All posts by Jake Krez

A writer/publicist/media hired hand from Chicago, Il who came up writing for the Chicago Sun Times where he helped break artists like Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Kids These Days and many more. Since then Jake has written for the likes of XXL, Complex, Noisey, New City, Billboard, DJBooth and many others while staying up to date on all things Chicago music and beyond.

Which NFL team had the better draft, Jets or Rams?

BY DI SPORTS STAFF | APRIL 28, 2009 7:29 AM

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets got Shonn Greene.

No, that’s not the only reason New York had the best weekend of the NFL’s 32 teams, but it sure helps.

With their first two picks of USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who went to New York with the fifth pick of the first round, and Greene, the Jets created themselves a solid core from which the future looks very bright.

Even though there was controversy surrounding whether Sanchez was ready for the NFL when he announced his decision to opt for the pros rather than another year at USC, he proved himself throughout 2008 and performed well enough in workouts to earn himself that fifth overall selection in the draft.

No matter what Pete Carroll has to say about it, ESPN’s Mel Kiper described the quarterback as a “franchise-maker,” not exactly the tag bestowed upon Kellen Clemens or Erik Ainge the past few years.

With a solid defense in place and a sound running game, there also won’t be pressure on Sanchez, who after playing one year as the starting quarterback at such a major program will be ready for New York.

Greene will also be a contributor immediately for the Jets. With Thomas Jones on his way out and Leon Washington not exactly an every-down back, there will be a spot for the Iowa star in the running back rotation.

The consensus “GPA” of the Jets’ picks in the 2009 draft, according to ESPN.com, was a solid 3.26. While that may not get them into the Honors Program at Iowa, it definitely is a reflection of one of the best performances by a front office over the weekend.

— by Jake Krzeczowski


Drake Relays a homecoming for 2 Iowa runners

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | APRIL 29, 2009 7:30 AM

The Drake Relays means more than just a track meet to Hawkeyes Hannah Roeder and Betsy Flood.

When Roeder, a sophomore native of Des Moines was young, the Drake Relays was an annual holiday.

“When I was in elementary school, my mom would take me out of school on the Friday of the Relays,” Roeder said. “So I’ve been going since I was little.”

Roeder, who lived closer to the Drake track than to her high school, returned last weekend to her beloved meet for the first time since graduating in 2007.

She spent her freshman season in California, choosing to attend UCLA on scholarship. But after a year away, she decided to return home, allowing her the opportunity to compete at the Drake Relays again.

“It’s, definitely different when its in your hometown,” Roeder said. “It makes it a lot more exciting.”
Flood, a rising star in a strong Iowa freshman class, is also a native of Des Moines. She attended Dowling, where she helped her team earn second at the state tournament, held on Drake’s track.

The freshman has been running in the meet since she started high school, setting records along the way.

“It’s my favorite meet,” Flood said. “It’s in Des Moines, and everyone I know is there.”

Flood’s younger sister, Katie, also competed in the meet, winning the 3,000 meters for the third time.

Her sister and the rest of the stands had plenty to cheer about as the Hawkeyes performed well at the meet.

“I was excited to see her run and cheer for her,” she said. “But it was weird not to run in the same race.”

Iowa head coach Layne Anderson understands the excitement both Roeder and Flood had with running in front of a hometown crowd.

“For both of them it was a homecoming,” Anderson said. “Sometimes that can be a good thing, and sometimes they can get caught up in the emotions.”

Roeder, who admitted feeling nervous to go out in front of her friends and family, started off her run in the steeplechase with a rough fall over the first barrier. She managed to shake off the mistake, however, and get herself back into the pack, finishing fifth — two seconds away from her personal best.

“She did a good job getting up from the fall, regrouping, and working her way back into the race,” Anderson said.

Flood was the lead off on the 4×800 relay in which Iowa took sixth and had the same position in the 4×1600 meter relay which she helped her team take third in.

The two young Hawkeyes definitely gave elementary school kids cutting class last Friday something to look up to.

“I was thrilled for both of them, and I think it is a clear indication of where both are at right now,” Anderson said.

