The noise at Crisler Center oscillated between deafening roars and eerie quiet. The up-and-down third set orchestrated which pitch would come next. Penn State's Jonni Parker's kill late in the set ushered silence over the arena, but Sydney Wetterstrom ended the sense of unease with a kill to close the set, 25-17, in favor of Michigan.
During those few minutes of the third set, anticipation for a win was palpable in Crisler Center. Unfortunately for the Michigan volleyball team, those few minutes were the only ones worth celebrating. A 3-1 loss for the Wolverines against the Nittany Lions Friday shut the crowd up once and for all.
“We did a great job of fighting back in, but at that point you’re down by seven and eight, it’s a tough battle against a really good team,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen.
While all four sets were plagued by defensive miscommunication and poor serving returns from Michigan, Wetterstrom and Jones stood out on an otherwise forgettable night.
Wetterstrom had two career-highs against the Nittany Lions — 16 kills and three blocks. She also contributed 13 digs, and two service aces, becoming a key all-around player for the Wolverines. She is top-five in four categories — kills, assists, service aces and digs. Additionally, she contributed 17.5 points for Michigan.
“I thought (Wetterstrom) played the most complete game I’ve seen her play this year. Offensively, she was really really good,” Rosen said. “I thought she was just really dialed in tonight and played really well. She certainly played like a veteran.”
On Friday night, Jones was the difference-maker in the third set, when she went on a seven-serve run, extending Michigan’s lead over Penn State to seven points. She also had a career-high 16 kills on the night. Like Wetterstrom, Jones is also top-five in five categories — assists, service aces, digs, kills and blocks. She holds the team-high in kills with 226.
“She got going, I thought she started a little slow and then I thought she really got into a rhythm which is something Pagie does a very good job of,” Rosen said. “She’s very good at keeping her composure.”
Composure, though something the Wolverines usually excel at, was lacking Friday night. From multiple back-row miscommunications to missed blocks, Michigan often found itself in deep holes, trailing the Nittany Lions by seven or eight points at times.
As the Wolverines look towards the rest of their season, filled with tough conference opponents, they’ll need to continue to capitalize on key players like Jones and Wetterstrom. Along with the rest of their starting line-up, if the Wolverines can find composure, Friday's performance against Penn State can be the exception as opposed to the norm.
“Being in those hot battles, being in the fire, it makes you stronger,” Rosen said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”