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March 22, 2018 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily

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6A — Thursday, March 22, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Walk-ons take in March Madness

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — C.J.

Baird was enamored with his


continually scanned his locker
up and down, jimmied his feet
through his white Jordans and
sent Snapchats of the covered
nameplate beside his own name
at the top — it belonged to Los
Angeles Clippers forward Danilo
Gallinari. The scene was an image
custom-fit to a childhood dream.


the typical starters, Baird and

teammates — Luke Wilson, Rico
Ozuna-Harrison and Naji Ozeir —
stood up from their quiet corner
and surveyed the room to find the
lockers of Lou Williams and Tobias
Harris, two of their numerous NBA


weren’t surrounded by cameras
and voice recorders. The meager
foot traffic by their lockers wasn’t
a surprise, though — they aren’t
going to see the floor for Thursday’s
Sweet Sixteen matchup against
Texas A&M. Even for their first
road trip of the season last weekend
in Wichita, the NCAA Tournament
aura of InTrust Bank Arena wasn’t
the most jaw-dropping spot to be —
Ozeir justified it as having a role in
“the bigger picture.”


practicing for a Tournament game
under the storied Staples Center
rafters, the newly-travelled walk-
ons are understanding what it
feels like to hit the road and get
star treatment as members of one
of the highest ranked teams in the
country. You can’t blame them for
having trouble taking it in stride.

“We’re all in awe and taking

everything in and they’re just like
‘Yeah, this is what you do when
you travel,’ ” Baird said. “It makes
us feel more welcome and more


word here. The freshmen admit

not travelling with the team
throughout the season can lead to
an isolated nature. They didn’t even
know until just after the Big Ten
Tournament that they would get
to come with the team for March
Madness. Ozuna-Harrison even
said some of his teammates had
to calm his nerves before the first

Their dedication, of course,

doesn’t go unnoticed on the team.
Coach John Beilein lightheartedly
labels them and junior forward
Brent Hibbitts the “Fab Five” that
compose the scout team. With an
upcoming date against a lengthy,
athletic Aggies team that boasts
three starters 6-foot-9 or taller, it
is up to the scout team — none of
which are taller than 6-foot-8 — to
do what they’ve done all season and
emulate their opponent.

“It’s definitely a bigger role,

mimicking the other person,” Ozeir
said. “Just trying to do what they
do. They’re a much bigger team
so the emphasis is guarding post

Added Ozuna-Harrison: “You

always know exactly what the
other team does. Being a guard,
and we’re not playing a team that
has guards that take a whole lot of
shots, we know to just give it to the
post. Stuff like that, we know our

With a difficult opponent for the

most high-stakes challenge of the
season, they do the dirty work no
one else wants to do. It’s a position
vital to the team’s success, and
another reason to celebrate their
presence at the tournament.

“Everybody was excited (they

were coming),” said senior guard
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
“They put so much into it, as much
as we do. They don’t get any credit
for it and you don’t see what they
do. They definitely deserve to come
on the trips and definitely deserve
everything that we get.”

Off the court, Michigan hardly

gives itself time for other activities.
In “the spirit of staying focused,”
according to Baird, their time is
spent playing Xbox or eating meals
together. Time for yourself isn’t
really an option on a trip like this,
which is why at least two players
volunteer every trip to bring a game
console. The walk-ons were always
familiar with this ritual — another
small gesture that makes the trip
that much more special for them.

Unlike Wilson and Ozeir, Baird

and Ozuna-Harrison were added
to the roster after the beginning of
the University’s fall semester. But
needless to say, it didn’t matter how
long they had been with the team.
Baird’s disbelief in getting this far
echoed the group’s mentality.

“Never could’ve dreamed,” he

said, “of anything this good.”


Naji Ozeir (right) doesn’t usually travel to Michigan’s away games.

Daily Sports Editor

Michigan beats CMU, 5-0, in home opener

First it was a trickle. Then it was

a flood.

For the No. 17 Michigan softball

team (23-6 overall), the first five
innings of Wednesday’s home
opener against Central Michigan
— an eventual 5-0 win — seemed
to be the same story ad nauseam. A
hard-hit ball that found a glove. An
infield single erased on a double
play. A shot that looked destined
for the seats, only to die on the
warning track.

Rinse. Repeat.
Until the floodgates opened.
At first, the game was a pitcher’s

duel between senior right-hander
Tera Blanco and the Chippewas’
Taylor Weaver. Both pitchers
faced the minimum through three
innings. The lone baserunner for
either team — a swinging-bunt
single by sophomore outfielder


promptly erased when junior
catcher Katie Alexander lined into
a double play.

