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April 15, 2014 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-15

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 7

Club boxing wins first title -
rotation spot

Engineering junior Ahmad Sakallah and the Michigan club boxing team sent 15 people to the National Championship this year and earned the team title.

Program rebounds
from near death
sentence to capture
national crown
Daily Sports Writer
When you walk up the
wooden stairs of the Sports
Coliseum, you're introduced to
a room full of champions. The
second floor of the Coliseum
contains nine punching bags,
two makeshift rings and boxing
equipment with aged sweat
stains only rivaled by the stains
on the gnce-white wall nearby.
The second floor wasn't
meant to house champions, but
the Michigan Men's Boxing Club
doesn't care. As dusty photos of
past boxers look on, two dozen
boxers go through technique in
unison. Hooks, dips, jabs and
slips are accompanied by grunts
that could be heard from outside
in the parking lot.
As coaches egg them on, the
group progresses through more
and more complicated moves,
until the team is matching in
practice what it did in Miami
April 5. That day, five individual
out 19 other teams to win the
school's first-
ever boxing
championship. "J ren
After nearly ,
being kicked thinkin
off campus as
a club sport ... that's
three years heft
ago, the club
has fought
its way to
the forefront
of collegiate boxing. With
an energetic group and an
increasingly competitive
atmosphere, the team looks to
make success in the ring the
latest Michigan tradition.
Four years ago, Michigan
boxing was dead. A decade after
Shamael Haque became the
team's last individual national
champion, the program had
declined into a non-competitive
one; practices became little
more than a good workout.
With not enough competition,
the Athletic Department pulled
what little funding the team
received, leaving it hanging on
"Club sports need to
compete," said junior Kevin
Bosma, the team's vice
president. "Michigan wants to
see its name represented in a
positive light and see its teams
win with the block 'M', but
with boxing, the University got
nothing out of it.
"They pulled funding to
enact change. It took a couple
years and a ton of hard work,
but now we're representing the
school well."
After receiving the harsh
wake-up call from the
University, the Wolverines
began registering for more
tournaments. The team grew,

Daily Sports Writer
Three weeks ago, Michigan
coach Carol Hutchins came
out to get the softball from
freshman right-hander Megan
Betsa, and it appeared she had
closed the starting pitching
rotation down from three
players to two.
Betsa had given up three runs
on two hits and two walks, and
surrendered a leadoff home run
in the second. Just after the
ball cleared the fence, Hutchins
walked out to the circle.
One bad outing could
normally be overlooked, but not
with two experienced juniors
also in the mix. With left-
hander Haylie Wagner sporting
a sub-1.00 earned-run average
and an undefeated record, and
right-hander Sara Driesenga
regaining the form that sent
the Wolverines to the Women's
College World Series last year,
there wasn't room for Betsa in
the regular rotation.
"You could say that I was in a
little bit of a rut for a few games,"
Betsa said. "I think every pitcher
goes through it."
The following weekend,
Hutchins sat Betsa for all three
games, the first time any of the
three had missed a weekend all
In doing so, Hutchins
followed the motto of John
Wooden, whom she considers
one of the best coaches ever: The
bench is the best teacher.
"If you want to pitch, you've
got to pitch better," Hutchins
said. "I've got three pitchers, and
if you're not going to pitch well,
I'm going to put somebody else
in. ... We expect you to perform
and to be able to manage your
game, manage your confidence.
Those are all important - you're
not just a physical person. Your
confidence is important, and
you're expected to manage it."
Betsa got the message loud
and clear. The Monday after
the Penn State series, normally
the players' off day, she came
in on her own to clear her head
and work out the kinks in her
pitching. She started putting a
cutout of a batter at the plate to
simulate a game situation.
On the more mental side of
things, Hutchins gave her a
book to read - Ken Ravizza
and Tom Hanson's Heads-Up
Baseball: Playing the Game One
Pitch at a Time.
Two weeks later, after
regaining her rhythmin practice
and in a midweek game, the
McDonough, Ga. native found
herself back in the mix for
important games alongside
Wagner and Driesenga.
"I don't know what the point
of not throwing at Penn State
was, but I used it as fuel to my
fire," Betsa said. "I'm here, and
I'm supposed to be helping my
team, andthey'renotevengiving
me the opportunity. That's what
I used that as."
Since her early exit against
Indiana, Betsa has allowed only
one run in 1 innines and has

