By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 18, 2012
Playing in the Prairie State for the second time in as many days, the Michigan volleyball team fell to Illinois, 3-1, Saturday night in Champaign.
After winning the first set 25-22, the Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 21-11 overall) dropped three straight to the Fighting Illini (6-12 Big Ten, 12-16 overall), falling 17-25, 23-25 and 16-25. The loss came 24 hours after the Wolverines fell to Northwestern in four sets in Evanston. The two losses snapped a five-match winning streak for the Wolverines.
“Our serving and passing was not what it normally is tonight,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “That really limited our offense, and that’s what got us into trouble.”
While the offense appeared out of sorts at times, Rosen isn’t ready to panic.
“(The team) worked hard,” he said. “They were trying to find answers, trying to make change during the match, but that’s all part of the game. Once we have (our offense) under control, we can control the match.”
The Wolverines were led by junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin, whose 17 kills led both teams. sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller led the team with a game-high 48 assists, while freshman libero Tiffany Morales paced the defense with 21 digs. Rosen was also impressed with juniors Ally Sabol and Jennifer Cross for their overall play. In addition to quality individual efforts, Rosen was also proud of the team’s efforts to make adjustments mid-game and adapt.
Despite the effort, the road woes continued for the Wolverines. It’s always tough to play on the road in college sports, and this game was no exception for the Wolverines. With over 2,000 screaming Fighting Illini fans packed into Huff Hall, the Wolverines had trouble consistently gaining momentum. With the loss, they now drop to 3-7 on the road, compared to 12-4 at home.
“Across the board, most teams play much better at home,” Rosen said. “We always try to push to play well wherever we are and whoever we’re playing, but I think those numbers speak for themselves. The rest of our matches are on the road, and we need to make sure we’re ready for that.”
While the Wolverines return home disappointed with their results, Rosen knows that there isn’t much time to sulk. They return to action Wed. when they take on rival Michigan State in East Lansing. Michigan hopes to avenge its loss to the Spartans on Oct. 17, but knows it won’t be easy.
While Rosen has faith in his team, he sees a lot of room for improvement moving forward. Rosen believes consistency — particularly on offense — will go a long way in helping his team stay competitive at high levels. As the rivalry game approaches and with the NCAA tournament on the horizon, Rosen will emphasize this search for steadiness in the team’s practices.
“(The Spartans are) playing really well right now, and we need to find a way to slow them down offensively,” Rosen said. “They have a very balanced offense, and we’ve got got to be ready to play a really hard, competitive match. They’re good, we’re good, and it’s a big rivalry. So we’ve got to be ready for a battle.”