don't we all
The World Baseball Cup (WBC), the baseball alternative to the World Cup, only smaller, with less professionals, and without an Olympic counterpart began today with the initial pool play. One Michigan player made the roster of the 16 teams, catcher Chris Berset.
Berset is the starting catcher for the Great Britain national team, although I have yet to peg his connection to the isles. In day one against Japan, the team favored to win Group D, Berset went 2 for 4 with 2 runs, a walk, and a strikeout. Berset actually reached base in four of his five plate appearances, as one was a fielder's choice. Chris also was thrown out at one point trying to score.
The final score was Japan 9, Great Britain 7. This being the first game of pool play, GB will need to win one of their next two games to stay alive.
The Brits will take on Nicaragua next, tomorrow in Zagreb, Croatia at a listed time of 10:30 local (Central European Time), or around 4:30am ET (if my math is correct). There are stat tracking services mentioned at the schedule page for the WBC, but according to BaseballGB, a blog covering the Great Britain baseball team, they are absolutely unreliable.They play host Croatia the following day at 16:30 local, 10:30am ET (again, if math is correct).
A final note, all the names Chris has been listed under during the WBC:
- Christ Berset
- Chrisopher Berset
- Christopher D. Berset (forgot where I saw this, but it does exist)
- Chris Berset
All of this has made for fun times trying to track Chris with google precision. I'll try to keep up with him as the WBC goes on. I've been waiting on the minor league seasons to wrap up to get a solid update on the alumni as well. Look for that next weekend.
UPDATE: I also found the GB Baseball blog, which had some interesting pictures of the field/scoreboard.
Things got busy with the jihad and my real life getting in the way. Let's take a quick look at what happened the last few days and what is on tap this weekend.
Oh yeah, there's a home football game this weekend. Not much else is going on around campus as almost every sport is on the road on Friday or Saturday. Only X-Country has a home meet, which isn't anywhere near campus.
#22 Men's soccer opened their season with a loss at #15 Notre Dame on Tuesday. The final score was 0-5, an obvious disappointment for the team. To make up for it, look at the ridiculous-looking Domer on the right (picture from MGoBlue). They will look to get their first official W of the season tonight at Drake (8p ET). They will visit Valparasio on Sunday at 4p ET.
The ladies won their first game of the season last night (Thursday) against Central Michigan by the score of 4-3. Four different Wolverines scored on the night, including Jackie Carron who also notched an assist. The offensive explosion is described by Coach Ryan as the product of moving Megan Bowery back to forward instead of a back:
We have worked on those set plays non-stop since preseason and the biggest difference today was having Amanda Bowery up front instead of at the back. When we have her in the back and she has to come up, when they get the ball she has to run all the way back again. We don't want to make her do that all day or she is going to be dead. She didn't get a goal tonight, but she is the kind of player that teams can't deal with. They can't deal with the ball to her, so the next ball comes to someone else. We got a lot of second-chance goals today and I think Amanda's presence on free kicks is tremendous.Good to hear. Highlights from the game via MGoBlue found here. Michigan will host Eastern Michigan on Sunday at 2pm.
The #19 field hockey team struggled last weekend in the ACC/BigTen tournament, which wasn't a huge surprise. Michigan was facing two of the top 5 teams in the country while being in a bit of a rebuilding phase. They will attempt to get their first win of the season tonight at 6pm ET in College Park, MD as they take on Temple. Temple is 1-1 coming into this match, and Michigan is the favorite in this game. The team will then take on #1 Maryland on Maryland's home field Sunday at 1pm ET. I'm personally hoping to keep it respectable (bulletin board material, anyone?).
Following up the greatest win in Michigan volleyball history, Michigan took down #22 Kansas State on Sunday. Michigan came out looking a little sluggish, and they had a flashback of Michigan 2008 in the second set, but they held on to win 3-1. The second set was full of small errors that kept K-State in the game, ultimately allowing the Wildcats to take the set. Juliana Paz was ridiculous though, registering 19 kills and 6 aces. Michigan ended up setting a record for aces in the AVCA/Runza Tournament with 13. Sloane Donhoff was also an unsung hero with a new career high of 19 digs.
The team will be headed to Xavier this weekend to take on Tennessee (being played now), Xavier (Saturday at 5:30p), and Notre Dame (Sunday at noon).
The above link will take you to Friday's CiL hosted by former Wolverine player Erin Moore. She had a great story earlier about beating Tennesse:
As Rich mentioned earlier...one of my all time favorite Michigan moments took place at Tennessee one preseason. We were down 0-2 and getting the third set handed to us when Nicole Poquette ran a two and landed directly on the crease in the floor. It one of those jig saw like wooden floors that pieces together. The floor breaks. We can't play on it. Tenn. has to retape a court on the other side of the floor and we end up winning the match 3-2.Cross Country
Both Men and Women's cross country started the season today (Friday). Woo! Go! Run fast! If I find out more about them, I'll let you know. They just published their schedule this week, and how much about cross country can there really be to investigate? We'll find out, I guess.
UPDATE I (Friday 5:50p): Volleyball wins 3-1. Team effort lead by Paz again. Zimmerman lead the team in digs with 17, but also got in her 42 assists.
UPDATE II (Friday 9p): Field Hockey beats temple 5-1. A second half explosion saw the Wolverines take 14 shots, netting all 5 goals in that period. Three of the goals came off penalty corner plays.
The women's cross country faced off with Eastern Michigan in a non-scoring meet. Michigan placed 8 in the top ten finishers including Danielle Tauro finishing the 5k in 18 minutes and one half second. Coach Mike McGuire:
Danielle [Tauro] ran pretty controlled, and she's going to be our leader this year. We had one fall off the group a little bit, but for the first week I thought it was pretty solid. We've established the benchmark, and we've just got to get better from here.
He would also mention that 4 of the top 8 were freshmen, who are going to need to show up big for Michigan this year.
UPDATE III (Friday10:30p): Men's soccer won 2-1 over Drake. Michigan was outshot 15-7 but came out ahead in the stat that matters - goals. Justin Meram and Chase Tennnant (winner in the 87th minute) both scored for Michigan.
Men's cross country wrapped up their 6k Michigan Open tonight as well. It appears all of the competitors were UM athletes, but some ran as "unattached," including the race winner Lex Williams (18 minutes, 55.3 seconds). Coach Ron Warhurst:
We had a great camp. The kids ran 90 miles a week, so they're tired. But we had to put a uniform on them today. It's really just to get them started. I was really impressed with their going out in 5:24 first mile and then running 5:00, especially up the long hill. [...] Lex [Williams] pushed it. The good thing is they went with it. I was pleased with the freshmen. They ran together. It was a great start, and I'm happy with what I saw.
UPDATE IV (Sunday 10am):
Other than the football game, only one sport was in action on Saturday - the volleyball team against Xavier. The team started slow falling behind 1-5 to open the first set, but were able to tie it back up. Unfortunately, they lost the lead again, and lost their first "first set" of the season by a score of 24-26. The second set also started with a run from Xavier, but this time just 0-3. Michigan would respond though, eventually taking a 5 point lead in the set, ultimately winning 25-23. The third, anchored by a 9-0 run, and fourth sets were much more dominate for Michigan, winning 25-21 and 25-13 respectively.
Juliana Paz had 19 kills and a .302 hitting percentage, Alex Hunt had 12 kills and a team high 3 service aces.
Michigan faces Notre Dame at noon ET today for the tournament championship.
For the last few years, Michigan has been building a name for themselves in volleyball. It wasn't too long ago that Michigan was always a bottom wrung team. Under the tutelage of Coach Mark Rosen, Michigan has scraped its way to respectful. Friday, it took the next step.
In front of a packed house of 5,772 in Omaha, NE, just an hour away from the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, the Wolverines took on the #3 Cornhuskers in the Runza/AVCA Challenge, the top tournament in the college volleyball regular season. This game was going to be tough; Nebraska has dominated Michigan in 3 games, sweeping Michigan in 3 games each time. The Cornhuskers have only lost once ever in the Qwest Center. Nebraska was coming off yet another Final Four appearance, knocking Michigan out in the same stadium during the Sweet 16 round.
But Michigan came out looking to match the effort of the 2007 season opener against Hawaii in Hawaii. They wanted to take out the crowd early. They wanted to get into the heads of the younger Husker lineup. They did just that. Michigan came out strong early. Juliana Paz and Alex Hunt were putting tremendous pressure on the Huskers front line. Megan Bower and Courtney Fletcher, who wasn't even slated to start until the last minute, were strong on the front, affording Michigan plenty of opportunities for easy passes. Everything clicked. [Full recap after the jump]
Three sports are in action this weekend as the volleyball and field hockey teams join the women's soccer in the official season.
