If it weren”t for the play of freshmen Carrie Ritchie and Jennifer Gandolph, last-place Purdue might have upset the Michigan volleyball team in Ann Arbor on Saturday. But Michigan (7-5 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) beat Purdue (1-11 , 3-17) in five games.
The final game was an exciting and emotional one as the Wolverines down 8-5 at the switch won 15-11. Big serves and timely digs by Ritchie helped Michigan battle back in the deciding game. Ritchie finished with 3 kills, 4 assists, 17 digs and a block all career highs.
“I thought Carrie played great tonight. She came in for the first time in the front row, and had some huge jump serves and played some nice defense for us in a pressure situation,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “That”s the kind of kid Carrie is, though she”s a tough competitor and she”s very feisty.”
Ritchie”s extended playing time was due to the fact that junior Katrina Lehman is currently nursing a pulled muscle in her back. Despite her injury, Lehman still came in against Purdue and recorded an impressive 18 kills.
“I”ve wanted to play front row all season. I love playing defense, but I knew going in (to the front row) that I would have to get the job done,” Ritchie said.
Early in the first game, errors by Michigan gave the Boilermakers an early 7-2 lead. Michigan battled back with some key kills by Lehman, and after trading blows for the rest of the game, the Wolverines took the 1-0 match lead by winning 30-27.
Michigan jumped out to an early lead in game two, but couldn”t hold it. After leading 9-5, a streak of untimely Michigan errors let the Boilermakers back into the game. The score remained close after Purdue tied it at 15, and the Boilermakers squeaked out the 31-29 win in game two.
In the third game, the Wolverines looked like the team that swept No. 11 Penn State two weeks ago. Purdue kept it close at the beginning but Michigan jumped out to a 18-9 lead and never looked back, taking the game 30-18.
The Wolverines looked to close out Purdue in the fourth game, but once again, miscues gave Purdue an early lead from which Michigan could not recover. Despite six kills by Gandolph, Purdue forced a game five by winning game four 30-24.
“I”ve got two emotions. I”m very proud that the girls pulled it out in the fifth game, but I”m not too happy with the inconsistent play,” Rosen said. “We can”t afford to play that way this late in the season if we want to compete.”
Michigan travels to Minnesota and Iowa this weekend.