A performance like this was coming.

A great week of practice, the bright lights of Cliff Keen Arena on a Friday night, No. 4 Nebraska in town. Molly Toon was ready — and due.

But no one could have predicted just how well she would play.

The 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter went off for a career-best 25 kills — 10 more than her previous high — and hit an impressive .435 from the floor in Michigan’s five-set win over the Cornhuskers. But according to Michigan coach Mark Rosen, her efforts were nothing new.

“Everyday this week she did that — she torched us,” Rosen said. “It’s not an anomaly in that regard. Not only was it 25 kills, but the fact that she was so efficient. That was her single best performance by far.”

Michigan needed it, too.

Having dropped the first two sets — including suffering a 16-2 run from Nebraska bridging sets one and two — Toon was the lone bright spot offensively. She was as consistent as she was dominant.

But that didn’t change the fact that the Wolverines had serious ground to make up. Just when it looked heading into the intermission that the Cornhuskers were poised for a straight-set win, Michigan began the third set with a different, more energized mentality, led by none other than Toon herself.

“We had a good week of practice, and everyone came in calm,” Toon said. “I think we had the momentum going (into the locker room) because we came back (from a 10-point deficit to begin the second set). When we went into the locker room, it wasn’t a heavy mood. We all knew we could do it.”

Easier said than done, though. Having recently dropped a five-set match to No. 1 Penn State in similar fashion — where Michigan had gone down two sets, fought back to force a fifth set before ultimately bowing out — what the Wolverines needed was someone to step up and take over. Slowly, steadily, and not so quietly, Toon did just that.

“(Toon) played fearlessly,” said sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller. “She was consistent. If she didn’t get a kill, she’d go back and do it again. We were really confident in her.”

Just how confident were the Wolverines in Toon? Enough to match her up in the third set against Nebraska’s biggest blocker, Morgan Broekhuis, who finished with 15 kills of her own on the evening. And while the Wolverine coaching staff employed that strategy to get fellow outside hitter Lexi Erwin more involved offensively, they still expected Toon to contribute.

“We could have easily put (Toon) on ice if she wasn’t able to succeed against their big blocker, but she didn’t even hesitate,” Rosen said. “When we made the change, we told her, ‘Don’t hold back just because you’re going against a bigger blocker, go right at her.’ And she went right at her.”

With a crucial match upcoming against Iowa on Saturday night — one that would bring Michigan back to .500 in the Big Ten — the Wolverines will need to rely on Toon to continue playing her best volleyball. But, as she herself was quick to point out, her performance ultimately relies upon the players around her.

“(My teammates) were putting me in good spots, and we were playing really good defense,” Toon said. “Everybody was on board.”

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