Rowers’ best finish in 5 years

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | MAY 04, 2009 7:28 AM

The Iowa women’s rowing team improved on its past finishes at the Big Ten championships, and left the Griggs Reservoir in Columbus, Ohio, with one of the most successful seasons in the team’s history.

Iowa took fifth at the championships with 60 points, the highest total for a Hawkeye crew in five years.

The Hawkeyes qualified all six of its boats for the petite finals on Saturday morning. The first varsity 8 boat took third in the first heat, narrowly missing a chance to take the second spot away from No. 3 Michigan State, losing by less than a second. Ohio State took first in the heat, beating Wisconsin by 0.1 seconds.

Iowa head coach Mandi Kowal was optimistic about the team’s performance.

“We were disappointed we didn’t make the finals, but we were right there,” she said.

In the petite final, the first varsity 8 boat did well, taking first by almost a full second over Minnesota and a full boat length over Indiana.

Also winning its petite races were the second varsity 8 boat, which also defeated Minnesota and Indiana. The first varsity 4 boat then took second behind Michigan State.

The novice boats then took to the water. The novice 8 boat took second to Minnesota, while the first novice 4 boat also managed to pull out a second-place finish, also behind the Golden Gophers. The second novice 8 team took third in its heat, following Ohio State and Minnesota.

“Placing fifth was a good improvement,” Iowa assistant coach Melissa Schomer said. “After placing sixth and seventh the past few years, this was a big step.”

The No. 17 ranked Iowa crew came into the meet confident after spending weeks preparing for the meet following its competition with Michigan State, No. 5 Michigan and No. 18 Louisville in Belleville, Mich.

The Hawkeyes focused hard on finishing their races, using the time off to improve their technique in that area.

“We were trying to perfect our sprints at the end of the race,” sophomore rower Haylie Miller said. “We hit our ratings and the improvement showed.”

The first varsity 8 boat, which is responsible for the ranking the team earns, can feel the pressure at big meets.

Kowal stressed to the team to worry about themselves and not put added pressure on the rowers.

While some teams game plan based on what other teams do well, Kowal would rather her rowers play their own game with obvious success.

“She just told us to focus on what we can control and not what we can’t,” Miller said.

Michigan State took the Big Ten title, scoring 137 points, followed by rival Michigan. Iowa finished just ahead of No. 20 Minnesota and Indiana.

The meet from this weekend will be broadcast in an hour-long program May 17 on the Big Ten Network.

The Hawkeyes will return to action May 16-17 in Oakridge, Tenn., for the Central Regionals, a chance to qualify for the NCAA national meet.

Tracksters on Cloud 9 in new digs

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI AND ZACH SMITH | MAY 05, 2009 7:27 AM

If the Recreation Building were an older version of Wayne Maynor, than the track and field team’s new addition would be its “Bat Cave.”

“It’s just amazing,” senior All-American John Hickey said about the track and field team’s new digs in the northwest corner of the Rec Building. “We have a lounge now in the locker room, a 50-inch and a 42-inch TV with complete surround sound and iPod docks and DVD players.

“We can do pretty much anything.”

Conversely, for sophomore Hannah Roeder, who spent a year running for UCLA before coming to Iowa, she felt the original accessories at the team’s disposal were a bit out of date.

“The facilities before were definitely at a lower caliber,” she said.

 

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The new facility, which finished construction and became available to the men’s and women’s track and field teams in early March, is state-of-the-art all the way down to the black-and-gold carpet.

Entrance to the brand-new locker rooms, weight room, and training room is not allowed without the possession of an access key. In fact, access keys are necessary to get into any closed-door room.

Each locker room resembles more of an NFL locker room than that of a college track and field program. The lockers themselves have the athletes’ names and hometown in bold black-and-gold at the top and a large space for backpacks, duffle bags, and equipment. A large Tigerhawk rests on the floor in the middle of the room.

The weight room is a demonstration of the team’s investment in a strength and conditioning program. With several new weight benches and a complete set of barbells and dumbbells, Hickey said, the program’s tradition of stellar throwers is a nice complement to the new weight room and could help with recruiting.