Women's soccer will be starting things off with a Friday night visit to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UW-M is hosting a "Milwaukee Cup" series where Michigan will face off with the home team tonight (Friday, 8p ET) and Marquette on Sunday (2p ET). Rain is in the forecast, but the teams will play through.
UW-M is currently 0-0-2 with two 0-0 ties with Northwestern and Wisconsin. Both of those BigTen teams are picked to finish better than Michigan in the coaches' preseason poll. The historic series between Michigan and UW-M has Michigan ahead with one outright win and a loss by penalty kicks in the 2006 NCAA tournament. UW-M will be tough to beat at home where they haven't lost since 2007, but if Michigan can play solid defense, they could pull the upset.
Marquette should be a more manageable game for the Wolverines as they are not a very high scoring team themselves. Marquette likes to spread the ball around, but none of last years starters managed more than 3 goals over the course of the season.
The ACC/BigTen Challenge starts Saturday at Iowa City, IA as the Wolverines take on #4 North Carolina at 3p ET. The team will also play on Sunday against #2 Wake Forest. Michigan's going to have a heck of a time trying to upset either team. Unlike the basketball version of the challenge, teams aren't necessarily matched up by rank. In this case, Michigan will be lucky to squeak out a win.
For more on the field hockey team, check out the season preview.
Juliana Paz says bring on Nebraska
Volleyball has the national spot light, or at least as national as CBS College Sports. The Wolverines take on Nebraska tonight at 9:30pm ET and Kansas State tomorrow at 7pm ET. This is a big moment for the women's volleyball team as they want to prove themselves out of the gate. MGoBlue's SID will have a CiL liveblog going for both games, and I encourage MGoBloggers with or without access to the game stop in and discuss.
See our Volleyball Season Preview here.
Also, anyone who may be able to get (a) torrent(s) of the game(s), I'd +1 you forever.
Update (Friday 7:50p): While watching the Minnesota/K-State match, I can already see that our game is going to be a VERY pro-Nebraska announcing. I've seen 5 clips of CornHuskers in the stands in the last 20 minutes. But one interesting nugget has also come out during those breaks, Nebraska has 8 players in their lineup that have no college experience. If Michigan can take advantage of that inexperience, it would be huge.
K-State is playing pretty sloppy. Their ball handling is very sporadic. I can't get a good read on Minnesota yet. Their MB is nailing the 0-sets really well, but she hasn't been blocking well at all. Half way through set two, I don't think Minnesota has registered a block. K-State is having trouble with the slide to the right. I don't know if Bower will be able to place as well as this Minnesota RS.
Minnesota just went up 2-0 on them 25-19, 25-16. I'm liking our chances for tomorrow already.
Update II (Friday 9:30p): KSU made me eat my words as the 3rd and 4th they played awesome and even forced a 5th. Their outside hitter really got into a groove at the net and at the serve. Perhaps the first two sets were just nervous energy.
Due to the 5 set game, Michigan's starting time is now looking like 10p ET
Update III (Saturday 3:55p): Soccer was blown out in the 2nd half for a final 0-6 loss. Ouch. Field Hockey just started the 2nd half. It's 0-0 in the 45th minute (out of 70), but Michigan is being outshot 7-1.
Update IV (Saturday 5:25p): Field Hockey jumped ahead 1-0 but gave up 2 goals in the last 15 minutes to drop their first game of the season. Michigan took only 2 shots, both on goal, both by Meridith Way. By contrast, UNC took 21 shots, 12 were on goal, by 9 different TarHeels.
Continuing our preseason looks at Olympic sports, aka non-revenue, today we look at the #16 ranked* women's volleyball team. The volleyball team tips off on CBS College Sports later this week, as they face off in the Runza/AVCA Showcase, the premiere early season tournament in NCAA volleyball. Michigan opens with #3 Nebraska, who is virtually hosting event in one hour from campus in Omaha, NE, at 9:30pm (EDT). The second game for the Wolverines will be against #22 Kansas State on Saturday at 7pm (EDT), yet again on CBS College Sports. Tune in and cheer on your Wolverines. And yes, there is a hype video. And it is awesome.
If you're in the Omaha area, you can get tickets for individual matches for $16.50 (plus whatever surcharges ticketmaster adds on if you go that route), or $28 (again, possible extra ticketmaster charges) for a two day pass. And yes, they can charge that amount that close to Lincoln, where volleyball is almost as big as football.
