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Cocky fans stifle 'M' effort

BY DAN FELDMAN
Daily Sports Writer
Published February 6, 2006

Saturday was a miserable day for the women's tennis team.

Irked by boisterous South Carolina fans, No. 35 Michigan was downed 6-1 by the 24th-ranked Gamecocks.

"People kept yelling 'Cocks, cocks, cocks,' " Michigan senior Nina Yaftali said. "(It was) so loud, so crude. They should have just said big hen. My opponent would grunt it (along with the fans). It was just a cockfest. Do you think Michigan should change their mascot to shock teams? It's (not against the rules). It's just supporting the team. We yell 'Go Big Blue' and they say 'Go Big Cock'. See, it's the exact same . The cock yelling was resonating throughout the tennis center. We got cockblocked."

But the team didn't dwell on the loss. Michigan stayed confident and turned things around yesterday, beating No. 31 Maryland - a team that beat South Carolina on Friday - 4-3. The win moves the Wolverines' record to 2-2 in the dual match season.

Michigan lost the doubles point for the third straight match, but for the first time this season, it was able to overcome that setback. Junior Kara Delicata and sophomore Allie Shafner lost 8-0 in the No. 1 doubles match. Senior Debra Streifler and freshman Chisako Sugiyama won in the No. 2 match 8-3 before freshman Lindsey Howard and Yaftali fell 8-5 at No. 3.

But Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt still believed in her team.

"We went into the singles lineup pretty confidently," Ritt said. "I believed we would come through. I have confidence in every player. I knew it would be a battle, but I knew we would come through in the end. I always think that. You really have to have confidence in your team, and work to instill that confidence in your players."

The players responded to their coach's faith.

Sugiyama opened singles play with a 6-0, 6-2 win in the No. 5 singles match. Yaftali then fell 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 before Streifler knotted things back up with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) win at No. 3. After junior Elizabeth Exon won 6-3, 6-1 at No. 4, Delicata's 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss re-tied the match. But Shafner came through for Michigan, winning 6-4, 7-5 at No. 6, to propel the Wolverines to the victory.

"We have to give the players a lot of credit because after a tough match (Saturday), they came back and played a tough match," Ritt said. "I'm proud of them for putting it out there and executing."

On Saturday, Michigan was swept in doubles, and things didn't get better from there. Exon and Streifler at No. 2 and Delicata and Shafner at No. 1 each lost 8-3. Howard and Yaftali rounded things out, dropping their match at No. 3, 8-5.

Despite the poor score, the team's enthusiasm - a point of focus in practice last week - was largely improved.

"We had much better energy across the board than we did last weekend," said Delicata. "We went out there really excited and pumped up for the match."