“I think [the facility] is going to help a lot with recruiting,” he said. “If you look at all the other bigger [Division-I track and field] programs, they have the facilities to back their performances. Whereas we have had the performances, we just didn’t really have the facilities, and now we have both.

“It’s just like the icing on the cake.”

Women’s head coach Layne Anderson agreed that the new facilities the team can now enjoy presents yet another recruiting tool for the Hawkeyes.

“When we can bring a recruit in and show her our new locker room, our new weight room, our new track — it really helps in getting her on campus,” he said.

The track and field program is also having its outdoor track redone.

Iowa was slated to hold the outdoor Big Ten championships on its new track this season, but with the 2008 flood, the date has been pushed back to 2010, which will put the team’s new home track at the forefront of the Big Ten.

“It’s nice — we’ll be able to open the facility, get it going, and have the championship in a few years,” Anderson said.

While the new surroundings are definitely an asset to the team, he is hesitant to attribute improved performance to the new facilities.

“It kind of has a placebo effect,” he said. “But in the end, it comes down to doing your work.”

Men’s tennis wraps up fall season

Original Here
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | NOVEMBER 03, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team finished up the fall portion of its season this past weekend at the Big Ten singles tournament at Michigan State.

The meet was a roller coaster, with wins and losses that forced the Hawkeyes to swallow hard to keep their lunch down.

On the first day of competition, Oct. 30, the inaugural doubles portion of the tournament opened with the pairing of sophomore Will Vasos and senior Tommy McGeorge, who continued their recent domination and defeated duos from Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State before losing in the semifinals.

The two finished the tournament in third place.

“That’s really an accomplishment for those guys,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “Those guys keep getting better and better. That was definitely a highlight.”

Also competing in doubles matches were sophomore Marc Bruche and senior Reinoud Haal, who won their first match before bowing out in the ensuing round of Flight A play. In the Flight B portion, junior Nikita Zotov and senior Austen Kauss finished the tournament after two wins, as did the pair of senior Patrick Dwyer and freshman Garret Dunn.

In the first round, Kauss battled No. 2 overall seed Slavko Bijela of Purdue, defeating him in three sets before losing in the next round.

“That guy has been one of the best Big Ten players over the past two years,” Houghton said about Bijela. “Austen’s win was probably the biggest upset of the tournament. That was a big step for him to beat a guy like [Bijela].”

Haal and Bruche came into the tournament seeded 10th and 11th, respectively. Haal fell in the first round, but Bruche went on a run, blitzing through the first day of singles play on his way to the round of 16.

Also advancing past the first day were Dunn and Zotov, who both won their first round matches in the back-draw competition. Kauss and McGeorge received first-round byes.

Sunday wasn’t very friendly to the Hawkeyes, though.

Bruche fell to Mike Srocynski of Michigan (6-4, 6-3) in the round of 16 — a disappointing finish to an otherwise solid weekend for the German.

All of the back draw competitors fell in the third round.

“It was a bit of a disappointment after the day we had [on Oct. 31],” Houghton said. “I think we were done by noon on Sunday.”

The meet was the last for the Hawkeyes until Jan. 29, 2010, when the team will travel to Waco, Texas, for the Kickoff Classic. During the break, the team will train individually, with full-team practice starting back up once the team gets back to campus following winter break.

The fall portion of the team’s season is often characterized as a way to prepare for the spring. The Iowa players feel they have done a good job of that thus far.

“We definitely learned some things we have to work on,” McGeorge said. “Both we and the coaches know what those things are, and the break will give us a chance to focus on them.”

Point/counterpoint: Who has more momentum coming in?

Original Here
BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Northwestern has more momentum entering this weekend’s game

Iowa would be the safe choice for possession of the momentum meter. At 9-0, the Hawkeyes are in the midst of their best start in school history.

Over the past few years, though, there has been one team that has been a thorn in Iowa’s side.

