The calendar reads August, but the Michigan women’s volleyball team is playing in midseason form.
The 23rd-ranked Wolverines opened their regular season this past weekend at the Tiger Invitational in Columbia, Mo. and did so with a clean sweep of the competition.
Michigan (4-0 overall) found help all over the court, but it was the play of Tiger Invitational MVP, junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin, that led the way. Erwin averaged 5.87 kills per set and a .443 hitting average. She was also named to the Tiger Invitational All-Tournament team along with sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller and freshman defensive specialist Tiffany Morales.
Erwin’s play was dominated by her kill success. She set a new personal record in kills per game twice throughout the tournament. Her newest career high is 29 kills, which she posted during the Wolverines’ game against Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon. In that match, she also added 13 digs, giving her three double-doubles for the weekend.
“Erwin just played great every set and every match,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “The awesome thing is that no one has worked harder than her the last nine months. For her to work hard and see it pay off like that is just pretty awesome.
Despite it only being a week into the season, Erwin’s offseason work has already begun paying off. With a lot of the veterans, including Erwin, staying on campus to train and condition during the summer months, the extra work was more than evident.
“From day one we hit the ground running,” said senior captain Claire McElheny. “(We) just came in the first day ready to go, ready to learn, and ready for Big Ten volleyball.”
Erwin’s main focus in the offseason was improving her vertical, which allows her to get to the ball better. The emphasis paid off — she had showings of 16, 23, 29 and 20 kills respectively throughout the tournament.
“The team worked hard lifting and conditioning (over the summer) and I think everyone came (back) in better shape than we’ve ever been in,” Erwin said.
“I worked with (strength and condition coach) Mike Stevens and he had summer workouts for us, but I talked to him about the (personal) goals I had coming into the season. So far during the preseason I’ve met all of my fitness goals.”
Erwin’s heavy emphasis on lifting and conditioning during the summer that not only improved her vertical, but also improved her leadership role by taking a “lead-by-example” approach with the heavy influx of freshman on this year’s team.
“Spending time in Ann Arbor definitely helped,” Erwin said. “It’s kind of weird (being a leader) because I’m kind of goofy, and I need to reel it in sometimes, so it’s tough to be serious sometimes, but it’s a cool way of connecting with the freshmen and making them feel comfortable.”
Goofy, or not, Lexi Erwin has started off the Wolverines’ season perfectly — both on and off the court.