Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ann Arbor Arrival

Well, we’re here in glorious Ann Arbor, Michigan for the Big Ten Tournament. After sitting through a 4 and a half hour bus ride, which included a screening of The Long Kiss Goodnight, we’ve checked into our hotel for the next few days.

There seems to be a little Déjà vu occurring for the team, as this is their second consecutive weekend in Ann Arbor. We ate dinner at the same exact Chiles they did last week. Some jokes were made that no one could have the same meal as last time considering the results.

The feeling is very odd being in Ann Arbor after coming so close to hosting the tournament in Evanston. Obviously with one win over Michigan last weekend things would have been different. However, this hasn’t seemed to affect the team in any way, as everyone remains in high spirits. (And how couldn’t you be in high spirits after watching Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in Kiss Goodnight.)

Let’s take some time to review the format of the tournament. The days of double-elimination are no more for the Big Ten as the conference made the switch to single-elimination last year. This has had multiple effects. The tournament expanded from six teams to eight to accommodate this change and the scheduling has changed significantly. The 1-8 and 2-7 games are the only games played on Thursday. Friday morning, the first round continues with the 3-6 and 4-5 contests. Then the winners face off that afternoon. This gives the top two seeds, Northwestern and Michigan, the advantage of only having to play one game on Friday – if they get there.

The single elimination switch has also placed added pressure on each game. Teams can no longer have an off day and come back to win the tournament. Everyone must play at their best all the time, creating some great softball as well as major upsets. In last year’s tournament, 8-seeded Michigan State took down top ranked Michigan in the first round, and then continued to ride the success of star pitcher Jessica Beech all the way to the championship. In single elimination all it takes is for one pitcher to get hot and carry her team from then on. With Northwestern’s pocket aces of Courtnay Foster and Eileen Canney, look for this scenario to be a plus for the ‘Cats.

Looming over the entire tournament is the number one team in the nation Michigan Wolverines. They are the favorite to take home the championship and proved it’s not going to be easy for anyone to unseat them last weekend taking down NU in back-to-back games. However, the ‘Cats are itching to get another shot at the Wolverines feeling confident that they can finish the comeback they started last Sunday.

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