World Cup Crib Notes Day 9

Friday’s France-Switzerland tilt represents a battle for first place in Group E, as both teams are tied with three points after winning their first matches. But though the winner will be in the driver’s seat for advancement, the stakes aren’t especially high for the loser either.Italy vs. Costa Rica: 12 p.m. EDTFrance vs. Switzerland: 3 p.m. EDTEcuador vs. Honduras: 6 p.m. EDTIn briefIN DEPTHAs things stand, France has a 91.8 percent chance of getting into the knockout stage of the tournament, and the Swiss check in at 80.9 percent. Ecuador and Honduras — who make up the rest of Group E and also face off Friday — lag far behind, at 20.3 and 7.1 percent, respectively.Honduras has a bleak outlook, mainly because they are the second-worst team in the World Cup field, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI). But Ecuador, according to SPI, is essentially Switzerland’s equal; the only difference in its advancement probabilities stems from Switzerland’s thrilling added-time victory over Ecuador on Sunday. For Ecuador, it was the one that got away; without that win, the model projects Ecuador to amass only 2.8 points within the group — they’re likely to beat Honduras but will be clear underdogs against France.Meanwhile, if Switzerland loses to France on Friday, the Swiss would still project to finish second in the group, because the meek Honduran squad is their only remaining hurdle. In fact, if the Swiss lose to France, Ecuador beats Honduras, and Switzerland only earns a draw against Honduras (an unlikely outcome), the Swiss would still be expected to advance over Ecuador by a slim margin — unless Ecuador beats France (or draws and posts a better goal differential than Switzerland). In other words, there are a lot of ways the Swiss can get out of Group E that don’t depend on them picking up points against France.The situation playing out in Group D, where Italy will face Costa Rica at noon Friday, is superficially similar. Like France and Switzerland, Costa Rica and Italy won their first matches of the tournament. Neither team’s odds of advancement are quite as high as its counterparts in Group E, though, mainly because there are no weak sides like Honduras to pick up easy points against. Costa Rica is the worst SPI team in the group, and it ranks 25th in the world.Whoever loses will have a fighting chance against Uruguay to qualify for the knockout round in the group’s second position. But that’s nowhere near as favorable a spot as the France-Switzerland loser will be sitting in after the day’s action ends.YesterdayLuis Suarez and Wayne Rooney prompted many questions before Thursday’s Group D showdown between Uruguay and England. Would Suarez, who missed Uruguay’s loss to Costa Rica in its World Cup opener because of knee surgery, be match-fit for 90 minutes in a must-win game? Could Rooney, whose performance against Italy brought his place in England’s lineup into question, break his career World Cup scoring drought?Those questions were answered in Sao Paulo.Suarez hadn’t played since May 11, but there was no evidence of rust. Of his four shots, two were on target — both goals. The latter goal, breaking a tie in the 85th minute, virtually ensured England’s second-consecutive loss in the tournament’s group stage, something England hadn’t experienced since 1950.Uruguay beat a European team at the World Cup for the first time in 16 matches since 1970, but don’t blame Rooney. He got off four shots, including two on goal and another that hit the post. Rooney found his World Cup breakthrough with a 75th-minute equalizer. The goal took him 10 World Cup matches — 758 minutes of play.England’s 78.1 pass completion percentage ranked in the bottom 35 percent of all teams in this World Cup, but it was easily the best in this game. Uruguay posted the worst completion percentage by a winning team in a World Cup win since at least the 1966 tournament (the start of ESPN Stats & Info’s data set). Uruguay’s 59.2 pass completion percentage against England was the only team performance in a game below 65 percent at this tournament.Other attacking and possession statistics favored England, including second-half touches in the attacking third (89 to Uruguay’s 57). The biggest stats, however, belonged to Suarez: two shots on target, two goals, 2-1 to Uruguay. — ESPN Stats & Info GroupOFF THE PITCHAs neighbors, France and Switzerland have a lot more in common than a World Cup match. Given their proximity, it makes sense that there would be population overlap. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data from 2009 shows that Switzerland has provided over twice the amount of nationals living in France than the other way around; there were 90,551 Swiss nationals living in France and 42,862 French nationals living in Switzerland. But given the population of each country, the French living in Switzerland make up five times the share of Swiss who made the opposite trek.There is one caveat to that data: Things have gotten icy between the two countries since it was compiled. In December 2012, France’s president, François Hollande, announced that wealthy French residents of Switzerland would have to pay French taxes and Swiss taxes, which one Swiss politician called a “declaration of war.” It’s unclear how this spat has affected migration between the countries, but it’s safe to say that the two nations are no longer as chummy as they once were. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGWe’re Telling England There’s a Chance!Defending World Cup Champions Keep Flaming OutCORRECTION (June 20, 10:05 a.m.): A previous version of the chart in this article showed the incorrect proportion of France’s projected 53 percent win. read more

