Throughout Megan Bower’s three-and-a-half years in Ann Arbor, Michigan coach Mark Rosen has watched multiple aspects of her volleyball game change — her position on the floor, jumping height and leadership role.

But Rosen says there has been one constant that places Bower at another level.

Her authenticity.

When Bower first arrived on campus in the fall of 2006, the Indianapolis native thought she would play the role of a hitter on the hardwood — it was the reason Rosen recruited her from Cathedral Prep.

“She’s very, very opportunistic,” Rosen said. “I think when she was looking at joining our team, she was saying, ‘I think I can compete with the right side. I can maybe compete with the left side. But if I don’t compete with them, I’m going to compete with the libero.’ She was going to find some way to get on the court.”

Surprisingly, libero was exactly where Bower played her freshman season. But the switch to the defensive position was nothing out of the ordinary for the now-senior captain. When Bower was still in high school, she played for the Munciana Volleyball Club in Muncie, Ind. Rosen said the team, coached by Mike Lingenfelter, was especially geared toward a defense-first style of volleyball.

Rosen said that Lingenfelter’s team generated a lot of its offense from its defensive work on the floor — digging balls — or at the net by getting clean, solid blocks and touches.

So, when Bower stepped onto the floor for her first season as the Wolverines’ libero, she felt right at home in the back row.

It wasn’t the position she had been recruited to play, but it didn’t matter. Still a teenager, Bower matured very quickly in her newfound role at Michigan and led the team in digs her freshman season.

Within a year, Bower’s unique personality began to slowly emerge on the court and in the weight room. She soon became known as a player who brought ‘it’ day in and day out.

“Sometimes you see a lot people trying to figure out who they are at this age,” Rosen said. “And I think Megan has a very good understanding of who she is and what her values are. When I see a kid like that, the best way to describe them is authentic.”

Role with it

Call Bower “Gumby.”

After her freshman year, in which she placed 10th in the Big Ten with 3.74 digs per game, Rosen switched Bower to the defensive specialist position. Usually, the defensive specialist plays fewer rotations than a libero but is still regarded as one of the better passers on the floor.

Toward the end of her sophomore year, Rosen then saw fit to place Bower on the outside. She started the final 15 matches as the Wolverines’ right side hitter, a role she quickly grew comfortable in.

“Her actual physical play has evolved over her career,” Rosen said. “She came in as a back row player (from her club team), worked into the libero role, but she had her sights set on playing the front row.”

And after the next summer, during which she increased her jump from nine feet, nine inches to a clean 10 feet, Bower saw herself on the right side permanently — where she always knew she belonged.

“My role on the team has changed every year, and that keeps things fresh,” Bower said.

Wearing the ‘C’

There comes a certain level of responsibility, expectation and commitment that comes with wearing the ‘C’ on any collegiate, junior or professional team’s jersey.

Bower welcomed that role following her junior season.

With the departure of seniors Beth Karpiak and Kerry Hance, she saw her chance to fill the leadership void on the team.

“This year, she has evolved a lot as a leader,” Rosen said. “She’s more of a vocal and lead-by-example player within the program. Her personality is very unique, and she’s somebody who is very competitive and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s not afraid to be a vocal leader, which is the hardest type of leadership.”

And the well-spoken Bower has definitely needed to voice herself this season. After Michigan jumped out to a 12-1 mark, it endured a tough 2-4 stretch in the Big Ten. The Wolverines needed someone to reassure them of where they were headed and where they wanted to finish at the end of the season: in Tampa Bay at the NCAA Final Four.

“I try to take on the role that, when the going gets tough, who’s going to stop it and get this team back on the same page?” Bower said.

Passion

There’s the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words.

But according to Bower’s roommate, senior Veronica Rood, a photo in the Michigan volleyball squad’s team room says only one: passion.

It’s a portrait of Bower pumping both fists and screaming at the top of her lungs after the Wolverines’ come-from-behind, five-set thriller against Kentucky in last year’s first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Megan is a really easy person to feed off of with her energy and her enthusiasm on the court,” Rood said.

The two players have been practically inseparable since they first stepped on campus as freshmen. They have lived together in various apartments and houses, shared countless hours of study time at the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center and been on road trips across the Midwest.

But through the wins and losses, Bower’s passion for Michigan and the sport of volleyball has never dwindled.

At the end of the season, Bower plans to start coaching Mark and Leisa Rosen’s new club volleyball program, A2 — more specifically, the Under-16 team. With the new coaching gig, she’ll have the perfect opportunity to pass on her passion and love for the game to a younger group of girls.

But for now, Michigan fans hope some of Bower’s fervor can rub off on her teammates as the conference slate winds down and the Wolverines look to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.

And next year, there might be a new picture of a then-graduated Bower hanging in the Wolverine team room, with a two-word description instead of one: Tampa Bay.

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