“They’re just extra pumped,

they’re extra excited to be at home,
and I worry about the distraction,”

Hutchins. “ … I thought we were
anxious a little bit at the plate,
trying too hard and we weren’t
very relaxed.”

The fourth inning provided

some hope for the Wolverines.
Junior second baseman Faith
Canfield led off with a walk and
junior centerfielder Natalie Peters
followed with an infield single.
Blanco stepped up to the plate and
launched a long, arcing fly ball.
The crowd held their collective
breaths, but the wind — a cold,
gusty breeze that blew straight in
for the majority of the game — had
other plans. What could have been
a game-defining home run was
instead a routine flyout.

And in the fifth, Michigan’s

pitching — which had kept it in the
game up to that point — sprung a
leak. Hutchins, wanting to get all
her pitchers a look in front of the
home crowd, removed a dealing

Blanco for freshman left-hander
Meghan Beaubien. But Beaubien
wasn’t herself. First she gave up a
leadoff double. Then she stopped
throwing strikes.

Though Beaubien got a quick

out on a popped-up bunt, she got
to a 3-0 count on the next hitter
before forcing a groundout. With
the following two batters, she
wasn’t as lucky. Both drew walks.

Hutchins had enough. She

called Blanco back
into the circle.



kind of felt off,”

“And I think she
let that affect her
a little bit. … She
never really got
a chance to get


came in pumped up. She had been
lights-out all game and this time
was no different. The next batter
hit a chopper right to Canfield.
Inning over.

And just as Blanco had flipped

the switch off for the Chippewas,
she flipped it on for the Wolverines.

With runners on first and

second in the bottom of the sixth,
Blanco launched a ball deep to
center. This time, there was no
leather in sight as the ball dropped

for a double that made the score


needed that one hit that started
everything,” Canfield said. “It
gave everyone confidence and I
mean … one leads to another and
another and another.”

Indeed, one hit led to another

(a two-RBI double by sophomore
third baseman Madison Uden) and
another (a single from freshman

player Lou Allan


and another (a
double down the
left-field line to
move runners to
second and third
with only one

By the time

the parade had

ended, the Wolverines had scored
five runs, and suddenly a tense
duel was anything but.

“It was just a matter of time,”

Blanco said. “ … We came through
at the end.”

Ten pitches from freshman

right-hander Sarah Schaefer later,
the side was retired. The game
was over.

And the struggles that had

seemed so potent until the sixth
had been washed away.


Tera Blanco pitched well in Michigan’s 5-0 win over Central Michigan.

Daily Sports Writer

“It was just a

matter of time.

We came through

at the end.”

In women’s athletics, Rosen has seen transformative changes

In observance of Women’s History

Month, The Daily launches a series
aimed at telling the stories of female
athletes, coaches and teams at the
University from the perspective of
the female sports writers on staff.
Daily sports editor Paige Voeffray
continues the series with this story.

Mark Rosen is a man living in a

woman’s world. When he started
his career, he was faced with a
choice: stick to what was familiar
and coach men’s sports, or venture
to the women’s game. Choosing the
latter, he has seen first-hand the
struggles female college athletes
face: Lack of crowds, lack of
funding and lack of respect.

Many others would have stuck

with the men.

But Rosen grew fond of coaching

women. He’s been the Michigan
women’s volleyball coach for 19
seasons now.

“I think they’re way more

coachable,” said Rosen. “They’re
way more willing to listen. There
are some personality differences
that I think are really unique that
I really like the side of women’s
personalities. They really take
to heart wanting feedback and
wanting to get better.

“I think you spend more time

with women trying to convince
them that they’re better than they
think they are, and guys you spend
more time convincing them they’re
not as good as they think they are.”

Before his tenure as a coach,

Rosen never would have dreamed
of being a women’s volleyball coach,
let alone a volleyball coach at all.

After growing up an avid hockey


Rosen knew that he wanted to
coach when his playing days were
over. Throughout high school
and the beginning of college,
Rosen realized that his hobby of
playing volleyball was something
much more than that. So, he took
his talents to California State
University at Northridge to try his
hand as a Division I varsity men’s
volleyball player.

