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March 11, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 7

Wagner stays undefeated

By JAKE LOURIM
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan softball coach
Carol Hutchins said before the
season that she'd rotate her three
pitchers until one stood out.
But with the pitching tapering,
Hutchins might be forced to go
with the hot hand.
Junior left-hander Haylie
Wagner is that hot hand at
the moment, and the Big Ten
Pitcher of the Year's numbers
have stolen the show: 63.1
innings, 37 hits allowed,
eight earned runs allowed, 55
strikeouts and a 0.88 ERA.
She's started eight games and
gone the distance in seven of
them. Last weekend, Wagner
earned Michigan's only two
wins with a pair of complete-
game four-hitters against No. 7
Arizona and Texas.
"I felt very comfortable out

there," Wagner said over the to do. Everybody has a part.
weekend. "I knew that if I did my "The pitcher can't win the
job pitching, my defense would game - they can only keep us
pick me up and in the game.
do their part." I thought she
Wagner's did a great
velocity is just "The pitcher job and was
a touch slower very one-pitch
than junior can't w in the focused this
right-hander weekend."
Driesenga or game - they Meanwhile,
right-hander Driesenga,
Betsa's, buthercan only keep us who pitched
execution has . all three
been nearly in the game." games in the
flawless. Women's
Wagner has College World
been working Series last
the strike zone and letting her year, has started with an 0-3
defense, which has a.984 fielding record with a 3.44 ERA and
percentage, do the work. hasn't finished any of her six
"She did her part," Hutchins starts. Betsa has tapered off a bit
said over the weekend. "That's as well, posting a 4.42 ERA on
what we ask the hitters to do, the Spring Break trip.
that's what we ask our pitchers to The Judi Garman Classic
do, that's what we ask our defense in Fullerton, Calif this past

weekend was the first time
Wagner earned a significantly
greater portion of innings.
Prior to last week, each pitcher
had started three games, and
Wagner had thrown just 7.1 more
innings than Betsa and 10.2 more
than Driesenga. Now, Wagner
has 63.1 innings to Betsa's 45 and
Driesenga's 38.2.
After Betsa started against
No. 6 Washington and Houston
and Driesenga pitched against
No. 10 Arizona State - all losses
- Wagner got the nod in the final
two games of the tournament
and won both. Even as the team
- especially thebats - struggled,
Wagner was dominant.
"Sometimes it's hard, but I
do know that I have my team
out there to help me with that,"
Wagner said. "You have to find
the one-pitch focus even if you
are struggling. You have to clear
your mind of everything else,
and you have to focus on that
pitch. If I am struggling, I have
to step back and remind myself
of that."
Early in the season, Wagner
often had the luxury of pitching
with big leads, most notably
in a 15-1, 5-inning victory over
Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 15.
But as thehbats have cooled down,
scoring three runs or fewer in
nine of the past 11 games, she
hasn't heen so lucky.
Still, she won a close contest
against No. 5 Kentucky on
Feb. 22, 3-0, and worked the
eighth and ninth innings to
help beat Kent State, 1-0. Then,
in Fullerton, she outdueled
Arizona, 3-0, and Texas, 3-1.
Wagner still must compete
with a reigning First Team All-
Big Ten pitcher in Driesenga and
a hard-throwing freshman in
Betsa, so the pitching rotation is
still just that - a rotation.
But if Wagner keeps carrying
the staff, it may not be much of
one for too long.

ALLISON FRRAND/sly~
Freshman guard Siera Thompson holds the program record for 3-pointers.
Mitchell plays for
first time in career

PAULmH ERMAN/Daly
Junior left-hander Haylie Wagner has ihrown a complete game is sores ot her eitht games started this season.

Why losing was necessary

record is the standard
barometer by which
team is measured. But
for the No. 20 Michigan water
polo team, the record portrays
only one part of the progress
that has
been made,
It started
Jan. 18,
when the
Wolverines
jumped in
the pool at
Canham BRAD
Natatorium WHIPPLE
only to
sink at the
hands of one
of their toughest opponents,
Indiana. The captains tried
to surface a wrecked ship, but
took one blow after another.
From this point on, it
looked like there'd only be a
downward spiral.
Michigan's crew consists
of 19 underclassmen and five
upperclassmen. With 12 ranked
opponents in the Wolverines'
first 14 games, the younger
players were forced to adjust
rapidly to the rigorous pace
of collegiate water polo, and
pulled off three wins against
ranked teams.
As if Michigan wasn't
struggling enough with a
team strung together with
eight freshmen, it was dealt
a blow when senior attacker
Hathaway Moore broke her
thumb two weeks into the
season, stunting the team's
chances of growing at all.
The confidence seemed
absent, the future looked
dismal and the inexperience
seemed to doom the
Wolverines from the start -
seven straight losses through
January and early February.
But Michigan needed to
suffer these early season losses
to understand how to win now
when it mattered most.
The losing woes that plagued
the first two months of the
season were simply Michigan's
cleansing stage, extinguishing
all the problems that persisted

for half of the season. It was
a time to take a step back and
reevaluate the direction of the
season.
"It's easy to forget that you
need to get better when you
win games, and it's easier to
remember you need to get
better when you lose games,"
Anderson said. "That's what
this team has really taken
to heart because of how we
started."
In this case, you had to lose
some to win some.
The embarrassingly meek
offensive effort that defined
the beginning of the season
needed to be addressed. The
late-game deficits that were too
large to rebound from and the
shots that just weren't hitting
the back of the net. Over the
first seven games of the season,
the Wolverines netted 50 total
goals compared to 90 during
the last seven.
ifaMichien (0-2 Colleoiate

