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The top five Michigan sports moments that went under the radar this summer

BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Chantel Jennings and Andy Reid
Published September 8, 2009

Some pretty amazing things happened in the world of Michigan sports this summer, and they were away from the football field, basketball court and hockey rink. We're talking national championships, College World Series runs and one of the biggest upsets in the team's history. But most of the Wolverines' smaller sports are constantly overlooked, especially when the students leave campus for the summer.

Here are the top five storylines from this summer that you need to know about:

5. Baseball’s season = bummer

After six straight postseason appearances in the Big Ten Tournament, the Michigan baseball team’s season ended during an unfittingly sunny weekend in May in Evanston, Ill.

Michigan finished 7th in the Big Ten — the lowest ever under Wolverine baseball coach Rich Maloney in his seven seasons with the Wolverines.

The loss was extremely disappointing following three straight Big Ten Titles and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Michigan started the season with high hopes and was led by strong individual performances throughout the season by fifth-year senior pitcher Chris Fetter, who finished a strong 7-3 in 13 starts with a 3.26 ERA. The Wolverines also started left-handed junior pitcher Eric Katzman, who started 14 games to finish 7-4 with a 3.56 ERA. Katzman wasn’t always reliable, but neither was the rest of the Wolverines' pitching staff.

Michigan did toy with bringing in junior first baseman and relief pitcher Mike Dufek in to be the closer in close games. Dufek pitched 16.2 innings in 11 games, only allowing five earned runs and striking out 21 batters.

On offense, the team was led in large part by Dufek and sophomore center fielder Ryan LaMarre. LaMarre batted third and led the team with a .344 batting average and 62 RBI’s. Dufek led the team with his 17 home runs.

Even with a few individual successes, Michigan couldn’t overcome injuries, a lack of consistency, and a few disappointing losses to Mid-American Conference teams as it failed to repeat as Big Ten Champions.

4. Volleyball upsets No. 3 Nebraska
While students were busy coming back to campus at the end of August, the Michigan volleyball team was busy earning the biggest win in program history, a straight-set victory over No. 3 Nebraska on Aug. 28.

It started out tight as the Wolverines squeaked out a 25-23 win in the first set. But from then on, Michigan widened its margin of victory in each subsequent set, taking the second 25-21 and the third 25-17. Junior Lexi Zimmerman and sophomore Alex Hunt led the charge with Zimmerman’s 33 assists and Hunt’s 14 kills.

It marked the first time ever that the Wolverines had defeated a top-five team and it catapulted them to a No. 7 ranking, another program record. It appears the upset win got the team rolling in general, too, as Michigan has reeled off four straight wins since that season opener.

The Wolverines now boast a perfect 5-0 record and rigorous conference play begins in two weeks. But for the first time in program history, they’ll face teams like top-ranked Penn State with the confidence that comes from a huge upset. On the very first day of the season, Michigan proved it can compete with anyone. And now, the Wolverines have a chance to beat everyone.

3. Tiffany Ofili and Geena Gall win individual national titles

At the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 13, now-graduated Geena Gall and Tiffany Ofili carried the day for the Wolverines by winning individual national championships. The pair led the Wolverines to a seventh-place finish, Michigan women’s track and field coach James Henry’s third consecutive top-10 finish at nationals.

Ofili’s title in the 100-meter hurdles was her third consecutive in the event and her fifth overall title at Michigan. With the victory, Ofili became the first ever Wolverine to three-peat as a national champion. Ofili defeated the runner-up by nearly two-tenths of a second, while less than four-tenths of a second separated second place from eighth place.

Shortly after her blistering performance at the National Championships, Ofili, now an Adidas-signed runner, raced at the USA Track and Field Championships. She barely missed the cut to represent the USA at the World Championships, placing fourth.