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April 08, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-08

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 7
Grading the Season: Worthy of the honor roll

By LEV FACHER by way of Trinity Community
Daily Sports Writer College in Texas, Smith was
a relative unknown entering
To everyone's surprise, the the season. Her talent was
Michigan women's basketball obvious, and it became quickly
team's window of contention apparent that it would translate
in the Big Ten opened a year to on-court results even in an
early. Led by second-year entirely new and unfamiliar
coach Kim Barnes Arico, the setting. Smith did a good job
Wolverines earned their third of scoring early in the season
consecutive 20-win season, before her less experienced
made serious noise against big- teammates settled into their
time opponents like Michigan roles and allowing freshman
State and LSU, and laid an guard Siera Thompson to
encouraging foundation for the shoulder the scoring load from
future. The most impressive the backcourt late in the season
part: it all happened in a year once the offense grew into its
that began with some close own. When she played with an
to the program questioning equivalent amount of energy on
Michigan's ability to win more the defensive end, Smith proved
than a handful of Big Ten games. to be a game-changer - she
With the season over and the finished tied for the team lead
Wolverines in recovery mode, in steals with 45. The bottom
the Daily grades Michigan's line is that Smith is a dynamic
seven main contributors and offensive player who did an
hands out a few awards. excellent job facilitating the
Wolverines' offense, and she'll
Junior forward Cyesha continue to grow throughout
Goree: As a sophomore, Goree the rest of her career.
averaged a measly 2.7 minutes Grade:A-
per game. But going into her
junior year, she knew that a Freshman guard Siera
team with no experience in the Thompson:Callher a freshman,
post would count on her perhaps but Thompson played like an
more than anybody else, and upperclassman in her first
responded in kind. Goree year. She drained a 3-pointer in
dropped 20 pounds over the each of Michigan's 34 games,
offseason, and it took no time jockeyed with Smith for the title
at all for the results to show. of leading scorer throughout the
Thirteen double-doubles later, second half of the campaign and
it's hard to imagine what else shot.419 overall frombeyondthe
she could have done to improve arc. After scoring 13.2 points per
personally, and the fact that she game in her freshman campaign,
now owns Michigan's single- Thompson is already on pace to
season rebounding record become one of Michigan's all-
speaks for itself. time leading scorers. With the
Grade:A+ Wolverines' offensive core all
slated to return next season,
Junior guard Shannon Thompson could become even
Smith: After transferring to more prolific as a scorer and
Michigan from North Carolina, add to her game as a distributor
'M'to go for 16th
straight vs.WMU

- she also averaged just shy of
three assists per game.
Grade:A
Sophomore guard Madison
Ristovski: Only on a technicality
is the sophomore guard not, by
consensus, one of the country's
best3-pointshooters. Ristovski's
54 makes on 116 attempts were
plenty for the Wolverines but
not enough to qualify for the
national standings, which
require an average of two made
3-pointers per game. Ristovski
ran into issues with inopportune
turnovers here and there, but all
in all, her clutch presence as a
sharpshooter was invaluable,
and it's easy to see her growing
into a force to be reckoned with.
Grade: B+
Junior forward Nicole
Elmblad: While her role may
have been somewhat low-
profile, Michigan's season
wouldn't have been half as
successful without Elmblad
quietly directing traffic from the
small forward position. Never
animated and rarely the center
of attention, the Academic All-
American quietly averaged 11.4
points and 7.6 rebounds and
held down the fort as Michigan's
only experienced returner.
Grade: A

PATRICK BARRON/Daily
The Michigan women's basketball team exceeded expectations this season in what was thought to be a transition year.

forward. Rakers doesn't yet have
the skill set to contribute on the
level of Thompson, though to be
fair, the bar Thompson set for
freshmen is hardly one that even
an above-average first-year player

saw her develop a real presence
in the post, a beautiful mid-
range jumper and a penchant
for picking up blocks on the
defensive end. While Goree
typicallyovershadowed Driscoll

year for the Wolverines. It was
an honest prediction, which
makes the masterpiece Barnes
Arico spun in 2013-14 all the
more impressive. She's starting
to play with her recruits and her