What Kyrie Irvings Injury Could Mean For The Cavs Chances

Maybe God really does hate Cleveland. The Cleveland Cavaliers led for much of Game 1 of the finals against the Golden State Warriors and had a better than 70 percent shot at winning it when LeBron James put the Cavs up by four with 5:08 left to play. They lost anyway, and they lost their point guard, Kyrie Irving, in the process. Irving, who played brilliantly in Game 1, is now out for the season after fracturing his knee cap in overtime.Cleveland entered the series as the underdog — its chances of winning were 25 percent according to our Elo ratings, and 24 percent according to a more advanced system based on Real-Plus Minus.The Game 1 loss reduced the Cavs’ chances to 17 percent, according to Elo. But Elo is just accounting for the result of the game and not Irving’s injury. How much further might the injury hurt their chances?There’s actually quite a bit of argument about just how good Irving is, with various statistical systems rating him as everything from a superstar to a merely slightly-above-average player. Rather than seeking to resolve that debate now, I’ll instead take a choose-your-own adventure approach.Suppose, for instance, that you think losing Irving will hurt Cleveland by a net of 3 points per game, considering both his offensive and defensive contributions and his potential replacements. Three basketball points is equivalent to 84 Elo ratings points.1Historically 28 Elo points equals 1 point in the point spread. So 84 = 3. So we can re-run the Elo forecasts with Cleveland’s rating 84 points lower than it was originally. That would reduce Cleveland’s chances of winning the series to just 7 percent, according to Elo.Or, if Irving’s absence hurts the Cavs by 5 points per game, their chances are just 3 percent. You can see the full rundown in the table to the left.Seven percent is not nothing: amazing and unlikely things happen in sports, especially when a team has LeBron James on the roster. Still, if Cleveland can somehow win without Irving and after losing the first game, the championship could be up there in the curse-breaking pantheon with the Boston Red Sox overcoming a 3-0 A.L. Championship Series deficit against the New York Yankees in 2004. read more

