The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2016   OLYMPIC SPORTS UPDATE in that first game of the season." Another factor that led to the Wolverines' upset of North Carolina was the leadership and veteran presence on the team. Junior goalie Sam Swen- son, junior midfielder/ back Katie Trombetta and freshman forward Bree Bednarski were all named to the Preseason Big Ten Players to Watch list, and the coach ex- plained what makes each of them so special. "Sam Swenson is an exceptional goalkeeper, and I think she's the best goalkeeper in the nation," Pankratz noted. "She's j u s t a s m a r t h o c k e y player — she's poised, c o n f i d e n t , m a t u re , a leader, and she helps our backfield play with confi- dence knowing that she's behind them. "Katie Trombetta is just a real natu- ral defender. She makes good deci- sions and plays with a lot of poise and confidence. She's a smart player, and I think our younger players can look to her to be the foundation of our defense. "Bree Bednarski is super speedy and fast, and she was one of the all- time leading goal scorers in high school. She came here with exciting firepower." Often, a win as big as the season- opener can propel a team forward and give them momentum through- out the rest of the season. "I hope so," Pankratz said. "I think now we know we can play with any- one in the country. Carolina is a very strong team, so hopefully it gives our younger players some confidence. It certainly sets the bar for the rest of the season, and I think it's always a good thing to have high expectations." In regards as to how far the Wol- verines can go this season, Pankratz made it clear she's not about to make any predictions. "That's not for me to be making a judgment on now," she said. "We're just trying to prepare for each oppo- nent each week. I feel great about this team's work ethic, controlling the things that are in our control, think- ing positive and playing together with one Michigan heartbeat. So far, so good." VOLLEYBALL HOPING TO BUILD OFF ITS FAST START Michigan's volleyball team is off to a hot start in 2016, winning 11 of its 12 matches heading into confer- ence play. Although the season is still young, head coach Mark Rosen likes his team's promise. "Our expectations are always high," he said in the preseason. "We play in the best conference in the country, and we're one of the best schools in the country. We have a good mix of older players and younger players, and I think everybody is very optimistic about the potential of this team." Rosen's words rang prophetic when his team rattled off eight straight victories to begin the year. "One of the things we've done well this year to start out with is we've been able to play at a very consistent and a very prepared level," Rosen ex- plained. "Our team has come into ev- ery game and hasn't overlooked any- body or disregarded any opponents. "They've done a great job of pre- paring for every match and really putting a good game on the floor. We're only a third of the way through the season, but I'm proud of the approach they've taken every time." Another big reason for the Wolverines' early success has been the play of sophomore defensive specialist/libero Jenna Lerg. She won Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors Sept. 12 after averaging 6.5 digs per set at the Panther In- vitational, including a ca- reer-high 39 digs against Pittsburgh. "She's defending at an unbelievably high level right now," Rosen said. "It's a combination of things — she's very ath- letic, and she's very ex- plosive and quick. Her ability to read the attack- ers and get an idea of where they're going to hit before they hit is some- thing that great players pick up on. "A big part of her success is also her attitude; she's just a feisty, fiery defensive player that wants to dig every ball that she can and puts out maximum effort all the time." Lerg isn't the only Wolverine cur- rently playing well, though. Senior opposite hitter/middle blocker Abby Cole has also earned Rosen's praise. Not only was Cole named to the preseason All-Big Ten team, but she has also been named a team captain (along with fifth-year seniors Kelly Murphy and Ally Davis). "For Abby, it's a combination of tangible and intangible qualities," Rosen said. "She's physically gifted at 6-5, she's very athletic, her hand/ eye coordination is really good and she's explosive. "But what Abby does really well and what's special about her is her intangibles — her work ethic is re- ally good, she's an unbelievable teammate, she's focused on mak- ing the teammates around her better and she's unselfish. She really maxi- mizes her tangible qualities with her intangibles." If Cole and Lerg keep playing the way they are, the Wolverines could be in for a memorable campaign. "I don't know how high the ceiling is, and I don't think we'll know until Senior opposite hitter/middle blocker Abby Cole was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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