Tonight begins tough weekend for spikers

BY STEPHANIE WRIGHT
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 23, 2004

Michigan volleyball senior Lisa Gamalski has gotten off to a
fast start this season, earning MVP awards in all three Michigan
tournaments. After recording her first triple-double in the win
against No. 22 Tennessee last weekend, Gamalski is just one kill
shy of 400 career kills.

Michigan Volleyball
Lisa Gamalski and the Michigan volleyball team face a re-energized Iowa tonight. (ALEXANDER DZIADOSZ/Daily)

Gamalski is proud of her individual success, but is ready to do
whatever it takes to help her team.

“For me, in my position, I have to be focused on the
team,” Gamalski said. “Personal success will come with
team success. I just want to win.”

Like Gamalski, Michigan has been on a roll throughout its
nonconference schedule. In addition to defeating seven of its first
eight opponents in straight games on its way to a 9-1 record,
Michigan has out-hit its opponents in every match and leads the Big
Ten in opponent-hitting percentage.

But as the Wolverines open their conference season on the road
against Iowa and Minnesota this weekend, they realize their
competition is about to get a lot tougher.

“The stakes go up,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.
“The Big Ten is known as one of the best conferences for
volleyball in the nation. There are no more kind of easy, warm-up
matches. Any team could beat any other team.”

Michigan plans to keep this attitude in mind as it takes on Iowa
tonight. The Hawkeyes are coming off a disappointing 2003 season in
which they struggled to a 6-24 record, and the Wolverines have won
their last two matches in Iowa City. But energized by new coach
Cindy Fredrick, Iowa has gotten off to an 8-3 start this
season.

“Every match is important,” Gamalski said.
“More or less, they’re a team we know we need to beat.
We can’t look past them and focus too much on Minnesota.
We’ve got to respect everyone in the Big Ten.”

One team that has definitely earned Michigan’s respect is
Minnesota. With a 1-9 record against the Golden Gophers in the last
five seasons, the Wolverines understand how difficult it will be to
win on the road. But Rosen remains confident that his team’s
tournament victories — especially its 3-1 win over Tennessee
— have prepared them to take on Minnesota.

“Minnesota is very steady and consistent, but we can
compete,” Rosen said. “They play a different, more
physical style than Iowa, and we have to be ready for it. There
will be no charity points in this match.”

While Minnesota is playing to maintain its No. 1 ranking,
Michigan sits just outside the top-25. The Wolverines believe they
can only help themselves by turning in their best performance
Saturday night.

“It’s exciting because it’s rare that we have
a no-lose situation,” Rosen said. “We have nothing to
lose and a whole lot to gain.”

Gamalski echoes the attitude of her coach, enjoying her
team’s unusual status as underdog.

“We’ve known all along that Minnesota is a good
team,” Gamalski said. “We just need to play hard and
have a good time. But no game do we walk into thinking we
can’t win.”