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What Else Is Blue Hits the Winter Home Stretch

The Big Ten Championships are getting close in track, wrestling, gymnastics, and women’s basketball, and are already here in women’s swimming.

A. Thomason, Michigan Photography

Michigan was mostly on the road last week and will be mostly on the road this week, but a couple notable women’s lacrosse matches will be in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, Michigan women’s swimming is already winning medals at the Big Ten Championships, and men’s tennis has two more big matches to see if they’ll continue their recent hot streak.

This week’s one thing:

#14 Women’s lacrosse v. #18 Colorado, Sun Feb. 23, Noon

During the first weekend of the year where it’s comfortable to be outside, Michigan will welcome Colorado to U-M Lacrosse stadium. While Michigan is just 1-3 all-time against Colorado at the varsity level, that 1 is very significant: it is the win at Colorado last year that proved their early season win streak wasn’t a fluke, and helped provide the spark that led to what was eventually a 14-0 start to the season. This is the return trip of that home-and-home, and should provide an entertaining contest. Colorado is 0-1 after a one-goal loss to Florida, and will play Harvard on Friday before coming to Ann Arbor.

TV Schedule:

Sat Feb. 22:

7:30p: Women’s swimming, Big Ten Championships, BTN (Tape-Delay)

Sun Feb. 23:

5p: Women’s basketball v. MSU, BTN

Women’s Basketball (16-9, 7-7 B1G)

Last Week: 66-60 L v. #19 Northwestern, 62-41 L v. Rutgers, 80-59 W v. Illinois

Upcoming: Sun Feb. 23, 5p @ MSU

The women’s basketball team suffered a down-and-up week, starting with a tough loss to Northwestern at Crisler. Michigan led for parts of this game, but ultimately the six point deficit can be attributed to an injury to Naz Hillmon that kept her out for much of the game. Michigan put in a valiant effort without their leading scorer, but were left without a primary creator down the stretch. Akienreh Johnson did everything she could to make up the gap, scoring 15, but ultimately it wasn’t enough for an already-depleted Wolverine roster. Michigan did not score for the final 3 minutes, and lost one of their last games against a ranked opponent. Hillmon played for 29 on Sunday against Rutgers and the Wolverines just got stomped.

They did pick up a good win against Illinois on Wednesday night, with Johnson scoring 22 points in 39 minutes, and Hillmon and Amy Dilk contributing 15 each. Illinois actually led 42-41 at the half, but the Illini scored just 17 points in the second half, while the Wolverines came out of the locker room angry and went on a tear. While picking up one of the other two wins this week would have gotten the Wolverines moving towards tournament safety, the Illinois win at least keeps them on the right side of the bubble.

Michigan will head to East Lansing, looking to pick up their first win at Breslin since 2015. This would be the season to do it, the Spartans are 6-8 in Big Ten play and even a depleted Wolverine squad can more than match their talent.

#5 Women’s Swimming and Diving (6-0, 4-0 B1G)

Last Week: First Chance Meet

This Week: Big Ten Championships, Iowa City, IA: Wed Feb. 19-Sat Feb. 22

After a strong exhibition at the First Chance Meet, the Wolverine women headed to Iowa City for the Big Ten Championships. With just two relay events on Wednesday night the Wolverines are already off to a great start, with a win in the 200-yard medley relay and third place in the 800-yard freestyle relay. As a result of the two podium finishes, Michigan will start Day 2 at first place overall. Sophomore Maggie MacNeil will be the first seed in several events: the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle, and the 100-yard butterfly. Other Wolverine 1-seeds include Miranda Tucker in the 100-yard breaststroke and Sierra Schmidt in the 1650-yard freestyle, as well as two more relay teams.

#3 Men’s Swimming and Diving (6-1, 4-1 B1G)

Last Week: First Chance Meet

After participating in the First Chance Meet, the men are off this week. The men’s Big Ten Championships will take place next weekend, in Bloomington.

