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Michigan unable to mount upset against Cornhuskers

Austen Hufford/Daily
Sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller and the Wolverines topped Iowa on Friday before losing to Nebraska in Lincoln. Buy this photo

By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 30, 2012

The Michigan volleyball team made a habit of falling behind early in sets, and struggled to come back against No. 6 Nebraska on Sunday.

What appeared to be a promising outlook for an upset of the Cornhuskers quickly faded and ended with the Wolverines’ second Big Ten loss of the season. They fell 3-1 in Lincoln, 25-21, 13-25, 17-25, 21-25 after defeating Iowa on the road on Friday.

Michigan raced out to a 4-0 lead to begin the first set, capped by a kill from junior outside hitter Molly Toon. The fast start forced Nebraska to take a timeout, but it did little to slow down the Wolverines’ momentum.

Ahead 14-10, Michigan put together a 5-1 run, featuring three kills from freshman outside hitter Kelly Murphy. The Cornhuskers fought back to bring the set within two points at 23-12, but another kill from Murphy and an attack error ended the set.

“We were really pumped up,” said sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller about her team’s attitude following the first set. “One set doesn’t matter, so we knew we had to get some work done to win the match.”

Dannemiller racked up 41 assists and 16 digs on Sunday, adding to her impressive totals this season.

The Wolverines were caught off-guard in the second set, though, as Nebraska totaled a .548 attack percentage. The Cornhuskers jumped out to a 5-0 run and used another 5-0 run later in the set to easily tie the match. Michigan hit a dismal .067 during the second set, accumulating only eight kills on 30 attempts.

The Cornhuskers didn’t let off the gas, jumping out to another fast start — this time a 4-0 run. With the score 13-8, Nebraska went on a 6-0 run and essentially put the game out of reach.

But the Wolverines attempted to rotate through their lineup after the first set, looking for a combination to make up ground.

“We played more players than I can ever remember playing in a match,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We continually tried to find the best combination to allow us to be successful. I was pleased with how some of our players came in and responded to some of those opportunities.”

The Cornhuskers kicked off the fourth set with yet another strong start, but this time met more opposition from the Wolverines than the previous sets. Michigan brought the score within one, but the Cornhuskers responded with a 6-1 run to make the score 17-10.

Using one of fifth year senior Claire McElheny’s 12 kills, the Wolverines worked back to bring the score within one again. Michigan mustered only two more points, though, and Nebraska took the set and the match.

“We played well this weekend,” Rosen said. “I think tonight we were better defensively and they were a very good offensive team. We’re making improvements, but tonight was disappointing because we wanted to win.”

Nebraska also limited outside hitter Lexi Erwin, holding the junior standout to just two kills.

McEheny’s 12 kills led the team, followed by junior middle blocker Jennifer Cross’s 10 kills. Cross led the team with eight blocks, while freshman libero Tiffany Morales contributed 23 digs to lead the team.

The Wolverines face the challenge of rebounding quickly to avoid falling in Big Ten play with a tough test on Wednesday in Minnesota.

To do that, they may need to jump out to a fast start or two of their own.