Sophomore setter Lexi Zimmerman and the Michigan volleyball team were “out for blood” this weekend.
The team sought redemption after losing two tough road matches last weekend against Illinois and Purdue.
The 20th-ranked Wolverines picked up two huge wins at home on Friday and Saturday against Northwestern and Wisconsin, giving them 20 wins for the third straight season.
Michigan (8-6 Big Ten, 20-6 overall) opened up the weekend with a convincing sweep over Northwestern (25-21, 25-21, 25-18).
After a sluggish start against the Wildcats (2-12, 8-17), Michigan settled down and started connecting on its attacks and made quality passes.
“We just got out of sync with our services and everything just started snowballing,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “They just needed to relax and get back into our system.”
Junior libero Megan Bower led the Wolverines with 13 kills Friday while Zimmerman added 36 assists.
Then came the showdown with Wisconsin (6-8, 16-10). The last time out against the Badgers on Oct. 3, Michigan was up 2-0 in the match and looked like it had the contest in hand.
Three sets later, the Wolverines were on the losing end of a five-set heartbreaker.
On Saturday night, Michigan needed to forget about that loss in Madison and start off on the right track.
Midway through the first set, the wheels started to fall off, and everything was going wrong for the Wolverines. Michigan dropped the first set to the Badgers, 25-18.
“We came out a little tentative and that may have been because we wanted this match so bad that we were trying to do a little too much early,” junior outside hitter Juliana Paz said.
Rosen’s team had a dismal attack percentage of .021 during the first frame.
But the Wolverines bounced back in set two thanks to the quick decision-making of Zimmerman and timely hitting by Michigan’s outside hitters.
“Changing the match went to Lexi,” Rosen said. “She did a good job as the match went on of establishing some offense, creating situations for her hitters to get comfortable and then she rode the hot hitters.”
Michigan won the second set 28-26.
Freshman outside hitter Alex Hunt led the Wolverine offensive resurgence with six kills in the frame while senior middle blocker Beth Karpiak had five kills of her own.
Michigan came out of the locker room looking for its first win against the Badgers since 2005.
“We were able to shift the momentum in set two, and then it puts them on their heels,” Rosen said. “We competed well at the end of games this weekend. If you’re at the end of a deuce-game and it’s back and forth, you’ve got to have a lot of belief in your game.”
After a hard-fought 28-26 victory in the third frame, the Wolverines looked to clinch the match and end Wisconsin’s hopes of forcing a fifth set.
The Wolverines sealed the deal, winning the final set 25-19. Cliff Keen Arena erupted after the last point, with the Michigan players jumping up and down after the huge victory.
Michigan had three players with double-digit kills. Hunt led the team with 20 while Karpiak and Paz each had 18 for the match. Zimmerman led the Wolverines with 61 assists, giving her more than 1,000 for the season.
Zimmerman will need to lead the Michigan offensive attack next week as the Wolverines square off against Ohio State and Michigan State, two teams that have given the Michigan offense trouble in previous matches this season.