The Wolverine

May 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2022 BY CLAYTON SAYFIE O ne year after making its first- ever Sweet 16 appearance, Michigan women's basket- ball pushed through to new heights yet again, reaching the Elite Eight for the first time. Throughout the course of the season, U-M beat eight ranked opponents, in- cluding two in the top five, tied its pro- gram record with 13 Big Ten wins, was ranked a program-best No. 4 nationally at one point and finished a half-game out of first place in the league standings (due to a postponement against Illinois, which finished at the bottom of the conference with a 1-13 record). Coaching accolades are usually handed out to the leader of a team that came into the season under the radar but outdid ex- pectations, not a mentor who already had a squad with extremely high expectations. But U-M's woman in charge, Kim Barnes Arico, earned her second Big Ten Coach of the Year nod, becoming the program's first to take home the award twice (she also did so in 2017), a testament to how special this season was. However, she deferred a good deal of the credit to the senior class composed of guards Leigha Brown, a Nebraska trans- fer who will return next season, Amy Dilk and Danielle Rauch and forwards Naz Hillmon, a two-time first-team All- American, and Emily Kiser. "When they came to Michigan four years ago, they believed that they could create something incredibly special," Barnes Arico said of the bunch. "They went to a program that had won 20 games before but had never been to a Sweet 16, had won a banner before, but it was a WNIT banner. It wasn't an NCAA Tour- nament banner. "They wanted to do something that was different, and they believed that they could. They have created something incredibly special inside our program. That's a credit to all of them. "They all stayed the course. They all continued to persevere. Two of them didn't play at all. They both have been major impacts. Danielle Rauch, the first time she really played any significant minutes was last year in the NCAA Tour- nament, and she was unbelievable. Then she continued that by just having a great senior season. "Emily Kiser — her and Naz at the 4 and 5 spots have balanced each other out and complemented each other ex- ceptionally well. Those are two kids that really didn't see much playing time until their junior and senior season." U-M was a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament — its highest seed ever, after being on the No. 6 line in 2021, which was the Wolverines' best to that point. The Maize and Blue hosted the first and second rounds at Crisler Cen- ter for the first time and cruised past No. 14 seed American (74-39) and No. 11 seed Villanova (64-49). The Sweet 16 win over 10th-seeded South Dakota was a grind, with neither team leading by more than six points the entire way, but the Wolverines gut- ted out a 52-49 triumph in Wichita. Freshman guard Laila Phelia scored what would be the winning bucket with 23 seconds left on a driving layup. In their deepest NCAA Tournament run AN ELITE AN ELITE SEASON SEASON Michigan Women's Basketball Reaches Regional Finals For First Time Point guard Danielle Rauch, one of five seniors on the squad, helped guide Michigan to new heights in 2021-22. The team reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the first time before falling to No. 1-seeded Louisville in the Wichita Regional Final. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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