Nick Sabans Alabama Has Reached A New Stratosphere

Year Range LSU2003201223.92 201232.5Notre DameIndep.28.559.4W Opponent 201539.7ClemsonACC32.566.5W SeasonAlabama EloTeamConf.Elo RatingAlabama Win%Result In the case of overlapping stretches for the same school, only the best 10-year period was used. Championships include split and vacated titles.Source: CFB at Sports-Reference.com Includes both College Football Playoff and Bowl Championship Series title games. Ohio State2008201723.41 It was just another night in the national championship game for Saban and the Tide. Since he took over Alabama’s program in 2007, Saban’s team has played for the national title six times, winning five. That’s an 83 percent success rate in a set of games where, according to our Elo ratings, we’d have expected Alabama to win only 57 percent of the time. It’s not outside the realm of something that could happen with good fortune in addition to unmatched talent2A simple t-test gives a p-value of 0.19. — but it’s getting there. 201734.6GeorgiaSEC34.450.5W SchoolFromToAvg. Elo RatingChampionships Nebraska1992200125.43 College football’s best 10-year dynasties, according to EloBest Elo ratings for a program in a 10-season span, 1988-2017 2009+34.9TexasBig 12+28.863.8%W Florida State1991200027.42 For most of Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game, a fifth Alabama title in nine years seemed unlikely. Georgia went into the game as the Crimson Tide’s mirror image and spent the first half outplaying Bama at its own game. Alabama trailed by 13 points after two quarters for its second-largest halftime deficit of the entire Nick Saban era.1It trailed by 14 against Oklahoma en route to losing the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Its 10-point deficit through three quarters was its fourth-biggest. (The Tide hadn’t overcome either margin in the past.) Alabama was suddenly relying on a freshman QB (Tua Tagovailoa) who’d barely thrown 50 career passes. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, Georgia had an 88.6 percent chance of winning with under four minutes to play.And yet, as (almost) always seems to be the case, Saban’s Alabama squad found a way to win on the game’s greatest stage. With Tagovailoa under center rather than the run-first Jalen Hurts, the Tide threw their way back into the ballgame. It was risky and unconventional, but Saban’s quarterback switch changed the outcome of the game. Even after gifting Georgia new life with Andy Pappanastos’s missed field goal as regulation expired, Alabama bounced back in overtime to send roughly 50,000 Georgia fans home from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a state of agony and disbelief with this walk-off bomb from Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith: Alabama usually wins on the championship stagePregame Elo ratings and win probabilities for Alabama in national championship game appearances under Nick Saban (2007-2017) Saban, of course, also tied Bear Bryant for the most championships won by a college football coach. It seems like history gets made every time we watch this Crimson Tide team play for the title, whether they win or lose.Although it’s of little consolation right now, Georgia gave Alabama one of the best championship-game fights it’s gotten during the Saban era. It took only two seasons for ex-Tide assistant Kirby Smart to build his Bulldogs up in Alabama’s image — and nearly upset his former team in the process. UGA will doubtless be a rival for Alabama in the seasons to come.But this season belonged to the Tide in the end, like so many recent seasons have. Ironically, this was not always assured — in addition to spending much of the title game itself in doubt, Alabama had to worry about making the playoff in the first place after failing to qualify for the SEC title game. Yet the final result was one of the surest of sure things in sports today — Alabama being the last team standing when the college football season ends. Oklahoma2008201723.50 Such incredible big-game success has been the cornerstone of the greatest dynasty college football has seen in its modern era. Over the decade from 2008 to 2017, Saban’s Alabama teams have posted an average end-of-season rating of +33.0 per year. (Meaning they ended each season 33 points per game better than the typical FBS team, on average.) Go back to the 1988 season — the first year we can calculate Elo — and no other team is especially close to that mark over a 10-year period. What Saban has done towers even over the accomplishments of other great historical coaches such as Bobby Bowden and Tom Osborne: Florida1992200124.81 Alabama20082017+33.05 USC2002201125.72 Tennessee1992200122.91 Texas2000200922.61 201129.4LSUSEC38.928.9W 201642.2ClemsonACC30.775.0L read more