Triple Aces
Michigan's starting pitchers
1. Haylie Wagner
ERA: 0.95
Record: 19-0
Complete Games: 12
2. Sara Driesenga
ERA: 2.15
Record: 5-3
Complete Games: 4
3. Megan Betsa
ERA: 1.92
Record: 9-3
Complete Games: 7
gone 3-0. Her ERA is down to
1.82,good forthird intheBigTen
behind Wagner and Minnesota's
Sara Moulton.
Betsa against Penn State, she
would light a fire within the
freshman. And she couldn't have
been more right.
"Megan is a competitor - we
thought that when we recruited
her," Hutchins said. "I know she
wants to play, and I know she
wants to be good."
Betsa also credits an intense
practice routine, including
one drill in which the pitchers
repeatedly face hitters with the
bases loaded and a full count.
Hutchins' goal is to make
practice difficult so that the
game seems easy.
It certainly has looked easy
for Betsa lately. She has mixed
her various pitches well, keeping
the hitters off balance to the
tune of 26 strikeouts in her last
19 innings.
Her mentality has also
improved. Sunday against
Michigan State, Hutchins visited
the mound with two on and two
out in the first inning, and Betsa
struck out the next hitter. Later,
she induced two popups to get
out of a two-on, one-out jam in
the sixth.
. "Mentally, you could say I've
gotten a little bit tougher," Betsa
said. "Also, my preparation in
practice has been different,
and I've been taking different
approaches on my warmups and
beingmore focused andcarrying
what I do in the bullpen-into the
After the series against Penn
State, Hutchins started Betsa
in a low-pressure Wednesday
home game against Detroit,
which came in with a paltry
2-20 record. The result was a
no-hitter. Since then, Betsa has
gotten the nod in both Big Ten
series finales.
"You could say that Penn
State, when I didn't even get an
opportunity, kind of put (my
confidence) down," Betsa said.
"After I got over it and used it as
positive, it's definitely helping
that I'm getting in the game."
Hutchins preaches several
mottos to her team, one of
which, according to Betsa, is
"Tough times don't last, tough
people do."
Now, a month after handing
the ball to Hutchins in the
second inning, it appears Betsa
will last after all.

Engineering alum Andrew Sensoli qualified for the USIBA National Championship last year and finished third.

and so did its confidence. Last
year one boxer went to the
national championships, but
that didn't stop volunteer coach
Tony Sensoli from setting the
bar even higher. Walking into
this year's
first practice,
Sensoli told
.ember the team
they should
g, 'Damn have one
goal: Win
a pretty a national
,oa ,,' title.
goal."' "I
Tony, that's a pretty hefty
goal,' especially considering we
weren't really on the national
stage before," Bosma said. "We
tried to get everyone experience
early and some of the fights
didn't go so well, and I was
really doubting if we would be
able to compete on a national
The year progressed, but
Sensoli's goal still looked out
of reach. While younger boxers
caught on, others quit the team.
Club sports like boxing require
far more work than perks, and
many find they aren't up to the
"We really got on people who
weren't taking things seriously
and held people accountable
for sticking to our goals," said
freshman Yazan El-Baba. "Our
coaches emphasized the idea
that 'those who stay will be
champions,' which is huge in a
club sport because people don't
get any sort of compensation.
It's really just the will to win
that keeps them going, and you
could tell how passionate the
coaches were and that trickled
down to us."
With the United States
Intercollegiate Boxing
Association National
Championships approaching,
Michigan began to like its

chances. It was sending the
largest team to nationals,
and had a real shot at making
program history.
But a slew of injuries hurt
the team's chances. A ruptured
spleen, a broken wrist, a
concussion and a cracked
sternum bruised the team's ego
just days before the tournament.
"Most of these guys are new
to the sport, and many had
only had one or two fights, so
the team was already nervous,"
Bosma said. "All those injuries
right before the tournament
were sitting in their minds, and
it was very hard for us to calm
their nerves and figure out a
way to reinstill confidence in
In Miami, the nerves took

they could win it on their own
without us having to stay on
them to work hard. It was
awesome to watch."
Added Tony: "If you had
asked me even two weeks
ago if we were going to win
I would have said no way. It
was very emotional moment,
and it validates the effort that
everyone has put in this year to
achieve that goal."
Today, Michigan boxing is as
alive as ever. After four years of
creating a competitive culture,
their national championship
and months before their next
competition, almost the entire
team is still at practice. The nine
punching bags sway back-and-
forth as they are pummeled, the

a bow to
Staying in a
hostel with
justtwo rooms
and 23 people,
onlya5-0 start
relaxed the
the team
sent seven box
championship s
than any other
time the final b
El-Baba, juniors
Pete Herzog a
Alec Sensoli, Ti
crowned chan
Michigan the n
to win the tee
Bosma still reco
victory in the 21
the captain loo
team reached its
"They didn't
close- we were,
"I think they
a little bit, but
a recognition
everything the
rather than a sur
"They came1

jump ropes
skip as hard
rock plays on
"It validates the speakers,
and the red,
the effort that white and
blue rps
everyone has put bounce as
- boxers spar
in this year. in the nearby
years of
ers to Sunday's housing boxers who fail to win
late, five more it all, the stained walls and piles
team. By the now host national champions.
ell rang, Bosma, With a title under its belt and a
Khaled Abbas, young core returning next year
nd sophomore and plans for the women's team
ony's son, were to gain club status next year, the
npions, giving Michigan boxing program has
ecessary points crawled from afterthought to
am title. With champions.
vering from his Boxing dominance has
01-pound finals, become the latest Michigan
ked on as the tradition.
realize how For exclusive coverage of
" Bosma said.
were surprised all 27 varsity sports
it was more of
that they did Follow @theblockm on Twitter or
ny needed to check MichiganDaily.com
to believe that roughoutthe semesterfor a

Carol Hutchins helped Megan Betsa work her way back to being a starter.


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