For now, the Wolverines are still perfect.
Last night, the No. 21 Michigan women’s volleyball team rolled into Columbus and left with its first Big Ten win of the year.
The team went into St. John Arena looking to start the year 13-0 for the third consecutive season.
“We try to approach every game the same way,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We want to just put ourselves in the same frame of mind that will set us up to win.”
But the Buckeyes weren’t about to roll over.
The Wolverines came out of the gates a bit sluggish in the first set, falling behind 5-1.
“We were just flat throughout the entire night,” Rosen said. “I definitely think the whole environment had a little impact.”
Many Buckeye students were spray painted with scarlet and gray and waved white towels. The big crowd may have been because the match was televised on the Big Ten Network.
But it wasn’t so much the size of the crowd as it was the size of the Buckeyes that slowed down the Wolverines early on. Ohio State was bigger and played stronger defense than most teams Michigan has played so far.
The Wolverines’ outside hitters were shut down by Ohio State’s starting line, which compiled 12 blocks on the night.
“I think the blocking we saw tonight is typical of the Big Ten,” sophomore setter Lexi Zimmerman said. “This was the first time we saw that all year, so once I think we adjust to it, we’ll be fine.”
Midway through the first set, the Wolverines were down, 19-16.
The team then rattled off nine out of the next 12 points to win the opening set, 25-22.
“I think the players know that we have to win those critical points at the end of a set,” Rosen said. “I think we did a great job of that in that set.”
In the middle frame, Michigan seemed to have a comfortable lead at 18-14 before Ohio State went on a quick run to cut the lead to 23-22.
In the end, Michigan proved too much for the inexperienced Buckeyes, winning the set 25-23.
The Wolverines came out of the locker room for the third set, poised and ready to win their first Big Ten match of the year.
“Coach (Rosen) just told us we had to play Michigan volleyball,” Zimmerman said. “We just needed to get into a rhythm and not let down.”
In the final set, senior middle back Beth Karpiak started things off with a monster kill from the left side of the court.
She led the offensive attack with 12 kills in the match.
“We weren’t running the offense as smoothly as I would have liked tonight,” Rosen said. “We told Lexi to get the ball to Beth and that seemed to settle things down a little bit.”
Karpiak helped the Wolverines jump out to a quick 9-5 lead and they cruised to a 25-20 victory to cap the sweep.
But it wasn’t as easy as the Wolverines would have liked.
The Wolverines let the Buckeyes linger in the last two sets, something they will need to correct as they head deeper into the Big Ten season.
But for now, the Wolverines can celebrate their first road win and their still-perfect record.