Mayweather McGregor Whats The Worst That Could Happen

On Saturday night, in the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip, Floyd Mayweather will defeat Conor McGregor. The great old pro will dismantle the MMA vet turned boxing newcomer, securing a 50-0-0 record that will stand alone in boxing’s record books. McGregor will be outpaced, outclassed and, most simply, outboxed. Mayweather will win — every expert says so.Unless, of course, he doesn’t.Odds on this spectacle, even farce, of a fight opened heavily in Mayweather’s favor. In November, he was a -2250 favorite, roughly implying a 96 percent chance of victory. By mid-August, the money line had narrowed to -400, or about an 80 percent chance. The money has continued to pour in for McGregor. Many bettors, it seems, believe in the Irishman’s puncher’s chance.But maybe it’s not even a punch that’ll end it. As one of us has suggested elsewhere, Mayweather’s best chance of losing may be suffering a pulmonary embolism or a brain aneurysm; drowning in his spit bucket or tripping on the way to the ring. Perhaps one of the fighters will do something untoward in the ring. One sportsbook is offering 9-to-1 odds that the fight ends in disqualification. Which makes sense, considering one of the boxers is barely even a boxer — and the chance of an errant kick is so high that it was considered in prefight negotiation.Strange things happen in boxing. This is the sport where a parachutist later called Fan Man crashed into the ropes during a heavyweight championship fight, after all. And if something strange does happen, it won’t stand alone in the history books. It will join the ignominious ranks of …Wolgast vs. RiversJuly 4, 1912Ad Wolgast defeated Joe Rivers via a 13th-round knockout in Los Angeles County. Perhaps the inspiration for “Rocky II,” this grudge match featured both fighters landing simultaneous knockout blows, then crumpling to the canvas. The referee reached the count of 10 and the bout was over, yet for some inexplicable reason he gave the victory to Wolgast on the basis that he had attempted to rise before being counted out. Compounding the confusion, the timekeeper at ringside had only reached a count of four. The referee’s verdict was upheld amid immense backlash, as Rivers’s camp claimed he had been fouled. They famously produced a considerably dented metal foul protector as evidence for their case, which made headlines across the country.Dempsey vs. SharkeyJuly 21, 1927The fight, held at Yankee Stadium, between Jack Dempsey and Jack Sharkey, guaranteed the victor a shot at the greatest title in sports, then worn by world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney. A crowd of over 82,000 was in attendance to watch the former champ, 32-year-old Dempsey, in his second-to-last fight, square off against 7-to-5 favorite Sharkey in the hopes of avenging his previous loss to Tunney. It was clear by the early rounds that all 82,000 fans and press row were watching Dempsey grow old over the night. Sharkey was handily beating his professed idol when, in the seventh round, Dempsey landed a slew of low blows. When Sharkey protested to the referee, Dempsey delivered a vicious left hook to the chin while Sharkey was mid-sentence. Sharkey did not finish his sentence; Dempsey won by knockout. He later fondly remembered the punch as, “one of the last good punches of my life … His chin was sticking out there, unprotected. I couldn’t miss.”Sharkey vs. SchmelingJune 12, 1930With heavyweight champion Tunney having recently retired and vacated his title, promoters scrambled to bring Germany’s Max Schmeling and the New York-born Sharkey in front of a packed Yankee Stadium to fill the void left in Tunney’s wake. Despite winning the first few rounds, Sharkey made a strange decision in the fourth when he abruptly teed off on Schmeling’s groin with a savage blow that dropped the German contender. Bedlam ensued, prompted by Schmeling’s manager storming the ring in protest. The referee disqualified Sharkey and raised the hand of Schmeling. It was the first time the heavyweight championship had been won on a foul. Schmeling became ignominiously known in the American press as the “low-blow champion.”Ali vs. ListonMay 25, 1965Muhammad Ali had been a 7-to-1 underdog when he stole Sonny Liston’s crown in 1964 — a strange match in itself that included Ali being temporarily blinded by a foreign substance allegedly from Liston’s gloves and ended with Liston refusing to come out for the seventh round. In the time between the February 1964 match and the rematch in May of 1965, Ali converted to Islam, changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and his friend Malcolm X was assassinated. It would be an understatement to say that the rematch swirled with controversy. Ahead of the rematch, Liston was considered a 13-to-5 favorite. Midway through the first round of the fight, a looping right hand later dubbed a “phantom punch,” crumpled Liston to the canvas while Ali danced around the ring. The crowd began to roar, “Fix! Fix!” Hall of Fame commentator Don Dunphy didn’t buy that it was a legitimate knockdown, stating, “If that was a punch, I’ll eat it. Here was a guy who was in prison and the guards used to beat him over the head with clubs and couldn’t knock him down.”Duran vs. LeonardNov. 25, 1980Only five months after handing superstar “Sugar” Ray Leonard his first humiliating loss and taking his title in Montreal, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran returned to meet Leonard at the New Orleans Superdome for one of the most eagerly anticipated rematches in boxing history. Duran had eaten everything in sight after his victory in June and ballooned up almost to the class of a heavyweight before crash dieting and horrifically sweating his way back down to the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. Leonard had counted on this when he pushed to have the rematch as quickly as possible. After being humiliated for eight exhausting rounds, Duran finally gave up and —or so the popular story goes — uttered “no más” to referee Octavio Meyran. Duran followed up the shocking conclusion to the fight by announcing his retirement from the sport. (He’d return to the ring less than a year later.)Bowe vs. GolotaJuly 11, 1996Riddick Bowe was coming off a victory in the third match of his blood-feud trilogy with Evander Holyfield when he squared off against undefeated contender Andrew Golota in Madison Square Garden. Bowe had mostly refused to train for the fight on the basis of his public dismissal of Golota as a “bum.” Golota took control of the fight, but his biggest obstacle to victory became his devotion to excessively fouling Bowe with egregious, swung-shovel-like low blows. After repeated warnings failed to improve Golota’s accuracy, the referee began deducting points. He took three away before offering a final warning that a further low blow would cost Golota the fight. Golota continued to dominate the fight while unleashing perhaps his most sadistic barrage below the belt one final time with 30 seconds left in the seventh round. A massive riot ensued, and police, security and fans clashed in what would be remembered as the “Riot at the Garden.” Five months later, in Atlantic City, Bowe and Golota fought a hotly anticipated rematch. Golota repeated his domination of Bowe and his desire to ruthlessly foul him, leading to a ninth-round disqualification.Lewis vs. McCallFeb. 7, 1997Oliver McCall, for most of his career a distinguished journeyman, was best known as Mike Tyson’s sparring partner before handing heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis his first professional loss in a shocking upset in September 1994. Their rematch more than two years later was arguably the most bizarre heavyweight title fight; by the end of the third round, fans no doubt knew they were witnessing something nobody could have predicted. Before the closing bell to end the round, McCall had dropped his hands and looked despondent. When he came out for the fourth and fifth rounds, McCall spontaneously became a pacifist. Referee Mills Lane noticed McCall’s lips quivering before he began to cry. The fight was stopped in the fifth round.Holyfield vs. TysonJune 28, 1997When the washed-up Evander Holyfield was announced as Mike Tyson’s next opponent after Tyson had secured his second title belt on the way to unification, the opening odds for their November 1996 match made Holyfield a 25-to-1 underdog. The referee stopped the fight in the 11th round after Tyson was sent stumbling into the ropes. A rematch, which drew enormous interest, took place the following year. Holyfield quickly proved to both the world and Tyson that his first victory hadn’t been a fluke. And Tyson’s response became the defining moment of his career. With 39 seconds left in the third round, Tyson’s leaned over and tore a chunk of Holyfield’s ear lobe off with his teeth. Before the round was out, he savagely attacked Holyfield again in the same way and was disqualified. read more

