On Friday night, the Michigan volleyball team was two points away from a win against Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin before the Badgers stormed back to take the match. The next night against Illinois, the Wolverines finally closed the deal.
Michigan (8-8 Big Ten, 20-8 overall) soundly defeated the Fighting Illini (7-9, 15-11) just 24 hours removed from a heartbreaking loss at No. 11 Wisconsin (14-2, 22-3).
“It was a really emotional match in Madison,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “Our players did a great job competing, but we just couldn’t finish it. It was devastating.”
Michigan had a chance to finish off Wisconsin when it took a 14-13 lead in the decisive fifth game, but the Badgers reeled off three straight points to curb the Wolverines’ upset hopes.
Saturday, however, was a different story. The Wolverines dominated Illinois from the opening serve in a three-game sweep. Michigan took the first game 30-19, setting the pace for the quick and efficient play that the Wolverines displayed all night.
“We looked like we were ready to play from the beginning,” Rosen said. “We executed and we attacked. That’s exactly what you hope your team does after a tough loss like the one we had against Wisconsin.”
Naperville, Ill., native Katie Bruzdzinski had another strong showing for Michigan over the weekend, recording 44 kills between the two games.
“She was unstoppable,” Rosen said of the senior co-captain’s performance.
Michigan’s aggressive play forced the Fighting Illini into 11 attack errors and a dismal .020 hitting percentage in the first game.
“We were ready to take out our anger,” said senior Lyndsay Miller, who had five kills in the third game.
Michigan held off an Illinois surge in the final game, coming back from a 25-24 deficit to complete the sweep thanks largely to sophomore Megan Bower’s six kills in the frame.
The win was the 20th of the season for Michigan, marking the fourth time in the past five seasons that the Wolverines have won at least 20 games. Michigan also clinched at least fourth place in the Big Ten with the victory and entered a three-way tie for third with Purdue and Minnesota.
The Wolverines can break that tie on Friday when they travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue.