On Friday night, Crisler Center was buzzing with excitement as senior middle blocker Jess Robinson secured a beautiful kill on the very first play to kick off a dominant win for Michigan.
“Yeah, one of the things we always want to do is establish the quick sense because then everything else can feed off of that,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.
The Wolverines took that message to heart, dominating the first two sets and going on to win the match in four, thanks in no small part to Robinson and sophomore middle blocker Jacque Boney.
Robinson completed five blocks through the duration of the game, but that figure alone does not tell the whole story. Robinson’s energy at the net was constant and ferocious, never willfully letting a ball through. In addition to her five blocks, Robinson recorded eight blocks and had a hitting percentage of .500.
“(Robinson) has been great all year long,” Rosen said. “So it didn’t surprise any of us ‘cause they’ve done it almost every match this year, early in the match and establish the middle and then the offense just beats off of that.”
Not to be outdid, Boney showed up for her best game of the season so far. Boney matched her career-high of nine kills and set her new career-high with nine blocks.
Some would be quick to attribute the success of these players to a weak opponent, but that could not be further from the case. Mississippi State is a legitimate team, receiving top 25 votes in the AVCA coaches poll.
“That’s a hard team to block against because of the speed they run,” Rosen said
This win came against a talented opponent and Michigan’s middle blockers appear, thus far, to live up to the hype.
Boney and Robinson rotate the same position and their combined energy is what has delivered victories to Michigan this season. The Wolverines concluded non-conference play this weekend. As they head into the rest of the season they will certainly look to the middle blockers to continue their success.
“We’ve done a really good job this whole non-conference schedule of preparing for teams and just going from night to night, which is gonna be a great thing for us to have during the Big Ten season,” junior libero Hannah Grant said. “And Mississippi State’s a really good team. So I thought we did a really good job tonight of just coming out and showing them what Big Ten volleyball is.”
If Boney and Robinson continue to bring energy as they tour the Big Ten in the coming weeks, they will be an integral part of the Wolverines strategy as they take on conference play.