. ESPN bracketologist
Charlie Creme had the Wolver-
ines as one of the last teams in the
NCAA Tournament before Selec-
But likely due to Michigan's
meek 8-10 Big Ten record and
sixth-place conference finish,
Creme's predictions turned out
faulty and the Wolverines found
themselves in the WNIT. The
team made a surprising run to the
semifinals, only to be-defeated at
the hands of Miami (Fla).
A year later, Michigan found
itself in a similar position late in
the season. The Wolverines went
into Selection Monday at 17-12,
with a 4-5 record against top-25
teams, and they beat ranked Ohio
State twice. Unlike 2010, Michi-
gan finished 10-6, en route to a
third-place finish in the confer-
ence, and the team felt it had done
enough to make its first NCAA
appearance since 2001.
Once again, Creme had the
Wolverines dancing and pegged
as a 10-seed - not even one of
the last four in. But Michigan
didn't receive a bid to dance and
settled for another WNIT berth.
The Wolverines played all of their
games on the road because of con-
struction to Crisler Arena, and in
doing so, suffered a first-round
loss to low-seeded Eastern Michi-
The Journey Ends:
Coming into this season in his
fifth year at the helm, Borseth
finally had four classes that were
his own recruiting concoctions.
The experienced roster, which
lost only one player to graduation,
looked ready to make it over the
hump and finally dance.
The Wolverines lost to Ohio
State in the second-round of the
Big Ten Tournament, but had an
RPI of 44. They felt they'd done
enough, once again But Creme,
who'd put the Wolverines into
the tournament the previous two
years in his predictions, had them
the second team out.
When the field of 66 was
announced this past Monday and
Michigan's name popped up as
an 11-seed in Norman, Okla., it
seemed that Borseth's plans since
his arrival had finally come to
"When our name came on that
screen, that room just explod-
ed," Borseth said following the
announcement. "The committee
has tough decisions to make, and
the last couple of years we weren't
on the positive end of that choice,
and this year we were. Whatever
the reason, I don't know, but I'm
glad we were."
It might have taken five years
to get the Wolverines to dance,
but they're there, and they're
looking to stay for the long haul.
As one of the team's leaders,
Boylan felt the team's frustration
about not being able to close out
games as a freshman and when
the team was snubbed by the
committee later in her career. But
she has finally been rewarded for
her determination and dedication
in her final season at Michigan.
In the same way that the
Michigan men's basketball team's
seniors Stu Douglass and Zach
Novak are the building blocks
for the current team, Boylan and
senior guard Carmen Reynolds
are the cornerstones for the Wol-
verines' present and future suc-
"Our program has changed so
much since coach Borseth came
here and (the seniors and I) were
a part of his recruiting class,"
Boylan said on Tuesday. "To be
able to leave our footprint on the
program means so much to us."
By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Writer
Jon Merrill was furious with
himself. The sophomore defense-
man hit his stick against the ice
after his late- NOTEBOOK
against Bowling Green cost the
Michigan hockey team the game.
Three weeks ago, the Wolver-
ines were still battling for first
place in the CCHA, and the loss to
last-place Bowling Green knocked
them out of the race. Merrill was
less than pleased.
Well, cheer up, Mr. Merrill.
It turns out that loss was a good
"It was big for us to really lose
to them," said senior forward
David Wohlberg. "I think in (that)
game when we lost to them, that
really opened our eyes to how
good of a team they were.
"Now we know what we have
to do to go and win against them
Michigan will play Bowling
Green - this year's Cinderella
team in the conference playoffs -
on Friday in the CCHA semifinals.
After defeating Lake Superior
State in the first round, the Fal-
cons shocked top-seeded Ferris
State in the quarterfinals.
With the rest of the CCHA
apparently sleeping on the Fal-
cons, some Michigan players have
taken to something seemingly
absurd:they're singingthe praises
of their loss.
"Even though that was a big
loss for us, it prepared us for every
series," said freshman forward
Alex Guptill. "I don't think we'd
do as well in the Notre Dame
series if we don't lose that game
against Bowling Green."
Bowling Green overcame a
three-goal deficit on Sunday
against the Bulldogs to win the
deciding game in overtime.
BLOCK TALK: A standard hock-
ey puck, shot at 90 mph, exerts a
Sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill had a crucial turnover late in Michigan's lo
force of 6557 newtons.
Given that you can under-
stand the difficulty in getting
hockey players to block shots.
The problem is, Michigan coach
Red Berenson knows that cham-
pionship teams block shots. So,
recently Berenson and the rest of
the coaching staff have begun a
First, it was the plastic pucks.
Freshman forward Phil Di
Giuseppe said the plastic pucks
appeared a month ago during
practice at Yost Ice Arena. They
were meant to ease the team in to
getting in front of pucks without
the risk of injury. The timing isn't
a coincidence. About a month ago,
Berenson spent part of his Valen-
tine's Day watching the Rangers
play the Bruins and was inspired.
"One night,, I was watch-
ing Carl (Hagelin) play with the
Rangers," Berenson said. "(Rang-
ers coach) John Tortorella, he
made it very clear, he said 'If you
don't block 'blank' shots, you don't
'blank' play. Period.' And that was
a message for the whole team.
And that's how I feel. I didn't like
blocking shots, but you can learn
how to do it."
According to Berenson, there
are three parts to blocking a shot:
skill, timing and will.
Some players have the skill.
Berenson lists senior forward
Luke Glendening, senior defen-
seman Greg Pateryn, sophomore
forward Derek DeBlois and junior
forward Kevin Lynch among the
team's best blockers.
Next, the timing: The plastic
pucks in practice have evolved to
regular pucks, and Michigan now
regularly runs a blocking drill
during practices. Two players
move the puck at the blue line, and
two other skaters have to block
the puck before it's put on net.
Finally, the will. A few weeks
ago, the team watched what fifth-
year senior goalie Shawn Hun-
wick called a "little highlight tape
of missed blocks that led to goals."
And Berenson has continued
to drive the message home. In
his post-game speech to his play-
ers after the Notre Dame series,
Berenson praised his shot block-
ers, later noting that Pateryn took
MARENEt t LCASuS/Dily
s to Bowling Green in late February.
a particularly painful shot off the
arm. And just in case that wasn't
enough, he also had a doozy of a
story up his sleeve.
"I told them the story of Al
Arbour," said Berenson, referring
to his former teammate on the St.
Louis Blues. "This was the days of
no helmets, and he wore glasses
during the games. And Bobby
Hull would come down the wing
- and Bobby Hull had the best
shot in the league - and he would
rear back and he would rip it. And
Al Arbour would go down with
the glasses on, and he would block
"Between periods, they would
take his shin pad off and they
would stitch up his shins ... And so
he'd go back out, and Hull would
come down again, and Arbour
would go down. And we would all
be on the bench just flinching for
him. And nobody would every say
a wrong word about Al Arbour.
"And so I'm telling them: if he
could block shots wearing glasses,
you could sure as hell block shots
wearing a full facemask and the
equipment you've got on."
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