Combining his desire to be

a coach and natural volleyball
IQ, Rosen became a student of
the game and, after 26 years of

coaching, it has surely paid off.


experience was back where it all
began — his former high school.
He never worried that he wouldn’t
understand the different playing
styles or how to coach women,
because he was too busy simply
trying to learn how to coach,


high school volleyball to pursue
a coaching career at a more

ventured to the men’s game. In
part, it has to do with the number
of programs — there are over 1,000
NCAA women’s volleyball teams,
while the men have yet to break
100. But even though Rosen was a
player himself, there’s something
about the women’s game that
speaks to him.

“I like the women’s game more

because it’s more rally oriented
and more defensively oriented,
whereas the men’s is more just raw
power,” Rosen said. “I don’t even
like watching the guys’ games. …

It’s entertaining, but to me it’s not
as tactically intriguing because it’s
just more physical — set the best
player, he gets up and gets a kill,
rally over.

“In the women’s game, I think

there’s way more tactics and way
more adjustments you can make
and things you can do to tactically
be involved in the game.”

The style of play is truly the only

difference Rosen



In fact, he believes
thinking of them

problem of its own.


of the day, his
athletes want to
compete and win.
He disregards the
characterization that there will be
more drama, and social lives are
more important than the sport just
because they’re women. Rosen was
a player himself, and he can recall
plenty of drama and “guys that

wanted to beat the heck out of each
other” on his team.

It’s not specific to women’s

sports. It’s specific to being an

Just because Rosen views men’s

and women’s sports the same,

Rosen has had a front row seat to
the struggles women’s sports have

been through, but
he credits those
that came before
him for why his

is at the level it is




before she was the
winningest coach
in NCAA softball

history, when she held a second job
as the athletic director’s assistant.
Sure, she was the head softball
coach at a huge public school, but
she would spend her evenings
raking her own fields while she

watched an entire grounds crew
take care of the baseball field. But
the dues she paid paved the way
for the next generation.

He recalls Bev Plocki applied

for three gymnastics coaching
jobs. One for a Division III school,
one for a Division II school and
the other at Michigan. She didn’t
get the other jobs and has been the
Wolverines’ coach for 29 seasons.
It is suspected she was offered
the job because they thought she
wouldn’t make waves, but instead
they got a coach who hasn’t been
afraid to speak her mind and
has been a champion for women

With the introduction of Title

IX, women’s programs began
establishing themselves across
the country. Progress was slow,
but it was happening. As each new
generation sees powerful women
athletes, the stigma surrounding
them will disappear. Rosen still
has friends that are shocked to
hear how much time his athletes
spend in the weight room, on the
track and with a dietician.

His athletes are all in and are

committed to being the best, and
it’s time people started seeing that.

“My mom is a super competitive

person, but she couldn’t be an
athlete because there was no
opportunity for her. I didn’t look
at her when I was a kid as, ‘Hey
there’s my mom, the athlete and


said. “Well then there’s my wife
(associate head volleyball coach
Leisa Rosen), who was an All-
American, she was a scholarship
athlete, she was a Big Ten Player
of the Year, she was the Ohio State
Athlete of the Year, she’s in the
Hall of Fame.

“My kids are so much more in

tune with and proud of her athletic
career than mine. … They’ll brag
about Leisa, and think about how
cool that is that we have two guys
that see their mom as an athlete.”

Women’s sports have come so

far in such a short amount of time,
and Rosen only sees their success
increasing in the future.

“The men’s sports have had a

75-year head start. Michigan really
didn’t take women’s athletics
seriously really until the mid-80s,
maybe the late-80s. They’ve only
been really committed to it for
30-40 years versus the men side’s
been (committed for) 150 years,”
Rosen said. “Are we catching
up and are we making moves? I
absolutely think so.

“It’s so exciting to see where

volleyball’s going and I try to
project ahead and think, ‘What
about 25 years from now? What
will it be like?’ I honestly believe
there will be pro leagues, I
honestly believe there will be
more and more sold-out venues
and we will be making revenue.
That’s totally conceivable to me.
(Men’s athletics) just had a head

The future of volleyball is still

unknown, just as the future of
women’s sports is unknown. But
if Rosen has any control of the
future, change is coming. He sees
dedicated fans that are hooked on
volleyball, he sees packed arenas
for games and he sees an increase
in quality female coaches.


sees a future without stigma
surrounding women’s athletics.


Michigan coach Mark Rosen (second from right) has coached the Wolverines for 19 seasons in a long and illustrious career.


Daily Sports Editor

“In the women’s

game, I think

there’s way more

tactics ...”

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