The Wolverine

February 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2022   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Sitting Down With Michigan Football Center Andrew Vastardis Sixth-year senior center An- drew Vastardis came back to Michigan with one goal in mind — to win the Big Ten title. He did just that and earned second- team All-Big Ten honors in the process. Vastardis recently answered a number of questions about his season and more. The Wolverine: What are your final thoughts on the season? Andrew Vastardis: "I'm defi- nitely having the most fun, and really taking a step back and en- joying the moment, because the season has really been a blessing. " T h e p e o p l e w e' v e b e e n around, the places we've gone, the things we've accomplished are great, but just the day-to-day is what makes it all amazing." The Wolverine: The offense struggled to move the ball against Georgia during a 34-11 loss in the Orange Bowl. What was the issue, in your opinion? Vastardis: "I think we just didn't execute the way we had been all season. That's just top to bottom. I think we had a good plan, and we had a good understanding of the plan. "We just failed to execute consistently. We made plays but couldn't con- tinue." The Wolverine: What were the positives? Vastardis: "No one ever quit fighting. No one ever gave up; no one ever gave in. For that, I'm proud. Looking past the game, just being a part of this team, I couldn't be more blessed. "They have a great defense. A lot of those guys will be playing on Sun- days." The Wolverine: After the loss to Michigan State, you said, "The season is not over — not even close." What were you thinking then? Vastardis: "When I said that I was just focusing on staying together and taking it one day at a time. I remember there was an interview with [tight end] Joel [Honigford]. He said, 'You'll run through six walls.' That's not good, you've got to run through one at a time, and that's what we did. "We just took every day and every opportunity we had to get better and prepare for this moment. I couldn't have said it any better back then." The Wolverine: As a senior and captain, what are you most proud of about this season? Vastardis: "Coming together and being a family when everyone around us was just throwing crap on the pile. Leaning on each other, trusting each other, playing for the man to your left and to your right. "I've seen a lot of guys grow as men, young men becoming men. I've had the honor to do that here in the presence of some great coaches and lead- ers. I'll keep those lessons with me forever." — Chris Balas MICHIGAN'S TOP PERFORMERS Ice hockey forward Brendan Brisson: The 2020 Las Vegas Knights first-round draft pick was named the Big Ten Second Star of the Week Jan. 11, after enjoying a five-point (three goals and two assists) week- end during Michigan's two- game sweep of defending national cham- pion and 10th-ranked UMass. He scored the game's first goal on consecutive nights and finished with a plus-five on-ice rating. Women's basketball senior forward Naz Hillmon: She was named the Co-Big Ten Player of the Week after helping lead the Wolver- ines to a 90-71 win over No. 25 Ohio State Dec. 31, mark- ing her second weekly honor of the season and the sixth of her career. The 2021 All-American registered the 40th double-double of her career, pour- ing in 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor with 15 rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes. Women's track and field runner Aurora Rynda: She earned her third career Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week award Jan. 12, af- ter posting a nation-leading 1:29.35 time in the 600-meter event to win at the Wolverine Invitational Jan. 8. The time set the event record and leads the confer- ence by nearly three and a half seconds. The invitational marked the distance runner's return to the indoor circuit for the first time since winning the second of her two con- secutive Big Ten 600-meter titles in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Men's basketball sophomore center Hunter Dickinson: He was named one of 25 players on the watch list for the Wooden Award, which is handed out to the nation's top college basketball player. At the time he received the recognition (Jan. 5), the 7-1, 260-pounder was averag- ing 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 59.1 percent from the field. The 2021 second-team All-American is one of nine Big Ten players on the midseason list, joining Illinois' Kofi Cockburn; Wisconsin's Johnny Davis; Purdue's Zach Edey, Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams; Indiana's Trayce Jackson Davis; Ohio State's E.J. Liddell; and Iowa's Keegan Murray. — Clayton Sayfie Vastardis earned second-team All-Big Ten honors during the 2021 campaign. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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