Scottee Johnson sat for a second, a little shaken, on the floor of Cliff Keen Arena. The freshman setter had just absorbed a vicious attack from the Indiana side, a ball that hit her upper body with so much force it knocked her off her feet. It took her a few moments to recover, but Johnson pulled herself up off the ground and, in a notable display of perseverance, stayed in the game for the entirety of the fourth and final set, racking up assists all the way to the end.
The Michigan women’s volleyball team has been battered by COVID-19 sidelinings all season, but like Johnson, the team refuses to let itself be knocked out. The Wolverines (4-3 Big Ten) finished their two-game sweep of Indiana (3-13 Big Ten) on Saturday evening, playing a strong offensive match and taking the win in four sets. Their attack and service games were both rock-solid, with a .257 hitting percentage and 12 aces on the match.
Michigan coach Mark Rosen, who was coaching in just his second game since being held out due to COVID-19 protocols in mid-February, lauded his team’s efforts coming off yet another interruption to their season.
“They’ve been really good, really resilient,” Rosen said. “It’s a tough situation that none of us would want, none of us have any control over, but I think they’ve done a really good job of just moving through that.”
The two teams played a close, back and forth first set, with neither squad able to pull away. As the set went into extra points, though, sophomore outside hitter May Pertofsky took over for Michigan. Pertofsky almost single-handedly kept the Wolverines in it, netting several kills on Indiana set points to keep them alive. With the score tied at 28, she served an ace, giving Michigan the lead and allowing it to take the set 30-28 on the next point.
Pertofsky’s dominance would become a theme for the rest of the game, as she finished with a ratio of 17 kills to just one error and led the team with six aces. Despite her strong play, Pertofsky stressed that the win was a team effort.
“It’s always awesome to play really well in a game (myself),” Pertofsky said. “But we’re a team, and we’re always playing for each other.
“It’s a great atmosphere, and we’ve really been working on connection, and that really showed tonight.”
The Hoosiers took the second set to make it a 1-1 match, but the Wolverines replied with a dominant third set and never looked back. After taking that set 25-17, Michigan found itself trailing to begin the fourth, but gradually cut into Indiana’s lead until it took the lead, 13-12. From there, middle blockers Kayla Bair and Jess Robinson took control with a flurry of kills and blocks between them, leading the Wolverines to win the set comfortably, 25-19, and took the match 3-1 for their first back-to-back wins of the season.
Although Michigan’s season has been defined by postponements and uncertainty, Rosen is pleased with how his team has handled the adversity.
“We can only control what we can control, and we talk about that in our program a lot –– don’t worry about the things we have no control over,” Rosen said. “These guys are living that every day –– it’s easy to say it, not easy to live it –– and they’re just (thinking), ‘Whatever we can do, we’ll get better at.’ So I’m proud of them.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.