You cant sit here Ohio State honors POWMIA with an empty seat

A sign reading “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN” in front of the POW-MIA seat at Ohio Stadium. Credit: @OhioStAthleticsIt’s a seat, but not any seat. Unlike other seats, which are meant to be sat in, no one will sit in it. Not on Saturday when the Ohio State football team opens its 2016 season against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium. Not any on Saturday, or the week’s other six days. No, no one will ever sit in this seat, because this seat, it’s more than a seat. The seat is in the first row of section 3AA at the stadium. It’s in that section, surrounded by the some 100,000 frenzied other fans wearing Scarlet and Gray and the usual sliver of opposing fans wearing whatever colors of whatever team they support, that members of the ROTC program at Ohio State, donning their branch’s respective uniforms, sit during football games. This seat, unveiled for the first time Thursday, is black. It’s not for Buckeye fans. It’s not for opposing fans. It’s not for any of us. This stirring black seat is a memorial for the 92,000 American soldiers that are unaccounted since World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. If looking at the seat from the front, in the upper right-hand corner, it’s marked seat No. 1, for the 92,000. In the middle of the forever-empty seat’s back is the harrowing POW/MIA logo — the silhouette of a man’s head in the foreground, with a guard tower and a barbed-wire fence in the background. The rest of the seats at Ohio Stadium are mostly bleachers. The bottom rung, closest to the green astroturf, are steel gray. The ones beyond that are scarlet. That pattern — rows of gray, rows of scarlet, rows of gray — spiral upward until the stadium stops and the sky begins. Smattered throughout the vast stadium, disrupting that perfect scarlet-and-gray spiral, are scarlet chairs, for the season ticket holders. But on game day, what those seats look like, no one knows; it doesn’t matter. The seats in the stadium, whether it be for the meaningless spring scrimmage, the banal early-season matches versus weaker teams or the wintery late-season contests, are, it seems, always occupied.This POW-MIA seat will remain empty the entire season at Ohio Stadium. Credit: @OhioStAthleticsExcept this black seat will never be occupied. Though it has a backing like the scarlet chairs season-ticket holders sit in, this is quite literally one-of-a-kind. It shall always serve as a reminder that whatever a game’s outcome is, at the end of the day, it’s just sports, which are important, but not that important. On the gray railing in front of the empty black seat is a black rectangular plaque, with a thin-gray trim. In large gray font, it reads: “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.” Below, it continues: “Since World War I, more than 92,000 American soldiers are unaccounted for. This unoccupied seat is dedicated to the memory of these brave men and women and to the sacrifices each made in serving this country. God Bless You. God Bless America.” Sometime around noon on Saturday, the kicker for either Bowling Green or Ohio State will send a football flying through the blue September sky. Well over a 100,000 fans, wearing a collection of scarlet and gray, orange and brown, or their ROTC uniform, will leave their seats, making noise, as the game gets under way.But in the first row of section 3AA, there will be a tiny space where no noise is coming from, near the black seat, in which no one is sitting. read more

