Wolverines forced to grow up over two-game weekend
Though the Michigan volleyball team took on two teams from the state of Indiana this weekend, the similarities between the matches stopped there.
Friday, No. 22 Michigan battled through an intense back-and-forth first set with No. 20 Purdue. The Wolverines ultimately lost by two points, before dropping the next two sets by six and seven, respectively.
But Saturday night, Michigan fared better against Indiana, winning the match 3-1. Each of the three sets the Wolverines won Saturday were decided by nine points or more.
Friday’s match against Purdue marked not only the first Big Ten match of the year for the Wolverines, but also the first time this season they squared off against a ranked opponent.
Michigan coach Mark Rosen felt his team’s inexperience was the difference-maker against Purdue. Rosen was interested to see how his team would respond against the Boilermakers six days after an ugly loss to North Carolina, the Wolverines' first defeat of the season.
“Coming off of last weekend, which was a tough loss for us, I liked how our team responded and came out and played hard,” Rosen said. “The difference between them and us tonight was just that little extra consistency. We’d make an error here or there, or they’d make an extra special play and we wouldn’t make that play.
“It wasn’t giant differences, it’s almost just experience. We’re not necessarily a young team, we’re an inexperienced team.”
Both of Michigan's starting setters are in their first year of seeing regular playing time, and that inexperience showed Friday night as the Wolverines' offense struggled to spread the ball around and generate kills. Sophomore hitter Adeja Lambert set her season-high kill mark with 14, but no other player finished with more than half of Lambert’s mark.
Fortunately for Michigan, it got another opportunity to get its first Big Ten win of the season less than 24 hours later.
The Wolverines immediately jumped on the Hoosiers in the first set, winning by nine points. Michigan's only hiccup of the match came in the second set when, leading 15-8, Rosen felt his team got complacent and allowed Indiana to score eight unanswered points to take both the lead and the set.
The setter play was much improved in the second match of the weekend. Junior middle blocker Abby Cole finished with a team-high 14 kills, and five other Michigan players also finished with seven or more kills.
Rosen has preached constantly improving and learning every day to his inexperienced team all season, and this weekend it was evident that the Wolverines improved in that area from one match to the next.
“I think we learned from the Purdue match that we need to be our own team," senior libero Tiffany Morales said. “(We need to) trust that what we’re going to do is going to affect the other team and that they have to make changes against us, instead of us just worrying about what they’re going to do.”