Down a point midway into the first set, redshirt sophomore libero Hannah Grant readied herself for the incoming serve.
As the ball came in, she shuffled sideways to receive it and sent a pass over to Scottee Johnson. The sophomore setter planted her feet and passed it to senior outside hitter Paige Jones, who slammed a kill into the center of the court, tying the set at 13 apiece.
From there, the Michigan volleyball team (12-8 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) won 12 of the next 15 points to close out the set and cruised to a 3-0 sweep over Iowa (3-19, 1-11) on Saturday night. The offense was red-hot the entire night, recording 51 kills at a hitting percentage of .391 throughout the match.
The first set did not begin as smoothly as it ended for the Wolverines. For the first half of the set, the two teams went back and forth, exchanging nearly every other point. Finally, Michigan pulled away, led by Jones and sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik, who combined for nine kills in the set.
“We kept pushing them, we kept pressuring them, but we stayed patient,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “All of a sudden, right in the middle of the set, we stayed aggressive and we broke it open.”
The Hawkeyes delivered an early punch in the mouth to the Wolverines in the second set, beginning the set with a 5-1 run. But then, freshman middle blocker Jacque Boney — who has been a force all year — made her presence felt once again. On four points in a row, Boney recorded three kills and a block, swinging the momentum back in Michigan’s favor.
“It feels really good to know I’m contributing,” Boney said. “It’s really easy because I have my teammates helping me out and telling me what to look for. … Small little comments like that throughout the game help me to contribute.”
Following her run of dominance, Boney continued to contribute throughout the rest of the set, adding two more block assists and another kill. With her help, the Wolverines stayed slightly ahead of Iowa the entire set before pulling away at the end to win 25-21.
Unlike the first two sets, Michigan raced ahead to begin the third. Mruzik and Jones continued to hit accurately, but it was the play of Johnson that really stood out. In addition to recording 13 assists, she added two kills of her own, forcing the Hawkeyes to pay attention to yet another attacker when blocking.
“When you attack on that second ball, it speeds things up defensively, it’s much quicker than they’re ready for,” Rosen said. “It makes them slower on trying to block the third contact, so its a really important part of the offense to have her be a threat. … She’s calling her own number more — she needs to do that.”
Led by Johnson, the Wolverines once again held a small lead for the majority of the set before breaking it open at the end. In its 25-21 third-set victory, the offense continued to fire on all cylinders, with all five active players recording at least one kill at a combined hitting percentage of .386.
All night, Iowa could not do much to prevent Michigan’s outside hitters from landing their kills, while the middle blockers created trouble for the Hawkeyes on the offensive end. For a squad that has in the past had to rely on contributions from just one or two players, getting the entire offense in on the action added a new level of depth.
After losing their past two matchups, the Wolverines finally righted the ship offensively on Saturday night. They’ll have to hope that trend continues going forward.