The Michigan volleyball team’s two matches over the weekend had the same final score, but the results were polar opposites of each other.
Saturday night (a 3-1 loss), the first two games were dominated by Penn State. The visitors jumped out to a big lead early in the opening game, and then the Nittany Lions fought off a Wolverine comeback after being up 29-17 to win 30-21. Michigan sophomore Veronica Rood energized the team with nine kills in the first game and 10 in the second, but it was a futile effort.
In the second game, Penn State jumped out to a 6-1 lead, but Michigan would make it close by narrowing it to 14-12. It was all Penn State after that, though. The Nittany Lions picked up the pace and beat the Wolverines with their quickness, eventually winning 30-22.
“The first two games were really tentative,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We didn’t play nearly as aggressive against them, and they were really hard to defend in those games.”
The tables quickly turned in the third game Michigan gave life back to Cliff Keen Arena by jumping out to its first lead of the night. But Penn State refused to go away. There were 11 ties and two lead changes before the Nittany Lions took a slim 26-25 lead. But back-to-back errors caused them to lose their lead back to the hosts. Penn State tried to ice Michigan with a timeout, but the Wolverines held on for a 32-30 win.
“We played a lot better in the third game than we did in the first two,” senior Lyndsay Miller said. “The way we came back in the third game will hopefully be a boost for us going into the NCAA tournament.”
Both teams held leads early on in the fourth game, with the Nittany Lions’ strong play up front (four straight blocks) helping them build a 17-12 lead. Penn State went on to win the game 30-21 to close out the match.
Friday night, Michigan (10-10 Big Ten, 22-10 overall) took on Ohio State for the first time since the Wolverines beat them 3-0 in October. Led by senior Katie Bruzdzinski’s seven kills and senior Stesha Selsky’s eight digs in the first game, Michigan took a 4-3 lead and never looked back, winning the opening game 30-17.
Michigan stumbled just enough in the second game to lose 30-26. The Buckeyes (7-13, 13-16) came back from an early 13-7 deficit, eventually took the lead at 23-22 and never relinquished it.
But the Wolverines went on fire to take the next two games. They demolished the Buckeyes in the third frame 30-16, taking advantage of 15 errors by Ohio State and five aces of their own. Game four was drawn out with 10 ties and five lead changes with Michigan taking a 28-23 advantage late in the game to get the win 30-26.
“We went out and played Michigan volleyball,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We let Ohio State climb back in it in game two, but we really closed the door on them in games three and four.”