#4 Men’s Tennis (10-2)

Last Week: 4-3 W v. #13 Texas A&M, 4-2 W v. #5 Texas, 4-3 L v. #1 USC

Upcoming: Fri Feb. 21, 7p ET @ Oklahoma State, Sun Feb. 23, 3p @ Notre Dame

Men’s tennis came just short of pulling off possibly the biggest upset in all of tennis this season, but still left the ITA Indoor National Team Championships with two huge wins in their back pocket and a new gaudy ranking. Michigan headed to Madison unseeded in the tournament but the #13 team in the country, and defeated two teams that were higher ranked on their way to the semi-finals. They first came up against Texas A&M, ranked #7 at the time. Michigan took the doubles point, but through singles Texas A&M was able to tie it up 3-3. Ondrej Styler took a 6-4 third set win to get the upset for the Wolverines. Against a top-5 Texas squad Michigan lost the doubles point, but dominated singles for the win. Nick Beaty, Styler, and Andrew Fenty took straight set wins, and Connor Johnston sealed the victory with a 6-1 third set.

The USC match was as close as they come. Against the #1 team in the country, Michigan took the doubles point, and it looked like Michigan would cruise to an upset after it took five of the six first sets. Johnston and Fenty took quick singles wins and Michigan was up 3-1, needing to win just one of the final three matches to win. Unfortunately, that is not what came to pass. Beaty and Patrick Maloney took third set defeats, leaving just Styler on the court looking for the win. Styler pushed it to a third set tiebreaker, and with the match going to its absolute limits the Trojans came away victorious. It was a devastating loss, but a final four appearance in the tournament and two huge wins exceeded expectations and rocketed Michigan into the top 5.

Michigan will now head on the road for the weekend. First they’ll face 7-2 Oklahoma State team. The Cowboy losses are to Ole Miss and Columbia, both teams Michigan has beaten. Michigan then heads to South Bend looking to avoid the upset against 3-4 Notre Dame.

#16 Women’s Tennis (4-4)

Last Week: 4-1 L v. #9 Virginia

Women’s tennis continued their road woes, as a 4-1 loss to Virginia moved them to 1-4 away from the Varsity Tennis Center. None of them are necessarily bad losses as they are largely to ranked teams, but a win at Virginia would have helped make up for a difficult weekend at the Indoor Nationals last weekend. Chiara Lommer was the only wolverine to win her singles match in Virginia.

Michigan will now have a week off.

#2 Men’s Gymnastics (2-0)

Last Week: 416.500-408.900 W v. #3 Oklahoma

Upcoming: Winter Cup Challenge, Las Vegas, NV: Thu Feb. 20 4p ET, Sat Feb 22. 10p ET

Men’s gymnastics welcomed the #2 team in the country to Cliff Keen and put on a show, taking down Oklahoma and taking their spot in the rankings. Michigan added three points to their highest total of the season, and won five events including the all-around. Michigan never trailed, though Oklahoma did keep it close for most of the day. Oklahoma’s floor score exceeded Michigan’s, but Michigan made up for it on the pommel horse to lead after the first two rotations. Paul Juda tied for the floor lead, while Mack Lasker won the pommel. Cameron Bock would go on to win the rings and parallel bars, while Juda’s 14.400 on the high bar handed him the event and all-around win. Michigan took the big win, and Juda took National Gymnast of the Week and Rookie of the Week, as well as the corresponding Big Ten honors.

Juda and Bock will now head to the lights of Las Vegas to compete in the Winter Cup Challenge. This event will feature both collegiate and senior competitors, and will help determine who joins the U.S. Senior National Team.

#9 Women’s Gymnastics (7-0, 5-0 B1G)

Last Week: 196.800-195.975 W @ Iowa

This Week: Sat Feb. 22, 7p, Elevate the Stage, Toledo, OH

Women’s gymnastics maintained their high standards in Iowa this weekend, remaining undefeated. Michigan won each event, with Sierra Brooks getting a share of two wins. Brooks opened with a 9.900 on bars to win that event, before splitting valut with Abby Heiskell and Abby Brenner at 9.875. Gabby Wilson won the floor at 9.900, and Maddie Mariani closed out the day with a 9.900 and the beam win. It was the first event title of Mariani’s career.

Michigan will now close its conference regular season at Elevate the Stage, where they will compete against Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan State, and Penn State. A particular challenge will be Minnesota, currently ranked #7.

#21 Wrestling (6-6, 5-4 B1G)

Last Week: 25-15 L @ #4 Nebraska, 20-12 L @ #12 Wisconsin

Upcoming: Fri Feb. 21, 7p @ Edinboro

Michigan took two tough losses last week, both on the road against ranked teams. Crucially, Mason Parris continued his undefeated season, including a pin in Nebraska. Will Lewan also won his bouts in both meets.

Michigan will close its regular season at Edinboro. The match will feature no ranked-on-ranked matchups, and will serve as a tune-up for the Big Ten Championships.

