STATE COLLEGE – Michigan won six of the final seven points in the NCAA volleyball regional semifinal against No. 1 Penn State Friday night.
But it couldn’t win the most important one – match point.
The Michigan volleyball team upset No. 21 Colorado State last weekend to earn the program’s first berth to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, but the historic high didn’t last long.
In less than 90 minutes, Penn State defeated the Wolverines 3-0 (30-15, 30-18, 30-18) at State College. The teams had never met before in the NCAA Tournament, but Penn State took both regular-season matchups between the two.
“There weren’t a lot of scary moments,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said.
If there were any, the Wolverines’ six-point run at the end of the third game might qualify. For Michigan, the run concluded the season on a solid note despite a tough loss.
“We just went after it hardcore,” senior co-captain Lyndsay Miller said. “We were going hard the entire game, but we wanted to finish playing Michigan volleyball.”
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Penn State controlled the rest of the match. The Nittany Lions dominated from the start, jumping out to a 10-4 lead in the first game and not looking back.
Michigan was on the defensive for the entire match. The Wolverines couldn’t mount a consistent offensive attack, behind many attack errors.
“Penn State caused the errors,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “They had 16.5 blocks. They served tough. I don’t think our team was unprepared, and I don’t think they played poorly.”
The kill-to-attempt ratio was negative (-.033) for Michigan in the first and third games – the
The Wolverines were just 7-for-30 in each game. Michigan tallied 27 total kills compared to Penn State’s 48.
But in the final four points of the match, Miller became Michigan’s all-time leading blocker with 473 career blocks.
Rosen said a strong serving game plays into great blocking. The powerful serves of Penn State pushed the Wolverines back on the court, and Michigan struggled to set up strategic attacks.
“It started limiting our offense and what we could do,” Rosen said.
So did the crowd.
The capacity crowd at Penn State’s Rec Hall was loud and raucous throughout the match. The fans caused a foot-fault service error by a nervous Lexi Zimmerman and multiple Michigan timeouts called to calm down the team.
The small Michigan pep band played the “Rocky” theme song as the team trailed late in the third game, but it was soon drowned out by “We are Penn State” chants as the crowd felt the victory within grasp. With match point, the entire gym erupted in cheers, and the Wolverines solemnly walked off the court.
The 2007 Michigan volleyball campaign ended in a shutout loss, but it tallied its highest win total in 40 years.
“It’s been a really fun team to coach and it was one of the fastest seasons I can remember,” Rosen said. “I really enjoyed coaching this team and enjoyed seeing what they can do.”