Northwestern has won in each of its last two appearances at Kinnick Stadium, in 2006 and 2008. Its domination on Iowa’s home turf has spurred many Wildcat faithful to refer to our beloved stadium as “Ryan Field West,” referring to Northwestern’s stadium.

The success on the road against Iowa, combined with a 3-3 record that puts them at the bottom of the Big Ten race, gives the Wildcats a feeling of nothing to lose.

Four of the Hawkeyes’ nine wins have been within three points, and Northwestern is no stranger to a tight game after narrow wins against Indiana and Eastern Michigan. Many say a man with nothing to lose is a dangerous man. This Northwestern team will arrive in Iowa City with everything to gain, while the pressure is on the Hawkeyes to continue their historic streak.

This year, Iowa has also had a tendency to overlook opponents in preparation for big games the ensuing week. No other time was this evidenced than the 24-21 win over Arkansas State that came one week before Michigan was in town for Homecoming.

The hunger to win and ability to pull through in close games, combined with a confidence garnered from its past two wins at Kinnick, make Northwestern a scary opponent.

The Wildcats may not win, but they definitely pose a dangerous threat to Iowa’s pristine record.

— by Jake Krzeczowski

Men’s tennis recruits far and wide

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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At least once a year Iowa men’s tennis assistant coach Steve Nash finds himself in a foreign country, trying to order off strange menus at restaurants and remembering to stay on the left side of the road.

It’s all in the hope of finding his next prized recruit.

With 12 players on the men’s tennis team, four others from Canada, Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Some might wonder how a third of Iowa’s tennis team could come from such distances. But the Hawkeyes have a history of recruiting successfully overseas, using a system head coach Steve Houghton has perfected in 29 years.His expanded view creates a larger talent pool.

Word of mouth helps. For years, the team had a string of Swedes, a run that ended last year with Christian Bierich.

“We’ve had enough international kids … that a lot of the time I’ll just ask someone who is from somewhere near them,” Houghton said.

Sophomore Marc Bruche, of Hoelsbrunn, Germany, followed a similar path to Iowa.

After finishing up a tour of duty in the German military, Bruche, a top-ranked player during his high school days, was spurred by a friend to pick up his racket and head for Baylor University in Waco, Texas. On a recommendation from that coach, he arrived in Iowa City this year.

“What really was a big thing for me was what I heard about coach [Steve] Houghton,” Bruche said. “He has a very good reputation.”

That statement of good character can also help persuade parents to send their 18-year-old son halfway across the world.

“We just try to be as honest as possible with these kids,” Nash said.

While in Europe, Nash’s job is to see prospects play and make the initial face-to-face contact with the potential future Hawkeyes.

With a budget allowing for two trips a year, a coach will visit four to five players in days, venturing quickly from one country to another.

While overseas, Nash will watch prospects play, often in a tournament or exhibition setting before sitting down with the player and his family to discuss what the Hawkeyes have to offer.

What everything comes down to is making the recruit realize what Houghton calls the “Iowa way” of doing things.

“At Iowa, I believe in what we do. We’re not going to take a scholarship away for lack of talent once you are on campus,” Houghton said.

Meanwhile, though, some have questioned whether scholarships from state-sponsored universities should go to foreign-born students. Many schools in the talent-rich South often spurn home-grown athletes in favor of those overseas.

Houghton, though, noted the benefits of having a diverse squad and combated the argument by pointing to the nation’s immigrant foundation.

This commitment to the student-athlete is something the coach described as a general characteristic of the Big Ten, which sometimes puts the conference on an uneven playing field — but for good reason.

As much a Houghton tries to stay humble when referring to himself as being a catalyst for many foreign athletes who want to play tennis at Iowa, it’s apparent he prefers to do things a particular way. He emphasizes values and morals in the recruiting process.

A longtime fan

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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On a fall day in 1926, Clifford Huff and some neighborhood boys ventured to City Field, located roughly where the Main Library parking lot now sits, to watch a football game between Iowa and Minnesota.

With security scarce, Huff finagled his way in and witnessed his first Hawkeye game at the age of 9, one that began a lifelong love story that continues today.

