As Michigan and No. 7 Wisconsin talked strategy before the deciding fifth game of their volleyball match on Saturday, Wisconsin looked like a team ready to seal a comeback victory. The Badgers were loose and loud as the team danced to House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Meanwhile, the Wolverines sat rigidly and looked like a defeated team.
But the pep-talk is not the game, and it was Michigan who ended up jumping around. The Wolverines played confidently and dictated the flow of the last game.
After the Badgers (8-2 Big Ten, 16-3 overall) fought back to tie the game at 14-14, sophomore Katie Bruzdzinski placed a kill just inside the sideline to give the Wolverines a match-point opportunity at 15-14.
Then the Wolverines sealed the win when Wisconsin’s kill attempt flew low and into the net for an attack error.
As the ball hit the net, the Michigan bench erupted, and a weight seemed lifted off the Wolverines’ young shoulders.
“We just had fun,” sophomore captain Lyndsay Miller concluded. “We played very well, and it’s fantastic to win. There are no words to describe this feeling.”
The mood on Friday was vastly different after Northwestern (3-7 Big Ten, 12-8 overall) swept Michigan.
The Wolverines lost for the first time in 12 years at the annual Rock The House event, which brought the largest crowd of the season to Cliff Keen Arena – over 1,300 fans.
But by beating Wisconsin 3-2, the Wolverines snapped a four-game losing streak and gave coach Mark Rosen his first victory over the Badgers in his seven years at Michigan.
The win also marked the 500th in the program’s history.
“We were ready to win,” Miller said. “We had a long talk on Friday night about sticking with it as a team. That’s exactly what we did (Saturday).”
Michigan played with a cohesive style that allowed it to knock off a more talented Wisconsin team.
The Wolverines took the first game 30-24 behind Miller’s .571 hitting percentage and solid all-around play.
“We did a great job keeping them off balance with our serving and our blocking,” Rosen said.
Wisconsin responded in the next game with a strong 30-18 victory. Maria Carlini led the Badgers, recording six kills in the game and 29 on the match.
After intermission, the momentum shifted back to Michigan in the ever-important game three. In the closest game of the match – which featured 14 ties and nine lead changes – the Wolverines showed resilience and won the final two points after calling timeout with the score knotted at 28.
For the final point of the game, Miller placed a serve perfectly inside the back line for her only service ace of the game.
Wisconsin’s 30-25 victory in game four set the stage for the drama of the deciding game.