Michigan drops first match of season to No. 16 Florida State

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By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 15, 2013

Three sets into a match against No. 16 Florida State, the final match of the Texas A&M Invitational, the No. 7 Michigan volleyball team looked poised to fly back to Ann Arbor with a perfect 8-0 record intact.

The Wolverines entered Saturday’s contest coming off a five-set comeback win over Texas A&M and a three-set sweep of Siena. Two sets later, Michigan suffered its first loss of the season, finishing the Texas A&M Invitational 2-1.

Down by one through the first half of the third set, the Wolverines (7-1) and Seminoles traded points before the Florida State sister duo of Nicole and Elise Walch — who each finished with 22 kills — found a hole in Michigan’s block. The pair combined for nine of Florida State’s last 11 points, sealing the 25-17 win.

Three straight kills from freshman middle blocker Abby Cole kept the Wolverines within one through the first half. Though two more late kills from Cole, and one from senior co-captain outside hitter Lexi Erwin, kept Michigan in the game late.

But it was not enough to top the sisters a second time around.

Despite two key service errors and a late Erwin attack error in the fifth set, Michigan was able to tie the game at 13 off a kill from Cole. But two kills from Florida State — the Seminoles scored 15 points off of 13 kills — put the Wolverines away, 15-13.

“(Florida State) played very well, and we could have played a little bit better,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We had played three games in 24 hours, so we were tired. This weekend exposed us a little and gave us a lot of information. We come back with a lot more information and direction into what we need to do to take ourselves to the next level.”

The Wolverines needed five sets to complete a comeback victory over Texas A&M in their second match Friday. Having fallen quietly to the Aggies in the first set, Michigan earned a 24-18 lead off stellar blocking from Toon and sophomore middle blocker Krystalyn Goode. Despite a 6-0 Aggie run to tie the game at 24, a kill from freshman outside hitter Abby Cole and a Texas A&M attack error tied the match at one set apiece.

Despite hitting just .220 as a team in the third set, Michigan took an easier 25-20 victory and a one-game advantage over the Aggies. In it, Goode — who recorded a season-high seven blocks and three of the Wolverines’ five solo stuffs — contributed five of her eight kills on the night.

But Texas A&M would serve the same score back to Michigan in the fourth set, forcing a 15-point tiebreaker in the final set. Texas A&M outside hitter Angela Lowak gave the Aggies a four-point lead early on, from which the Wolverines would never recover.

In the fifth set, Michigan was forced to play comeback when, down 13-11 and facing a match point, Toon’s team-high 12th kill put the ball back in the hands of junior setter Lexi Dannemiller for the serve. Down 13-12, Dannemiller’s ace tied the set before a kill from Goode put the Wolverines within one point of the match. A second Dannemiller ace secured the 15-13 win, and Michigan’s seventh of the season.

Of course, Dannemiller could only deliver after getting in the zone.

“I was on the bench and Tim, our trainer, meditates with us in the morning, so he told me to just focus on my breathing,” Dannemiller said. “That’s what I did, so I was just lucky to get the ball where it landed.”

Several new Wolverine faces saw time against Siena in the first match of the weekend. Among them, sophomore setter Carly Warner — in her first appearance this season — contributed 28 assists and six digs in place of Dannemiller. Michigan never trailed Siena while resting multiple key starters and substituting 15 players, taking the match in three sets, 25-14, 25-17, 25-17.

“Whenever we put someone else in, we know that they can play as well as they do in practice,” Dannemiller said. “Having everyone come in and be supportive of each other was cool. It was fun to see Carly run an offense because she did a really great job.”

The trio of freshman middle blocker Gaby Bulic and sophomores Ally Davis and Kelly Murphy combined for 10 of Michigan’s 44 kills on the match. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Olivia Reed added a block in the second set of the match, putting the Wolverines up 15-7.

From Siena, Rosen and his squad learned that the second string can win. But from Florida State, they learned there are no second chances against a Top-25 team.

“We need depth,” Rosen said. “That’s what’s going to keep us going through a long season. But that doesn’t mean that we can sleep against some teams and snap back to beat elite teams. We know now what we need to work on to move to that next level.”

Note: Two Michigan middle blockers had career days Friday. Goode finished with a season-high 10 kills, while senior co-captain middle blocker Jennifer Cross moved into sole possession of third place on the program’s career total blocks list with 437. Both Cross and Dannemiller were selected to the Texas A&M Invitational All-Tournament team.