Big Hank making sizeable impact on Ohio State line

With his 6-foot-3-inch, 335-pound body frame, it’s easy to see why Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins goes by the nickname “Big Hank.” Hankins, a native of Detroit, is six games into his freshman campaign and has already made his presence felt, recording 10 tackles and a sack. As Hankins continues to give OSU productive minutes, his role in the defensive line rotation will only increase. “You’re going to start hearing his named called a little bit more because he’s going to get a few more reps as the year goes on,” said ESPN analyst and former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman on 97.1 WBNS’s “Sunday Sports Brunch,” following the Indiana game. Hankins presents a tough matchup for opposing offensive linemen, not only because of his size, but also because of his deceptive speed. Hankins can run, OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. Perhaps just as important as his physical skills is Hankins’ understanding of the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he has on the field. “You can’t take off because if you take off one play, anything can happen,” Hankins said. Playing with intensity every play will be crucial for not only Hankins, as well as the rest of the football team, as the Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 in every major college football poll. Hankins understands OSU will play with a target on its back the rest of the season. “It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Teams are going to be coming out fighting, ready to knock us off, but we have to hold our ground.” read more

Sophomore racquets step up for Buckeyes

Normally, when a top player goes down with an injury, it’s panic time for a coach and his or her team. When the women’s tennis team’s No. 1 singles player and senior captain Paloma Escobedo went down in early March, coach Chuck Merzbacher didn’t have to reach for the panic button. Instead, he and his team put their faith in the sophomore trio of Gabby Steele, Fidan Manashirova and Kara Cecil. Their faith has paid off in wins. With a combined record of 55-30, the three have helped the Buckeyes (10-8 overall) to a winning record. The team is 3-1 in the Big Ten, with its lone loss coming against Northwestern, which leads the conference with Michigan. “They’ve stepped up,” said Merzbacher, who isn’t surprised by his players’ success. “They were a good recruiting class coming in. I knew they were going to be significant. They’ve done that and more.” With the loss of Escobedo, the players were forced to fill in the gap. “I think that everyone had to step up,” Manashirova said. “We all had to play our best tennis every single match.” The women were all 5-star recruits coming out of high school, and have had little difficulty adjusting to collegiate tennis. “Looking at the past captains and leaders, you learn from that. It’s really easy to adapt quickly here,” Manashirova said. The players’ quick learning curves have impressed Merzbacher. “They’ve adapted to college tennis very quickly,” he said. “They’ve come in; they’ve learned how to win right off the bat. They just keep moving up the lineup. There’s been no delay in their progress; they’ve gone right to it.” On the court, the women play with a quiet intensity. Despite attending high school in different regions (Manashirova in California, Steele in Ohio and Cecil in Florida), the women play with a natural chemistry. In less than two seasons, they have secured 103 combined wins in singles play. But when it comes to their success, the women aren’t ones to promote themselves. “We just keep having fun. We don’t take anything too seriously,” Steele said. “We just kind of go for it.” Merzbacher thinks otherwise. “I think they push each other. … They compete with each other, and they’re great teammates to each other at the same time,” he said. “They’re going to be an important part of this year and for the future.” It’s not the future or the past that interests Manashirova and Steele. The women prefer to focus on their next opponent. “Just taking it one match at a time. I just want to win every single match that I play,” Manashirova said. “I just want to think about what’s next.” Steele also believes her next match always has to be better than her last. “I think there’s always room for improvement and you can always do better,” she said. “Every single day that you go out on the court, work hard to improve.” The hard work and focus is paying off and Merzbacher doesn’t hesitate to say he’s proud. “Those three stepped up,” he said. “I think that shows the type of kids they are.” read more