Men’s Lacrosse (2-1)

Last Week: 12-9 L @ Hofstra, 16-8 W v. Canisius

Upcoming: Sat Feb. 22, 1p v. Merrimack

Men’s lacrosse took its first loss of the season against Hofstra, a narrow 12-9 contest. After trading goals through the first quarter, Michigan opened the second on a 3-0 run to take a 6-3 lead. Hofstra matched that with a run of their own, and with the score tied 6-6 at halftime the Wolverines would never lead again. The crucial stretch was late in the third and early in the fourth, when five unanswered goals made the score 12-7. Michigan closed the gap but it wasn’t enough. Clay Bryce scored a hat trick, while Josh Zawada and Alex Buckanavage added two each.

Michigan fared much better in a Tuesday matinee against Canisius. Kevin Mack scored a first quarter hat trick, part of an opening run of six straight goals by the Wolverines. Clay Bryce would end up with six goals and Mack five, and Michigan won 16-8. Bryce leads the team with 12 goals.

Michigan will welcome Merrimack this Saturday. While Merrimack is 0-3, they are the defending D2 National Champions, and are in their first year as a D1 program. All of their losses have been narrow affairs, and I would not be surprised if they gave the Wolverines a run for their money.

#14 Women’s Lacrosse (1-1)

Last Week: 10-8 L v. #12 USC

Upcoming: Fri Feb 21, 3p v. Louisville, Sun Feb. 23, Noon v. #18 Colorado

Another sport, another discussion of a close Wolverine loss to USC. Women’s lacrosse headed out west for their second consecutive road game, and came up just short against a ranked USC. This was a back and forth match, with five ties. Michigan held two separate two goal leads. The first was midway through the first half when Lilly Grass made it 4-2, but by halftime it was 4-4. Caitlin Muir would later make it 7-5, but that would be the last Wolverine lead. USC scored 5 out of the final 6 goals to win 10-8. Michigan did have a chance to tie as it was 9-8 for much of the final two minutes, but a USC goal with just 26 seconds left acted as the dagger.

Michigan will play at U-M Lacrosse Stadium for the first time all season, and they’ll do it twice. First they’ll host 2-1 Louisville, and then welcome Colorado, as discussed above.

#10 Water Polo (5-6)

Upcoming: Barbara Kalbus Invitational, Irvine, CA: Fri Feb. 21, 6p ET v. #7 Cal, Sat Feb. 22, v. #2 UCLA/#21 Pacific, two more TBD

Water polo will head out to UC Irvine to participate in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. While most of these early season invitationals are just a series of games, this one is a true tournament. There is a consolation bracket, so Michigan is guaranteed four games no matter what. Michigan opens against Cal, who they have already lost to twice this season.

Track and Field

Last Week: Music City Invitational, Nashville, TN (Vanderbilt), Tyson Invitational, Fayetteville, AR (Arkansas), Iowa State Classic, Ames, IA (Iowa State)

Upcoming: Fri Feb. 21, 4p, Silverston Invitational, Ann Arbor, MI

Sat Feb. 22, 11:40a, Alex Wilson Invitational, South Bend, IN

Track was all over the country last week, with several Wolverines pulling away individual event wins, especially in field events. In Nashville, Manning Planter won the weight throw, while Courtney Jacobsen broke her own school record in that event and came in sixth. In Arkansas, Emma Lane, Jade Harrison, Julia Hall and Chloe Foster broke the school record in the 4x400 relay at 3:36.70. And in Ames, Devin Myerer ran a 13:56.80 5000m, finishing seventh and running the ninth-fastest time in school history.

Michigan will close its indoor regular season with two meets. At home they will welcome a series of MAC and other Michigan schools, before travelling to South Bend for a final tune-up before the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

Women’s Golf

Last Week: IJGA Collegiate Invitational, Guadalajara, MX: 11th of 14

Women’s golf finished 11th in its season opening event in Guadalajara, Mexico. Michigan posted its best round of the weekend on the final day, with a 291 pushing them into a tie with Cal and ahead of Clemson and Tennessee. Ashley Kim finished eighth overall at 3 under par, who posted 70 and 69 rounds, though a final day 74 was her only above-par round of the weekend. A third round 70 from Hailey Borja was the next lowest round of the weekend.

Michigan will now take a break, before returning for the Hurricane Invitational in early March.