The volleyball team became a varsity sport in 1973 as part of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the women's sports association prior to the NCAA sanctioning women's sports. As the NCAA pretends AIAW and all it's statistics don't exist, Michigan volleyball's overall record is broken down into different categories. In the AIAW, Michigan compiled a record of 148-120-7 (.553) including games against 2 year schools and Canadian schools. Since joining the NCAA, Michigan has compiled a record of 412-417 (.497) against 4-year US schools only. If you throw in the smaller schools, Michigan has a 574-552-7 (.510) record.
Michigan has 11 post season appearances, including 9 NCAA tournaments in the last 12 seasons. Eight of those NCAA appearances came under the direction of current coach Mark Rosen(pictured below and right). Rosen is starting his 11th year at Michigan, which ties him with Sandy Vong (pictured above), Michigan's first ever volleyball coach, for the longest tenure among Michigan volleyball coaches. In Rosen's time, he's amassed a 189-132 (.589), but has never had a team finish higher than 5th in conference. Despite the conference record, Michigan has made it to the Sweet 16 in the past season the last two years.
The 2008 season was expected to be a rebuilding year for the Wolverines. They lost the Michigan all time leader in kills Katie Bruzdzinski, all time blocks leader Lyndsay Miller, and all time digs leader Stesha Selsky. That's some considerable loses. Despite the loss of such all time greats, Michigan also returned a few very strong players in setting Lexi Zimmerman, middle blocker Beth Karpiak, defensive specialist turned libero Kerry Hance, right side hitter Megan Bower, and outside hitter Veronica Rood. Karpiak was as dominant as they come out of the BigTen and Zimmerman came into the season as one of the conferences best setters.
Michigan would start the season hot with a 13-0 run including the BigTen opener at Ohio State. Things were going well – then, the reality of the BigTen season kicked in. Michigan went 12-8 over the conference season tied for the second highest in Wolverine BigTen history. In individual games, Michigan went 44-15 on the year, which is damn impressive. Michigan went 9-3 in matches going 3 sets, 11-6 in matches lasting 4 sets, and 0-3 in full five set matches. This was a big step forward in BigTen volleyball for program as Michigan finished 5th in conference.
Michigan ultimately went on to the NCAA tournament to upset Kentucky and Saint Louis to reach the Sweet 16 where they ran into perennial power Nebraska. Michigan finished the year 27-9, the best season record (by percentage) in the history of the program.
This Season's Players
The Wolverines only lose two players from last year's squad in Kerry Hance and Beth Karpiak. Expectations are high and rightfully so. Michigan returns the league's top setting Lexi Zimmerman. Zimmerman made the Honorable Mention list for All American as a freshman in 2007 and made the Second Team All American in 2008. She is the unsung star of the team. Her 2008 season saw her garner 11.37 assists, 1.37 kills and 2.65 digs per set. Her assist rate was second in the conference to only Penn State's Alisha Glass.
Zimmerman's two top targets will be outside hitter Juliana Paz and left side hitter Alex Hunt. Paz, a senior, lead the the team with 3.31 kills last year with some outstanding power in her hits. The native Brazilian also ranked second on the team in service aces last season with 33. Hunt is a left handed sophomore. As a freshman, she registered 243 kills, good for fourth on the team. Hunt was named to the Freshman All-BigTen team for her efforts and joined the US Junior National team.
On the right side, Megan Bower will be returning after finishing last season with 282 kills – third most on the team. Bower offers both power and a little bit of extra height at 6"-1' to help with blocking. Also returning on the right side is Cassie Petoskey. Petoskey is a native of Ann Arbor, going to Pioneer High School and comes from a long line of Michigan athletes. Her father lettered in wrestling, her grandfather in football, and her great uncle in 3 different sports. Even her brother plays for the lacrosse team. Cassie is as tough as they come, she even wrestled in middle school. She'll see more playing time this year than the last couple.
In the middle, the loss of Beth Karpiak is huge, but we have a couple good options returning. Red shirt sophomore Karlee Bruck really came on strong last year as the second middle blocker in Michigan's rotation. Last year, she finished with 13 solo blocks, second only to Karpiak, but she also lead the team with 90 block assists. Her hitting percentage was also pretty good at .278, but there is definitely room for improvement. Middle blockers generally have the highest hitting percentages on the team as they are generally a misdirection play.
Also rotating into the middle this year will be Veronica Rood. Rood is a converted outside hitter. As a junior, she didn't see that much time on the court, but her height at 6-1 should give her a little bit of an edge on blocking. I also wouldn't be surprised to see her being a bit more of a free swinger in the middle as compared to Bruck.
