The Michigan volleyball team’s season hasn‘t been considered successful just because it has gone undefeated while playing with seven freshmen despite missing its lone four-year player.

But rather Michigan has been successful because the 23rd-ranked Wolverines have gone 7-0 without using the same starting lineup twice.

“What it really says to me is that we have a lot of depth,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen about his team’s success. “We have a lot of players that can fill different roles and it’s been an interesting experience this year.”

Certainly, Michigan’s lineup hasn’t moved around by choice this year, but it has managed to make the most of every game. This weekend, the Wolverines will take their lineup to the Golden Eagle Classic in Milwaukee, Wisc. for a four-game tournament.

On Friday, the Wolverines take on Wake Forest and Marquette — a pair of teams Michigan carries a 6-0 combined all-time record against. The Wolverines conclude the tournament on Saturday against first-time opponent Eastern Illinois and No. 25 Northern Iowa.

Michigan will miss senior right-side hitter Claire McElheny, who was absent from last weekend’s home tournament with an unspecified injury. One of last year’s leaders in kills, McElheny’s absence has forced junior outside hitter Molly Toon to make the switch to right-side hitter along with freshman outside hitter Ally Davis.

“(McElheny’s injury) is not looking very good,” Rosen said. “She’s not advancing as fast as we’d like her to or she’d like to. We assume that Claire is going to come back at some point, but right now we have to put the best lineup on the floor. When she comes back, we can’t be guaranteed she’s going to be able to go everyday full speed, either.”

Early-season games present another challenge for Michigan, which has limited time to prepare for the competition.

But the head coach has 14 years of experience to compensate for that.

“I think Marquette really tends to run a very fast style of volleyball,” Rosen said. “Their coach likes to go really quick with his tempo, so that puts some pressure on us.”

The Wolverines will counter this tempo with the strong play of junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin, who is second in the Big Ten in kills per set with 4.42. After she was subbed out in Saturday’s game against Arkansas, Michigan struggled to hold a lead.

The Wolverines take on a ranked team for the first time this season in Northern Iowa. The Panthers (4-2) will look to senior outside hitter Amy Braun, averaging 3.16 kills per set this year, to overcome Michigan junior middle blocker Jennifer Cross.

“Northern Iowa is a great volleyball program,” Rosen said. “They’ve had a really strong tradition and their kids know how to play the game very well. They don’t make a lot of errors and they know how to put pressure on you.”

Michigan will also use Toon, who is quietly surging to the top of Mighigan’s leaderboards. Toon — named to the adidas/Michigan Challenge first team on Saturday — looks to carry the success from her 12 kill performance against Arkansas. After tallying 21 total blocks last year, the junior already has 11 in her new role.

Expect sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller to also be a key factor, after being named the tournament MVP on Saturday. Dannemiller averages more than 11 assists per set and has played in all 26 of the Wolverines’ sets.

Michigan’s greatest advantage may be in their chance to scout opponents live, though. The opportunity allows the Wolverines to learn more about a team they haven’t played since 1992.

“We try and have them watch the game from their position,” Rosen said. “Who are you going to be up against and what do you have to do to be successful. I think by the time we play them our players will have a lot of insight.”

A sweep of the tournament wouldn’t come as a surprise after last year’s 12-0 start to the season, but Michigan looks to carry this year‘s strong start through the season following a dismal second half in 2011.

“We have to make sure we keep wanting it,” Rosen said. “We never want to get to a point where we feel like we can’t improve, because we can improve through December. We joke that if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse, but you can’t stay the same.”

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