Sometimes, the key to a good offense is a good defense. For the Michigan volleyball team, the key to a good defense is effective blocking by its middle blockers.

“We are one of the best blocking teams in the Big Ten,” junior Megan Bowman said.

Bowman and her counterpart at middle block, sophomore co-captain Lyndsay Miller, are two of the main reasons why Michigan excels at this critical skill.

Physically, the twosome has all of the attributes necessary to be excellent blockers. They have large hands and both tower over 6-foot-1.

“They have a natural ability to block,” coach Marc Rosen said. “It is a difficult skill to learn.”

In their short collegiate careers, they have already impacted the school record books.

Last year, Miller set the school record for blocks by a freshman with 160 and was just one block shy of establishing a new benchmark for blocks in a season.

After just two seasons, Bowman has already cracked the school’s top 10 in blocks with 305, and she is 10 away from ninth place all-time. If she maintains her current pace, she will be near the top of the list before she completes her career.

The duo is the first line of Michigan’s defense. When opposing teams attempt a kill, it is the responsibility of Bowman and Miller to jump and meet the ball above the net. They seek to get a hand on the ball to either return it for a kill or slow it down for their teammates to dig.

“Controlling the opposing middle is our primary job,” Bowman said.

The strategic purpose of the blockers is to channel the ball to one side of the court and ease the burden on the rest of the defense.

The team uses the block to force the opposition to hit the ball toward sophomore Stesha Selsky — the team’s best defensive specialist.

Rosen recognizes the middle blockers’ contribution to the team’s overall performance and thinks they will continue to develop their skills.

“The two of them can dominate at the net,” Rosen said. “There are no limits for them, and they can continue to improve.”

Of its three season opening defeats, Bowman considered the team’s blocking game in its 3-0 loss to No. 1 Nebraska on Saturday to be the best of year and Rosen saw that translate into a gritty overall effort.

“Our performance against Nebraska showed that we are a tough team,” Rosen said.

If the team can continue to improve upon its showing against Nebraska, Rosen believes that his team will be able to accomplish its goals.

“This team can compete with anyone in the Big Ten and wants to win the conference,” Rosen said.

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