In the back court, Michigan returns Sloane Donhoff and Maggie Busch. Donhoff will be making the move to libero to start the season. Last year, as a freshman, Sloane was immediately put into a position to become the primary defensive specialist on the team. She finished the year with 321 digs, tied for third most on the team. Donhoff was also a very productive server, knocking in 43 service aces, the most on the team and second most in the BigTen. Busch, a junior, saw time in 120 different sets last season, but never for very long. She registered only 42 digs and 28 service aces over the whole season.
Michigan faces a tough schedule right out of the gate this year. Michigan faces the #3 and #22 teams in the nation this weekend in the American Volleyball Coaches Association tournament in Omaha, NE. This will be the eighth time in fifteen years that Michigan opens with a top 15 opponent. In all, Michigan will play 6 different teams ranked in the AVCA preseason poll and another three also receiving votes.
After the first weekend, the rest of Michigan's non-conference schedule shouldn't be too difficult. Tennessee is the biggest name on the list, but they are only in the receiving votes category of the current preseason poll. Heading into BigTen play, one would expect Michigan to have at least a 10-3 record, but even that might be a slight disappointment.
The conference season will be a bit tougher. The BigTen is a big volleyball conference. Penn State is the obvious favorite as they have not lost a game since September of 2007. They also return 4 All Americans and 10 letter winners. Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota are also projected to be strong this year. Michigan has not won a game in Madison, WI in over 16 years. Even Michigan State has a strong team.
Looking at the schedule, I think Michigan could start the BigTen season 4-4. Each week has one very winnable game and one that could be extremely tough. In Michigan's favor, though, is the 4 game home stand from November 13th to November 20th. This stretch will help Michigan lessen any possible gaps that may form in the standings, setting up a season finale with Penn State that could potentially mean something. That might be a pretty lofty goal (challenging Penn State for the conference title), but it's not totally out of the idea either.
If you haven't been out to Cliff Keen Arena for a volleyball game, you are really missing out. Volleyball has some of the loudest and most loyal fans at the university, averaging just over 900 per match. Even the old blue hairs get up and cheer on the maize and blue. Just ask anyone about the super old guy that used to always be in the front row dancing along. I'm not sure if he makes it out to every game, but he was always one of my favorite UM personalities. Even "The Zone" is one of the strongest student sections on campus. It's its own mini-Maize Rage.
As mentioned, the team starts the season off against Nebraska in Nebraska's own back yard. The tournament is being hosted in Omaha, NE, just over an hour from Lincoln and the University of Nebraska. The CornHuskers take volleyball very seriously and will easily fill up 15,000 seats or more. The crowd will be hostile, but Michigan will be hoping to do the same thing they did to #10 Hawaii in 2007 by going up early and taking the crowd out of the game. A win over Nebraska isn't very likely, but if it would, it would be one heck of a statement to start the year. The game against Kansas State on Saturday will be a much bigger litmus test on just how ready this team is to compete past the Sweet 16 this year. If the Wolverines handle KSU, they will be serious contenders not only for the BigTen conference, but in the NCAA as well.
We had a busy posting day on Sunday, so some of the Olympic sports coverage will be posted as diaries for the time being. Field hockey will be starting their season this Saturday in the ACC/BigTen challenge held in Iowa City, IA where they will face off with #2 Wake Forest and #4 North Carolina.
The field hockey team was created in 1973 and has been very competitive, especially in the last 12 years. Overall, the Michigan team has a record of 391-274-25 (.585) in 36 seasons of play. In the 28 seasons of BigTen play (1978-88, 1992-present), Michigan has only posted a 91-98-8 (.482) record. Most of that sub .500 record can be placed on our first stint in BigTen play where the team went 11-44-8.
The big turning point for Michigan was the hire of Marcia Pankratz in 1995. Pankratz, pictured on the right from mgoblue.com, was a former All BigTen field hockey player at Iowa and an Olympian in 1988 and 1996. She remained a member of the US National team right up until her head coaching debut with Michigan in the fall of 1996 – she had worked at field hockey power University of North Carolina as an assistant coach as well.
After a rocky 7-11 start in 1996, Pankratz would lead Michigan to a BigTen co-title in her second year on campus and by her fourth year, a 2nd place finish in the NCAA tournament. That NCAA appearance was the first of 7 in a row, including a national championship in 2001. Her tenure saw Michigan compile a 147-55 record.