Freshman guard Paige could be expected to reach. at the forward position, the talent, and it's clear that Barnes
Rakers: Given her status as Grade: B senior's accomplishments Arico has a vision for turning
a role player (Rakers averaged are among the team's most Michigan into a destination
less than 14 minutes per game), SeniorforwardValDriscoll: notable, and are certainly worth program. If this season is any
it's hard to evaluate her ona full Driscoll is an interesting case, celebrating. indication, she's headed in the
season. While she lacked the in that she was essentially a Grade:B+ right direction.
poise that made Thompson so freshman experience-wise Grade:A
impressive, Rakers was good heading into her senior season. Head coach Kim Barnes
for the occasional dramatic Scoring-wise, she seemed lost in Arico: Barnes Arico claimed at Most Valuable Player: Goree
3-pointer. She didn't play enough the early going, but underwent the beginning of the season that Freshman of the Year:
to be consistently impactful, but a remarkable transformation she fully expected the 2013- Thompson
will be a useful piece moving midway through the season that 14 campaign to be a transition Most Improved: Driscoll

By JUSTIN MEYER
Daily Sports Writer
It's been a rough year for
the Western Michigan softball
team. The Broncos are 11-23 on
the season
and have been WesteM
struggling to
find production Michigan at
from the circle. Michigan
That Matchup:
shouldn't figure W. Michigan
to change much 11-23;
when they Michigan 29-6
travel to Ann When:
Arbor Tuesday. Wednesday
Michigan 6 P.M.
softball coach Where:
Carol Hutchins Alumni Field
and her
fifth-ranked'
Wolverines don't take games
against local competition lightly.
These games allow Michigan to
tinker with still-unrefined parts
of its game.
"When you get down to the
end of the season, you don't really
think about what happened to you
in February," Hutchins said on
Sunday. "It's all about May. We
play for May."
The biggest of those concerns -
the depth of the pitching rotation
has been largely laid to rest after
last weekend's Ohio State series.
Freshman right-hander Megan
Betsa, who struggled with nerves
in her first home game of the
season against Indiana, has since
allowed only one hit in her last
two games.
The turnaround has its roots in
a midweek game. Hutchins didn't
start Betsa during a weekend
series against lowly Penn State
on March28-29, instead optingto
instill confidenceinthe freshman
during a Wednesday game
against Detroit. Betsa responded
by throwing a no-hitter, and has
looked confident and poised ever
since.
It's exactly that kind of
development that Hutchins looks
for in these games against lesser
competition. The atmosphere
allows her to watch how the rest
of the Wolverines perform under
pressure. Michigan (9-0 Big .
Ten, 29-6 overall) even tries to
create these stressful scenarios in
practice, using full-count drills to
challenge both the pitchers and

the hitters.
But game scenarios don't just
build confidence, they demand it.
"You give me a player with
confidence and they're worth
way more than anybody who's
just their physical self," Hutchins
said. "That confidence makes you
twice the player."
Western Michigan (2-4
MAC, 11-23) won't threaten the
Wolverines often on Tuesday. The
Broncos have just two starters
hitting above .300 and both of
their pitchers are struggling to
the tune of losing records and
earned-run-averages over 3.5.
Still, the matchup against
the Broncos lets Michigan see
the in-game intensity they can't
recreate in practice.
The hope is that the more
in-game experience the
Wolverines get, the more cool
and collected they will be when it
counts. The team has come a long
way since February, but it's hard
not to think about Michigan's
late-innings collapse against
No. 6 Florida in the first game of
the year. It's exactly the kind of
scenario Hutchins is working to
eradicate before the postseason.
Since thatgame,the Wolverines
have improved their pitching
and made strides defensively,
but perhaps the biggest leap has
come at the plate in the form of
senior designated player Taylor
Hasselbach.
Hasselbach had never started
more than six games in a season,
but is now an integral part of
Michigan's lineup.
"I approached this season and I
said to myself, 'I have no regrets,'
" Hasselbach said. "I was just
waiting for my opportunity, and
once I got my opportunity to be
in the lineup permanently, it just
flowed from there.
"I'm just lost for words because
I didn't have any expectations
coming in. I feel extremely
blessed tobe in the position Iam."
Hasselbach racked up eight
RBI in Sunday's doubleheader
against Ohio State and has quickly
grown into an offensive force.
Against Western Michigan,
Michigan will look for yet another
player to emerge from its lineup as
Hasselbach and Betsahave, and in
the process, take one step closer
to being ready for May.

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