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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Built to lead, volleyball's Warner finally getting her chance to shine

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By Max Bultman, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 3, 2014

Even early in her recruiting process, Carly Warner’s on-court focus grabbed the attention of Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen.

Now a junior, Warner has held Rosen’s eye throughout her career as a Wolverine. There’s only been one problem — she shares a position with the team’s impact player, senior setter Lexi Dannemiller, a three-year starter.

But when Dannemiller missed the team’s season-opening tournament last weekend due to “internal rules,” Warner was thrust into the spotlight and showed her opponents what her coach has known for years — even without their senior captain, the Wolverines have a leader in their setter.

“She’s someone who makes other people better,” Rosen said. “And as a setter that’s a huge trait. … Hitters love to hit off her sets because she makes them feel really good. Part of the psychology of setting is being that kind of teammate and she’s very good at it.

“When it’s game time, she does a pretty good job of keeping her emotions and any kind of stressors out of the picture. She stays calm and runs her team really well.”

Unwanted thoughts can derail even the best athletes, but Warner says blocking them out has always come naturally for her.

Even though she had a month to prepare to start in Dannemiller’s place for the Arkansas Invitational over the weekend, she must have used that gift to combat some pregame nerves before the Wolverines’ opener against Stephen F. Austin. While her mind could have been any number of places, Warner was able to use a team mantra to focus in.

“One quote that we’ve talked about this year is, ‘Be where your feet are,’ ” Warner said.
“I always try to compartmentalize what I’m doing at the time.”

Her feet may be on the court even more the next three weeks. Dannemiller could miss up to a month with mononucleosis, according to Warner, creating more time on the floor for Warner and redshirt freshman Cindy Zhou.

And if Warner can produce the way she did in Arkansas, it could be hard for Rosen to sit her down much during that stretch.

In three games over the weekend, Warner tallied 126 assists, and of the Wolverines’ 12.25 kills per set, she assisted 10.5 of them and committed only one error on 17 total attack attempts.

“I thought that she certainly played at a very high level and got our hitters in good positions to compete,” Rosen said Saturday. “I really like what she did, and that shows we have depth at that position, which is a great thing for us to see.”

With Dannemiller’s possible extended absence, that depth will face a tough test this weekend when No. 19 Duke and No. 20 North Carolina visit Ann Arbor.

But Warner and Zhou won’t be left to their own devices entirely. Rosen says the setters do a great job sharing information to give the team the best edge it can get.

“We work together anyway on who to set and how to set,” Warner said. “And then definitely when we figured out that I was starting (Dannemiller) really helped me get prepared on how to run the team.”

Advice from an All-America Honorable Mention never hurts, but Warner has always had a knack for directing traffic on the court. She’ll just finally be doing it in the spotlight.