That was two years before what is now known as Kinnick Stadium was erected. Since that day, he has been to just about every home Iowa football game.

Characterized as being the “most positive guy I have ever met” by his nephew and UI alum Steve Mashek, Huff has spent Saturday afternoons sitting on the seats of Kinnick Stadium for the past 80 years in both joy and sorrow.

The journey wasn’t easy, though. Tickets were often hard to come by, and there were times he had to scrape up the money to see his beloved Hawkeyes.

Throughout his elementary- and high-school days, he got in via the Knothole Club, which at that time, allowed students to attend games for a quarter.

After graduating from City High in 1936, Huff still managed to see most every game through the club.

But because of the Great Depression, he bypassed attending the UI and instead found a job with the Works Project Administration, a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, working in Schaeffer Hall, administering surveys among other odd jobs.

Between 1938 and 1940, Huff saw a bit more black then gold. Money was tight after graduation, and he saw only a couple games a season.

The horns and drums of the student band kept drawing him back, though. Despite his lack of income, he still dove headfirst into the Hawkeye spirit oozing from the stadium on Saturdays in the fall.

He managed to stay connected to this spirit in other ways, too.

While walking to work, Huff sometimes came across a familiar character who accompanied him on his short trip — Nile Kinnick. The two waited for one another, chatting on their way to the day’s activities.

“I knew he was a football player,” Huff said. “But I never thought of how he’d go down in history.”

When talking about the gridiron hero, Huff’s seemingly permanent smile suddenly began to fade.

“He could have been president if he hadn’t been killed in World War II,” Huff said.

After 1941, the largely self-taught engineer began his streak of attending every home Hawkeye football game. Three years later, he bought season tickets to guarantee his seat, and he has souvenirs to prove it.

Since that first game in 1926, he has collected every Homecoming pin released. A few years back, he gave the collection — known to be one of the few complete sets in the world — to his nephew Mashek, who had it appraised at $10,000. Huff said he began his collection by simply looking on the ground.

“I used to hang around the stadium after games and find them on the ground, in the garbage, wherever I could locate one,” he said.

In 1969, he started buying two season tickets, one for him and one for his sweetheart at the time, Marie, whom he married in 1973.

Since then, the pair have made it to every game — except one.

“We go to every game, no matter what,” Marie Huff said. “Except one time when the snow on our street was piled so high we couldn’t get the car through.”

When asked if she thought it was ludicrous for the two of them to attend every game, a look of confusion washed over her face. The streak means more than just watching the players run around on the field. The team has become a part of their family.

As the two have gotten older, driving at night has become an issue. If it hadn’t been for Mashek’s niece, the eight-decade-long streak would have ended four weeks ago when Iowa played Michigan on Homecoming.

Marie Huff, although 15 years younger, has been the perfect companion for Huff, allowing him to enter his “zone” during the game.

“He doesn’t like interruption during the game,” she said.

When talking about this year’s edition of Iowa football, Huff quotes his favorite coach from all those years — the recently deceased Forest Evashevsky.

“He always said he’d rather be lucky than good,” Huff said.

That feeling transcends the generations. The way Iowa’s season has gone so far this year, the “lucky rather than good” sentiment truly hits home.

Traveling has become harder every year for the Cedar Rapids native, and he has recently adopted a cane to help him get around.

However, he always makes sure to tailgate. And this season’s Hawkeyes might just keep him around for one more year. The excitement has kept him on the edge of his seat all season.

For someone who never attended the university, Huff embodies all that Iowa athletics mean to the community. With no professional team near, it creates what Mashek calls, “a one of a kind situation.”

While this may be his last season, Huff keeps things in perspective.

“Growing up here, the university has always been a big part of my life,” he said with that familiar smile never leaving his face. “I may have a few years left, but this might be it for me.”

Men’s track and field team to hold intrasquad meet

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s track and field team will begin its season with its annual intrasquad meet in the Recreation Building at 4 p.m. Dec. 6.

The meet is a cherished part of Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek’s season. It allows to see his team in a competitive setting before going against other squads.

