This is the biggest home weekend for Michigan volleyball (0-2 Big Ten, 3-5 overall) and all its fans.
This Friday marks the tenth annual “Rock the House.” Michigan is an impressive 7-2 in “Rock the House” matches, including a six-match win streak dating back to 1995.
“Rock the House” always draws impressive crowds. The largest attendance ever at Cliff Keen Arena took place when Michigan defeated Michigan State in front of crowd of 2,346 fans at Rock the House in 1997. In an effort to help attract large crowds, the first 500 fans will receive free t-shirts at this year”s event. But this year, Cliff Keen”s attendance is now limited to 1,850.
The atmosphere on Friday night should be electric to kick off “Rock the House,” as the team hopes to attract a large student crowd.
“It is a really rowdy atmosphere,” coach Mark Rosen said. “We love to get a lot of students out. Students really are the key for emotion and for passion.”
All fans student and non-student alike will witness a great matchup between two teams looking for their first conference wins.
To get back in the conference race, Michigan must first get past Iowa, a team that keeps the ball in play in order to pressure its opponents into making mistakes.
“Iowa has a tendency to be a sloppy team a team that keeps the ball alive and they force you into making a lot of errors,” Rosen said.
The Hawkeyes are not nearly as physical as other teams the Wolverines have played in the past. Instead, Iowa relies on its ability to play a long, slow game. The Hawkeyes do have one very physical player in Sara Meyermann. The 6-foot senior leads the team with 160 kills this season the closest Iowa player to her has only 69. The Wolverines will need to contain Meyermann and prevent her from getting a lot of touches this weekend. To do this, they will need to serve hard and play a fast paced game.
Michigan will also need to be strong at the net and dig well. Most importantly, the Wolverines cannot be dragged into a slow game where Iowa can set Meyermann a lot of balls.
“We have to be very steady against that type of team and not get wrapped up into their system,” Rosen said. “We need to stay with what we do well.”
This was the mistake that cost the Wolverines against Northwestern, a team they should have beaten. When Michigan let the Wildcats slow down the pace of the game, the team was unable to execute its system. If, on the other hand, the team plays as it did against Wisconsin, it should have no difficulty with the Hawkeyes.
Saturday night the Wolverines will take on last year”s Big Ten runner-up Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have one of the best players in the conference in their setter, senior Lindsey Berg. But Minnesota graduated three strong seniors last year. The loss has left a void that is now filled with talented but inexperienced players.
If the Wolverines play to the best of their ability and keep the matches fast, then they have a good chance of sweeping this weekend.