Division, 10-10 overall) were
to go a game without several
players earning hat tricks,
it would be unusual. Now
it's just a norm, even for the
underclassmen.
There was a problem with
the team's chemistry - an
experiment gone wrong.
With the lack of effective
communication during games,
disorganization ensued and
whatever goal the Wolverines
had for this season didn't look
attainable. Though they are a
team, they didn't play like one.
When Moore returned two
weeks ago, she brought back
the team-first mindset that
had been absent. But the words
of a team captain wouldn't
be enough - the Wolverines
used Spring Break to train
with the Canadian national
team in Montreal. Rather than
spending time on the beach,
the players spent time solely
with each other learnine

single group rather than for an
individual.
Midway through February,
it looked like Michigan was
on track for its first-ever
losing season. The Wolverines
entered March 3-10 on the
season, and for one moment, it
looked as if they would not rise
above .500 again.
Now Michigan is riding a
seven-game win streak that
evened out its record. Up next
is the Wolverine Invitational,
a home event the Wolverines
haven't lost a game in since 2007.
The losses in the beginning
of the season were about
steering a broken ship back on
a track.
They were about piecing
together a team that has
finished first 11 times at the
CWPA Western Division
Championship.
They were about making a
12th title a reality.
They were about more than
a record.

By SHANNON LYNCH
Daily Sports Writer
Sophomore forward Kelsey
Mitchell made her first-ever
appearance in a Michigan
uniform in Thursday's first-
round Big Ten
Tournament NOTEBOOK
game against
Indiana. The Detroit native tore
her anterior cruciate ligament
before her freshman season and
suffered a foot fracture during
preseason workouts this year.
Her debut came on the
biggest of stages - Bankers
Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis,
home of the NBA's Indiana
Pacers. Michigan coach Kim
Barnes Arico didn't warn her
that she'd be making her debut
in the game's final minutes,
either.
"I was quite surprised," said
Mitchell last Thursday. "To
actually step out on the court
wearing a Michigan uniform
was truly a blessing."
Leading by more than 20 with
two minutes remaining, Barnes
Arico also rewarded fifth-year
senior forward Kendra Seto,
sophomore forward Rebecca
Lyttle and freshman guard
Danielle Williams with playing
time alongside Mitchell against
the Hoosiers.
Thompson on track:
Suffice to say there have been
high expectations for guard
Siera Thompson since Day One
of this season, and she hasn't
disappointed. The freshman has
played in all 31 games this year
and has drained at least one
3-pointer in every contest.
She also holds the freshman
record in the program for most
3-pointers in a season with
69, an award she earned back
in January against Nebraska.
Amy Johnson, one of the top
three leading freshman scorers
in Michigan history, set the
previous record with 49 during
the 1993-94 season.

In addition, Thompson
has 411 points this year, and
averaged almost 14 points per
game. She fell just 11 points short
of taking over the third place
spot for most points scored by
a freshman, and she was fewer
than 50 points from taking
the second-place record from
Michigan women's basketball
legend Diane Dietz.
Dietz was the leading scorer
for the Wolverines in her four
seasons at Michigan (1978-
82), and she holds the all-time
scoring record with 2,066
points. Thompson has put
herself in a position to stand
with some of the all-time greats
in her program if she continues
to have the shooting success
she's had this season.
Fouls stunt Wolverines:
Staying out of foul trouble early
in games has been a majorrhurdle
the Wolverines have struggled
to overcome this season.
Michigan doesn't boast a very
big lineup - only two starters,
Goree and senior forward Val
Driscoll, stand over six feet tall
- and it has a relatively short
bench. Nicole Elmblad is 5-foot-
11, and losing any of them to
foul trouble has proven to be a
major blow to the Wolverine's
defense. The issue arose it the
Big Ten semifinal loss to No. 19
Michigan State last Friday.
"When Cyesha picked up her
second foul, they kept their big
lineup in," Barnes Arico said
after the game. "We had four
guards in and (Michigan State)
really took advantage of our
zone, and they got the ball inside
and that's when they made their
run at the end of the first half."
Elmblad fouled out of
the game with four minutes
remaining, while Driscoll and
Goree finished with four and
three, respectively. The loss
to the Spartans highlighted
how fragile the defense can be
without the height and power of
Michigan's tallest starters.

FINALLY WARMING
UP OUT THERE.
WANT TO TAKE A DIP IN THE POOL
TO YOUR LEFT??
YOU CAN'T! IT'S NOT REAL! IT'S
JUST A PICTURE OF A POOL. GOT YA
GOOD, DIDN'T WE?
FOLLOW ON TWITTER @THEBLOCKM

The Michigan water polo team has won itslast seven games in which they have scored 90 goals to move to .500.

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