It was the best of times and the worst of times for the Michigan
volleyball team this weekend. The team earned a tough split at home
by defeating Northwestern and falling to Illinois, and with the
loss, squandered an opportunity to take over first place in the Big
Ten.

The Wolverines turned in a workman-like performance at Cliff
Keen Arena on Friday against Northwestern, beating the Wildcats
easily in three games. Michigan did not fare so well the following
night, though, falling to Illinois in four games after winning the
opening stanza.

“I don’t think we had all cylinders firing tonight,” coach Mark
Rosen said. “We didn’t have everyone filling their role.”

The Wolverines (5-3 Big Ten, 13-6 overall) certainly came out of
the gates firing on all cylinders against the Fighting Illini,
taking the first game by a score of 30-25. But the next three games
Michigan simply could not stop Illinois’ potent offensive attack,
which features 6-foot-5 middle blocker Lisa Argabright, who notched
17 kills.

“You have to go into a match like this knowing that Argabright
is going to get her kills,” senior Erin Moore said. “I jumped as
high as I could and didn’t even touch the ball.”

Michigan had difficulty dealing with Illinois’ height at the net
throughout the evening. The Illini (6-2, 15-3) boast an unusually
tall lineup, featuring five players who are 6-foot-3 or taller.
Michigan’s tallest player, by comparison, is 6-foot-2 senior Nicole
Poquette.

Despite the team’s inability to match up with Illinois’ height,
one positive for the Wolverines was the play of sophomore Candace
Gay. Gay replaced freshman Megan Bowman in the second game, turning
in a strong performance with a career-high eight kills.

“Candace came in and gave us a little more offense and did a
great job blocking-wise,” Rosen said. “(But) Illinois did a better
job of controlling the ball after game one, and we just weren’t as
consistent.”

Consistency was definitely not a problem for the Wolverines on
Friday night in the win over Northwestern (2-5, 11-8). In fact, the
team seemed to improve its play with each passing game and refused
to suffer a letdown after winning the first two games in quick
fashion.

“What I really liked was that the girls kept their focus and
kept their level of play consistent throughout the match and didn’t
fall down to (Northwestern’s) level,” Rosen said. “Statistically
and emotionally, we got better with each game. Sometimes that’s
hard to do when you win the first two convincingly.”

Rosen was also impressed with how the team responded to the
unusually small crowd at Cliff Keen Arena. The Wolverines have
typically been the beneficiaries of large and energetic crowds at
home this year, but refused to let Friday’s small audience become a
letdown.

“We’ve gotten kind of spoiled because our crowds have been so
big and so energetic,” Rosen said. “I thought at the beginning of
the game that the crowd was a little bit slow. Even though there
wasn’t a lot of energy in the building, the girls still came out
and worked really hard, and then we noticed that the crowd started
to get more involved.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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