Pankratz retired in 2004 in order to start a consulting firm for students being recruited to play college athletics and handed the reigns of the program over to Nancy Cox. Cox continued the winning tradition at Michigan, compiling a 51-36 record over the last four seasons, including two NCAA berths.
Last season, Cox announced her retirement from Michigan, opening the door for a familiar face to take over the head coaching position – Marcia Pankratz. Yes, Michigan's winningest coach has returned for the 2009 campaign after a four year absence.
The 2008 season was a down year for the field hockey team. The 8-12 record was the first losing record since Coach Pankratz took over in 1996. Michigan finished 3-3 in the BigTen Conference, good for 5th out of 7. They would also tie for 5th place in the BigTen Tournament.
Michigan was lead by then-sophomore Meredith Way (pictured below). Way tied for 9th in the BigTen last year with 29 points on 12 goals and 5 assists. Setting up Way was Sarah Wilhite, who has since graduated. Wilhite lead the BigTen last year with 16 assists. Wilhite would finish the year tied for 11th in the BigTen with 28 points.
Despite the sub-.500 record, Michigan finished with the #27 RPI out of 78 teams ranked. Eleven of their 20 games were against ranked teams, including seven against top 10 opponents. To put Michigan's scheduling into perspective, in the first two weeks of the season (four games), they faced off with the #1, 2, and 3 teams in the nation. You've got to admire the tough scheduling.
Three senior players were chosen to captain to this year's field hockey team. Midfielder/Forward Kelly Fitzpatrick will be making her fourth year as a regular starter. Fitzpatrick has started 48 of the 58 games she has appeared in, netting 24 goals and 3 assists. While her sophomore season was her most productive point totaling season (10 goals, 1 assist), her junior season was still very productive with 8 goals and 1 assist.
Jenner Johnson is the defensive captain for the Wolverines. As a back, she doesn't total many statistics, she netted one goal as a freshman in limited time, but Johnson has been a solid contributor on defense. She started 19 of the 20 games last year, including the 5 games Michigan shut out their opponents.
Paige Laytos is third captain. Laytos is a midfielder/forward who started every game as a freshman and sophomore. Laytos would red shirt last year, breaking her streak of 43 straight games started. She did make it into 3 games last year, including two starts, but she would only gain one assist before ending her season. Despite missing the year, she has accumulated an extensive resume at Michigan including All BigTen second team as a freshman, All BigTen Academic team, All BigTen first team, and NFHCA (coaches poll) All American third team as a sophomore.
All three captains and junior forward Alex Zeringue represented the Midwest this summer at the US Field Hockey National Championships. The Midwest squad would finish 4th out of 6th, but it is still encouraging the number of Wolverines picked to the squad.
Other Top Returners
Michigan might have lost Wilhite, but they do return many of their starters. Alicia Mayer returns the second highest point total on the team behind Meredith Way. Mayer started all 20 games last season and netted 6 goals and 3 assists.
Heather Wiley also started all 20 games as a forward last season. The fifth year senior will be looking to boost her assist total from last year (8) as well as gain her first goal as a starter (she had two as a reserve as a red shirt sophomore in 2007).
Other returning starters include goal keeper Paige Pickett (pictured to right), back Hannah Johnson, and red shirt sophomore Katie Adams. Adams started all 20 games last year, but played a little bit of forward, a little bit of midfielder, and a little bit of back.
With the transition at head coach, I could see Michigan struggling a little bit to start the year, especially facing off in the ACC/BigTen Challenge next weekend. Michigan starts with Wake Forest, who finished as the #2 team in last year's poll and then plays North Carolina who ended #7. That said, Michigan is ranked #19 in the preseason coaches poll.
BigTen play will be tough pickings. Iowa will be attempting to win the conference crown for the fourth straight year. They did lose 8 seniors from last year's Final Four squad that ended the season with a #6 ranking. Michigan State finished the year at #10 and returns their two All Americans Rijpma (first team) and Deacon (second team). Penn State finished the year ranked #11, but lost it's top four stars. Ohio State also finished last year ranked, and they didn't lose too much, so should be in contention as well. Each of those teams are currently ranked ahead of Michigan.
All-in-all, Michigan will play 11 of the 20 teams ranked to end last season, plus two who received votes. That's 12 games of the 20 scheduled. To make it worse, only 6 games are at home. Field hockey generally sets up several teams at one school over a weekend. Michigan hosts two weekends in September, a mid-week game against Kent State in October, and the last game of the season against Indiana.