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What Else is Blue Finishes The Fall

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With volleyball’s loss in the NCAA Tournament the fall season is over, but there is plenty to look forward to in winter.

UM Photography, R. Hart

At long last, the fall season is over, and we get a little break. After two months packed with non-rev conference play and tournament action, the winter break is upon us. While I encourage you to get out to Crisler for one of the two women’s basketball games before the new year, everything else is on a hiatus before very quickly gearing up. Hopefully for Hanukkah the Athletic Department finally gets us the baseball schedule.

This Week’s One Thing:

Women’s basketball v. Appalachian St., Sat Dec. 14, 3:30p

For the second straight week women’s basketball is really the only game in town. This one is significant because it is immediately after the men’s game v. Oregon, setting up an opportunity for a unique doubleheader. This game is free to get into with a men’s ticket, and my guess is that they will not ask people to leave the stadium between the games. If you’re going to the men’s game, just stay! As far as the actual game goes, I do not anticipate it being particularly close. App St. is 2-5, but is starting to get a little momentum with its wins coming in the last two games.

#24 Women’s Basketball

Last Week: 84-76 W (OT) v. Syracuse, 79-64 W v. Oakland

Upcoming: Sat Dec. 14, 3:30p v. App St., Sun Dec. 22, 1:30p v. #8 Florida St, Uncasville, CT, ACCN

Often in the past few years, it has felt like Michigan is a half step away from being a major program. Michigan has beaten the teams they were supposed to, but often stumbled in its biggest spots, losing to teams with more big-game experience. We saw that a few weeks ago when Michigan fell to a Notre Dame team that is itself struggling. It looked like it might happen again last Thursday, with Michigan down 9 with 6 minutes left, in a late tip-off game against Syracuse.

What happened next could set the tone for the whole rest of the season. All game, it seemed like Syracuse had a hole down low that Michigan was failing to exploit. To make its big run, Michigan finally found that hole, working the lead from 9 down to 3 on layups. Michigan played a devastating full-court press, with Naz Hillmon forcing a crucial turnover before Syracuse even got it out of their own half. The final gap was closed with Hillmon finding Amy Dilk then Kayla Robbins, again inside, for Michigan to take its first lead of the second half. Syracuse forced overtime by hitting two free throws with four seconds left.

Michigan absolutely dominated overtime, only allowing Syracuse 3 points in the first 4:30 of the extra period. They kept playing stifling defense, and kept taking shots right at the basket. It was a signature win in a season that threatened to hit conference play without one. The crowd got involved, the players egged Crisler on. Overall, it was one of the most fun Michigan sporting events I’ve ever attended.

Michigan takes on App St. Saturday, but also has a huge game at a neutral site a week from Sunday. Michigan will take on FSU at the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase, in Uncasville, CT at Mohegan Sun Casino. The Seminoles are excellent, and should remain a top 10 team. Given the neutral site, this is a real opportunity for Michigan to prove to the country that they’re for real.

Volleyball

Last Week: 3-0 W v. Northern Kentucky, 0-3 L @ Kentucky

Volleyball’s season ended last week with a loss to 8-seed Kentucky, on Kentucky’s home court. Both nights played out pretty much the same, with the clear better team winning. Michigan won all three sets on Friday night before getting swept on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan went on a handful of runs against Kentucky but just couldn’t sustain one for long enough to win a set.

The 21-11 finish might not be quite what many fans were hoping for, but the Wolverines improved throughout the season and ran into a juggernaut in the tournament. Michigan is a young team, and it’ll be fun to watch sophomore Paige Jones and freshman May Petrofsky improve over the offseason and come back next season ready to lead the team.

Swim/Dive

Last Week: Minnesota Invite, men and women each 2nd of 7

The Wolverines spent almost a week in Minneapolis, visiting the Gophers for the Minnesota invite. Each team ended their respective meets in second place. More importantly, many Wolverines earned automatic qualifying to the NCAA Championships by beating this year’s A Cut time, while many more put themselves in great position to quality for an at-large bid. Maggie McNeil will visit the Championships in four events as a freshman, while senior Jeremy Babinet qualified for two.

Swimming is off until after the new year.

#24 Wrestling

Last Week: Cliff Keen Vegas Invitational, 16th of 32

Wrestling closed 2019 by competing in Las Vegas, coming right in the middle of all teams in a very strong field, and fifth among Big Ten teams in attendance. Yet again the highlight of the tournament was Mason Parris. Parris continued his monster season by winning the heavyweight title. Parris has worked his way all the way up to #2 in the country in the individual heavyweight rankings. #1 is Penn State’s Anthony Cassar, who Michigan will not see in the regular season.

Women’s Gymnastics

Last Week: Michigan Exhibition, #1 of 4

Michigan welcomed all three Michigan MAC schools to Crisler Arena last weekend for a season-opening exhibition. Michigan came in first, followed by Central, Western, and Eastern in that order. The all around title was won by a freshman, Sierra Brooks, paced by a 9.925 on the uneven bars. Two other Wolverines made their debut, Gabby Wilson and Nicoletta Koulos. Natalie Wojcik shared the floor title with Denelle Pedrick from Central Michigan, at 9.900.

Men’s Gymnastics

Upcoming: Sat Dec. 14, 3p, Intrasquad Meet

Men’s gymnastics will open its season with an intrasquad meet. It will follow a traditional dual format, and will be men’s gymnastics’ only competition until mid-January. Michigan will host the NCAA Championships this year at Crisler, so a strong season could lead to a great ending at home.