Since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1991, Penn State volleyball has dominated Michigan volleyball. In the 10 years that the two teams have played together, the Wolverines (6-4 Big Ten, 10-7 overall) are 1-22 against the Nittany Lions. But this all changed Saturday night when Michigan routed No. 11 Penn State in straight games. The win snapped a 10-match winning streak by Penn State against Michigan, which dated back to Nov. 18, 1995.
“It”s a big win for our kids” confidence,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.
Rosen became only the second Michigan volleyball coach to ever beat Penn State.
Game one of the match set the pace for the entire night. Michigan dominated virtually every aspect of the game. The Wolverines destroyed the Lions in game, at one point leading by the score of 28-14. Michigan struggled putting Penn State away, but time had run out for the Lions as freshman Jennifer Gandolph slammed home the final kill, winning the game 30-18. Gandolph led the charge for the Wolverines in game one as she tallied eight kills against Penn State, a team that had recruited her heavily.
“I wanted to go out and show what I can do,” Gandolph said. “That”s why I wanted to come here.”
Gandolph”s excellent play extended into the second game, where she led all scorers with seven kills and six digs. This time, however, Penn State did not go down as easily. The Lions showed why they are a top-25 team as the two teams battled back and forth until a 25-25 tie. At this point, the Wolverines went on a 4-2 run spurred on by two kills by Gandolph.
With Michigan leading 29-28, the crowd at Cliff Keen Arena rose to its feet and began to cheer loudly for the Wolverines. The cheers seemed to have an effect on the Lions as a reachable ball dropped between two bewildered Penn State players.
The most baffled Penn State player in the match seemed to be senior Katie Schumacher. Penn State”s leading offensive threat, averaging 4.76 kills per game and accounting for a third of the Lions offense, was only able to post a .154 attack percentage as she repeatedly committed attack errors eight in total. A large part of this was because of the play of Michigan”s Shannon Melka and Erin Moore. Each recorded four blocking assists as they continually deflected Schumacher”s attacks.
Schumacher”s impotence was never felt more keenly than at the end of the third game. After dropping the first two games, Penn State was determined to come out of the intermission and steal at least one game from Michigan.
It looked like the Lions had a chance as they led the Wolverines 22-18. But Michigan regrouped to tie the game at 23, and the teams traded points up till 27-27. Then, Penn State decided to set their star.
“We knew they were going to go to her, because when it is a critical time you are going to go to your big gun,” coach Rosen said.
The Lions went right to Schumacher, a decision that would prove to be their downfall. Schumacher”s attack was blocked by Melka and Moore. Now down by one point, the Lions again went to Schumacher who was again rejected by the two Wolverines.
On match point, Moore rose to the occasion as she slammed a stray Penn State pass that had floated over the net. Three incredibly plays by Moore sent Penn State packing back to Happy Valley.
“My coaches said to me in the timeout “If you ever press over the net in your life, do it now”,” Moore said. “Then the overpass and I knew it was over.”