Womens soccer looking to ride momentum into huge game at Penn State

Junior midfielder Ellyn Gruber (5) fights off a defender during a match against Purdue Sept. 29 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost, 1-0.Credit: Michele Theodore / Copy chiefAs the Ohio State women’s soccer team (8-3-3, 2-2-2) heads to State College, Pa., to play No. 17 Penn State, it has to prepare to face its second ranked opponent in its last three scheduled matches.Coach Lori Walker said she understands the importance of this match for the Buckeyes.“(Playing) at Penn State is always a great challenge,” Walker said. “It’s going to be a battle, and you know, we’ve just got to take it minute by minute. I (have) got to make sure my A-team gets on that bus.”The Buckeyes won their last match Saturday, ending a three-game scoreless streak in the process, by finding the back of the net three times in a win against Michigan State.“It was a huge weight off our shoulders,” said junior midfielder Ellyn Gruber. “We (had) been working all week on (finishing), a lot of repetition and stuff, so it finally gave us some confidence.”OSU started the year at No. 23, peaking at No. 21, but fell out of the polls after losing to Boston College 1-0 Sept. 5, despite beating Northeastern 4-1 Sept. 8. The Buckeyes currently sit eighth in the Big Ten and if the team wants to move up the standings, it has to start with improved finishing offensively, sophomore forward Michela Paradiso said.“We just gotta continue to work harder in practice and keep finishing, cause that can give us confidence that we can keep putting goals up on the board,” Paradiso said after Saturday’s game.At 10-3-1 overall and 4-2-0 in Big Ten matches, the Nittany Lions are currently third in conference play, sitting behind No. 22 Nebraska and No. 12 Michigan. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 1-0 home loss to the Wolverines Sunday, their first loss at home since the beginning of the 2012 season to Stanford.Offensively, senior forward Maya Hayes leads Penn State with 13 goals on the season, a mark that makes her second-best in the Big Ten.The Buckeyes lost their matchup last season with the Nittany Lions, a 3-0 decision at home, but Gruber said the Buckeyes will be ready this time around.“That’s going to be a huge, huge game. It’s going to be really tough, but we are just going to have a good, hard, week of practice, and we’ll be prepared,” Gruber said.The game is set for 3 p.m. Thursday. read more

Plot hatched to reintroduce extinct great auk to British shores

first_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Errol Fuller, a writer and expert on extinct birds, said the great auk was a “superstar of extinction”.“The bird has an appeal which I don’t think you can put into words,” he said.“It’s just iconic, and that’s why the 19th century collectors wanted it so much.“It’s British, it’s large and it’s dramatic looking – black and white.”Other “de-extinction” projects already taking place include those to restore the woolly mammoth, passenger pigeon and heath hen.In each case the extinct genomes have been thoroughly sequenced, along with the genomes of their closest living relatives.In the case of the woolly mammoth, 16 genes governing three important traits have already been edited into a living elephant cell line by Harvard scientists.To reintroduce the Great Auk, a flock of captive-bred razorbills will eventually be needed to supply sufficient embryos. Equivalent in size to a medium penguin, they lived mainly in the open ocean except for when they waddled onshore to breed.Once out of the water, however, the striking black and white bird’s flightlessness made it vulnerable to humans eager to exploit its meat and feathers.As early as the 16th century, fruitless attempts were made to restrict hunting the great auk, but as their numbers steadily dwindled the animals became even more coveted by collectors, which further hastened their decline.In 1844 the last birds in the final known colony on an island off Iceland were killed. Great Auk The flightless bird was easy prey for humansCredit:Alamy The great auk could return to British shores for the first time in almost 200 years after geneticists hatched a plan to bring the extinct bird back from the dead.An international team of scientists has met to discuss reintroducing the flightless marine birds onto the Farne islands off the north-east coast of England.Until the species’ final extinction in the middle of the 19th century, great auks ranged across the Atlantic from Northern Europe to Iceland, Canada and the eastern United States. It would be rather wonderful to feel that we could bring it backMatt Ridley Matt Ridley, a science writer who chaired a recent meeting where the plans were discussed, said: “Effectively the great auk is the only European breading bird to go extinct in the last 500 years.“It’s one of the very few flightless birds of the northern hemisphere and it obviously played a very important part in the ecosystem of the North Atlantic.“It would be rather wonderful to feel that we could bring it back.”The Farnes, one of the very few island groups of the east coast of Britain, have been selected because are attractive to island-nesting seabirds.The number of breeding birds has approximately doubled in the last 40 years, thanks largely to protection from human disturbance and control of the predatory gull population.Each summer the islands now host tens of thousands of puffins, guillemots, razorbills and other species. Now an American research institute, Revive & Restore, which attempts “genetic rescue” for endangered and extinct species, believes it can recreate the species and gradually restore it to its old breeding grounds.The scientists want to extract great auk DNA from fossils or preserved organs and then use digital data to sequence the animal’s entire genetic code, or genome.The important genes – those particularly characteristic of the great auk – would then be edited into the cells of its nearest living relative, the razorbill.Fertilised embryos would then be implanted into a bird big enough to lay a great auk egg, probably a goose.last_img read more

