Is it in you?
After a volleyball was deflected into the Wolverines’ cooler early in the Michigan/Nike Challenge, not only was the beverage knocked down, it appeared as if the team’s morale was beginning to spill as well. At this point, Gatorade would ask: Is it in you?
Even though the Wolverines captured their third consecutive tournament championship at Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday, many of the Wolverine players would say no, it wasn’t in them.
This weekend’s tune-up matches were supposed to be momentum builders going into the Big Ten season, but according to Michigan coach Mark Rosen, wins don’t necessarily translate into success.
“I like the wins, but I don’t think we played very well at all,” Rosen said.
“That frustrates me; I would rather win the right way than the wrong way.”
Even though Michigan (8-3) only dropped one set this Saturday against Central Michigan (5-6) and Valparaiso (11-4), it was plagued by inconsistent defense and frequent attack errors throughout the tournament.
“We didn’t control the ball very well,” Rosen said. “Our attackers didn’t make very good choices, and I didn’t think our defense was working well.”
Kicking off the tournament against Central Michigan, the Wolverines took the first set 30-17 and rode that momentum into the second until the Wolverines’ Gatorade spilled.
At that point, Michigan was leading 10-7, but lost the next four points and struggled throughout the second set.
Twenty-one tie scores and 15 lead changes later, the energized fans helped the Wolverines to a 34-32 win.
“The crowd was definitely trying to get us going,” Michigan junior Jennifer Gandolph said. “It wouldn’t have mattered if there were 500 or 1,000 people. They were ridiculous.”
Building upon the crowd’s excitement, Michigan quickly captured the final set over the Chippewas, 30-16.
Hoping to improve upon their error-filled, yet convincing victory over Central Michigan, the Wolverines went into their final match against Valparaiso with higher expectations.
Michigan’s Erin Moore paced the Wolverines from the start with a match-high 19 kills and 13 digs as Michigan took the first set, 30-25.
“I’m really proud of Erin because she is hurting,” coach Rosen said. “She had to come in and be the hero.”
Gandolph and teammate Nicole Poquette sparked the Wolverines to an easy 30-18 second-set victory, giving them a 2-0 match lead and the apparent momentum heading into what should have been the final set.
But Michigan committed 13 of its 34 match errors in the third stanza, losing its first set of the tournament, 30-28.
The Wolverines continued to struggle in the fourth set, unable to put the Crusaders away until Michigan junior Sarah Allen’s numerous game-saving digs propelled them to a dramatic 33-31 victory.
“We didn’t struggle, but we didn’t play our game,” said Moore. “If you go into the Big Ten and play like we did tonight, we’re gonna get smoked.”