Michigan seniors exorcise demons, beat No. 15 Purdue

Senior middle blocker Claire Kiefer-Wright finished with 7.5 points, helping Michigan dispatch Purdue.

Senior middle blocker Claire Kiefer-Wright finished with 7.5 points, helping Michigan dispatch Purdue. Buy this photo
Darby Stipe/Daily
Sunday, November 19, 2017 - 4:50pm

Beat Purdue. 

That is something the senior class of the Michigan volleyball team, and several before it, haven’t been able to do.

“We talked about it,” said coach Mark Rosen. “We don’t have a lot of secrets in our program, we don’t skirt around things. We haven’t beat them since 2010. I asked them, ‘where were you guys in 2010?’ and a lot of them were in sixth grade. So it’s a long time ago.”

But the streak finally ended Saturday night, as the Wolverines disposed of No. 15 Purdue in four sets. The three seniors — outside hitter Adeja Lambert, middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright and opposite hitter Katherine Mahlke — all contributed immensely to the win in their final game at Cliff Keen Arena.

Lambert finished with seven digs, while Kieffer-Wright had 7.5 points and ended a few long volleys with pivotal kills. Offensively, Mahlke led the way, finishing the game with a team-high 14 kills and a .500 hit percentage.

“Kat really came out with some major kills when we needed them,” said junior outside hitter Carly Skjodt. “She stayed aggressive the entire match.”

Added Rosen; “She just has such a live arm. She swings fast and high when she gets going. Kat was just delivering, and one of (the) things we talked about against a team that big and that physical was you have to be aggressive.

“If you flinch or pull back a little bit on your swing, they’re going to block you. I thought Kat was just super relentless and going after it.”

That aggressive play paid off for the Wolverines, as the senior class capped off an impressive home record of 49-16. Michigan will certainly miss the leadership and play of Lambert, Kieffer-Wright, and Mahlke next season, as they have all been regular contributors since their freshman years.

“You don't know what you miss until you don’t have it,” Rosen said. “We know we’re going to miss a lot, but we won’t know the specifics until they’re not here. And we’re not really in a hurry to figure that out. We want to make this go as long as possible, and enjoy their experience here.”

It’s an experience that may last a little longer, as the Wolverines — who finish up the regular season with two away games — seem to have clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament after Friday’s result and a victory over No. 8 Michigan State on Wednesday.

But regardless of their postseason fate, the seniors can rest easier knowing that they closed out their home careers with a win against a formidable foe in front of a sold-out crowd.

“I say this every year, but this is my least favorite night,” Rosen said. “I mean, we beat Purdue, that’s great, but it’s just hard to say goodbye to those guys. Four years go by so fast and it never feels like it's enough time. And I guess that that’s a good thing. The year we want our seniors to graduate, that’s probably a bad sign.”