Teenager who dreamed of becoming doctor died of multiple neck wounds in

first_imgEllen had last been seen leaving Winstanley College in Wigan at 1pm. Her friends launched an appeal on Twitter and Facebook to try to find her when she disappeared.Detective Superintendent Howard Millington, from GMP’s Major Incident Team, said: “This is an absolute tragedy; my thoughts are with Ellen’s family and friends. What they must be going through is unimaginable.”We are also working with Wigan Council and Winstanley College, where Ellen was a pupil, to ensure support is in place for anyone affected by this shocking incident.”The post-mortem has now taken place and we have a clearer picture of what may have happened to Ellen, but we are still piecing together her exact movements in the lead-up to her death.”He added that police were looking into reports that two young women were followed in the area earlier in the week.The detective urged everyone who had been in the area of the popular beauty spot to get in touch, no matter how small their piece of information was.He said: “We have dedicated significant resources to this inquiry. We will be leaving no stone unturned.”We have issued a press appeal and are getting a good response. I would urge members of the public to ring if they have any information. “Young people like to congregate at the water park, fishermen use the lodges there. If you were there and saw anything you think is not quite right I would like to know about it.”It may seem insignificant but I would like to make that call.”Somebody out there knows or suspects who is involved in this. I would appeal to their conscience to come forward and help us get this sorted out.”This is a big scene, but of particular interest is the location where the young lady was found, on the edge of a field. I would ask the public to stay away from the area.”I cannot rule out a sexual motivation and as the investigation progresses, including forensic investigations, that is one thing I will be looking at. We are keeping an open mind at this stage.”There was also an earlier incident involving two women being followed.”This was in the same area and whether it is connected or not if anyone has information about it I would like to know about it.”GMP said it is leaving no stone unturned in the investigation and asked for the public to get in touch if they had seen anyone acting suspiciously in the area on Friday or in the days before. Mr Millington said: “Attacks of this severity are thankfully incredibly rare, but that in itself makes this all the more shocking.”Our officers will be patrolling the streets in the area whilst we continue our investigation. Anyone with any concerns should come and speak to our officers. ” A student who dreamed of becoming a doctor died of multiple neck wounds after a “brutal attack” at a beauty spot, police have revealed, as they said the killing could have had a sexual motive.Sixth-former Ellen Higginbottom, 18, was discovered dead on the edge of a field in Wigan early on Saturday 13 hours after she disappeared.The A-level student had been reported missing by her family at 7.20pm on Friday, when she failed to return from college. They said this was extremely out of character for her.On Sunday night police arrested a 47-year-old man from the Billinge area of Wiganon suspicion of murdering the 18-year-old.Friends of the keen singer and horserider said she had last been near Orrell Water Park. Greater Manchester Police searched the area and discovered a body at around 2.30am on Saturday.It was revealed on Sunday that a post-mortem examination gave the teenager’s cause of death as multiple wounds to the neck.Detectives said the nature of the attack is the type rarely seen in Greater Manchester and confirmed they are not ruling out a sexual motive.Last night,  specially trained family liaison officers supporting Ellen’s family. Her father Mike, an IT expert, told a newspaper his daughter had dreamed of becoming a doctor. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more