The meet also provides student-athletes a manageable segue between fall training and winter competitions.

“You have practice on the one hand and competition on the other hand,” Wieczorek said. “This is kind of the middle ground where you can see those nerves, put the jerseys on, yet be competing against your teammates.”

The distance portion of the team that competed in the cross-country season during the fall will be held out of the weekend’s meet to allow the runners an extended break before competing once again.

While everyone on the team excites Wieczorek, the newcomers have truly gotten his blood racing.

Jeffrey Herron, a transfer from Texas-San Antonio, could have an immediate effect in his first year with the Hawkeyes. Having jumped a career-best 6-10 at his conference meet last year, he should bring bounce to his coach’s step in the coming months.

The new crop of freshmen includes Schaumburg, Ill., native Kyle Reid, a decathlete, Ethan Holmes, an Iowa state champion hurdler from Clinton, and Kevin Dibbern, a product of City High and one of the state’s best 400 runners.

Sunday’s meet will not only be for the youngsters, though. Seniors Adam Hairston, Paul Chaney Jr., and Ray Varner return to lead the Hawkeyes after stellar 2008 campaigns that ended in the semifinals of the NCAA national meet.

As a leader for younger members of the team, Hairston is far from worried about any possible trouble as the season gets underway.

“I think we’re pretty strong all around,” he said. “I think this is one of the best all-around teams we’ve had since I’ve been here — from the distances to the throws.

“We had a lot of regional qualifiers, and Ray and I qualified for nationals, so that’s something we can build off as a strength.”

The meet will also allow team members to shake off whatever dust, rust, or cobwebs that may have accumulated since the end of last season.

The team will officially open competition on Jan. 9, 2010, in a dual meet against Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The general feeling among the Hawkeyes is that January can’t come soon enough.

“I’m just looking forward to competing again,” Hairston said. “It’s been a while, since June. Just looking forward to getting back on the track in a competitive atmosphere and seeing where my fitness is at after the fall training.”

UISSC in 3-on-3 championship

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | DECEMBER 09, 2009 7:30 AM

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On a night when gusting winds and snow kept many home and warm, the consolation side of the men’s intramural pre-holiday 3-on-3 basketball tournament came to a heated finish Tuesday night at the Field House.

UISSC advanced to the semifinal game after defeating Team Esteban on Monday, earning the chance to battle Omelettes with a title trip prime for the taking.

Because of inclement weather, officials closed the Field House early Tuesday evening, but just enough time was left to get the last few scheduled intramural games in before the championships.

The foursome of Nick Kron, Reed McManigal, Caleb Recker, and Clark Anderson proved too much for the Omlettes. The UISSC quartet combined for an offensive fury through the first half of the contest, mixing their long-range game with an array of acrobatic drives to the basket for a 15-10 win.

The squad then took the third and final matchup, 15-8, to move on following a close second contest.

“We try to drive first,” UISSC player Kron said. “We just try to find who is open. There’s no one who really takes over.”

The Omelettes took the show early, flashing an impressive 3-point game while employing quick first steps on the dribble to set up drives to the hoop.

The UISSC and Omlettes split the first two games of the best-of-three program.

Fatigue was anticipated to be a large factor in the final game of the series. UISSC players prepared themselves by substituting after every two points.

The fresh legs made all the difference, and UISSC earned the majority of its points off turnovers and hustle plays when Omelettes players began to falter.

“We were getting pretty tired toward the end there,” Anderson said. “Playing two games before didn’t help either, but the way we did subs helped.”

The UISSC defense also was crucial. McManigal served as a catalyst for UISSC, racking up several steals throughout the three games played.

“It’s all about finding the things that the other guys don’t want to do,” he said.

The pre-holiday 3-on-3 tournament is scheduled to conclude tonight in the Field House, when

UISSC will take on Blue Chips for the tournament championship.

UISSC players said they are ready to get back to action in the final round after previously falling out of the winner’s bracket and making a successful run while continuously facing elimination.

“We’re just trying to do the little things right,” McManigal said.