Offense struggles as Michigan falls to Minnesota

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 12:29am

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Allison Engkvist/Daily

Towards the back half of the second set in Saturday’s match against No. 5 Minnesota, the Michigan volleyball team held one of its few leads. With the score at 21-20, the Wolverines lost two crucial points that cost them the lead and ultimately the chance to tie the match at one set apiece.

First, senior setter MacKenzi Welsh was blocked by the front line of the Golden Gophers, a unit that Michigan had no answer for. Then, freshman outside hitter May Pertofsky missed a spike on the next play to give Minnesota a lead it would not surrender for the rest of the set.

Those two plays typified a Wolverines offense that was lackluster at best, as Michigan (18-8 overall, 11-5 Big Ten) fell to the Golden Gophers (20-4, 14-2), 25-21, 25-23, 25-20. As a team, the Wolverines hit a measly .080 percent, their second lowest percentage of the season. They also committed 30 errors while Minnesota had just 10.

“We always talk about bettering the ball,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “ … I don’t think we bettered the ball tonight.”

The Golden Gophers’ front line dominated the Wolverines, with 13 blocks on the night to Michigan’s four. Pertofsky and fifth-year senior middle blocker Cori Crocker were especially frustrated by the Golden Gophers’ blocking. Pertofsky finished the match with five kills and four errors, a blemish in what’s otherwise been a stellar freshman season. Crocker didn’t fare much better with six kills and three errors.

“Our attackers didn’t play very well tonight,” Rosen said.  “ ... (Minnesota is) a strong blocking team and our hitters didn’t do a great job of adjusting.”

Sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones led the Wolverines offensively with 13 kills, but her performance was still nothing more than rocky at best. She ended the match with a team-high eight errors and had an additional three errors at the service line.

The lone bright spot for Michigan seemed to be Welsh, who had a season-high 17 digs in addition to 31 assists. This match resulted in her eighth double-double of the season.

While it was decidedly a disappointing loss for the Wolverines against a Minnesota team that they had taken to five sets just a few weeks prior, Rosen chose not to dwell on the loss.

“We didn’t play very well offensively tonight,” Rosen said. “But there’s nothing we can do about this game now.”