The Michigan volleyball team easily dispatched Northwestern in a 3-0 rout at Cliff Keen Arena in front of dozens of former players and coaches Saturday night. The Wolverines turned in consistent offensive and defensive performances, led by juniors Lexi Erwin, Ally Davis and Jen Cross, freshman Tiffany Morales and sophomore Lexi Dannemiller.
Morales anchored the defense with several impressive digs, which were smoothly turned into offense by Dannemiller, who racked up 37 assists. Davis, Erwin and Cross finished points with ease all night, compiling 35 and a half of Michigan’s 54 points. In particular, Erwin provided key momentum shifting kills and digs during crucial points throughout the match.
“Lexi Erwin and Jen Cross played great,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “Lexi Dannemiller ran the offense really well. Ally Davis was great, I thought across the board everyone played really well.”
The Wolverines, who have struggled with consistency all season, turned in one of their best all-around performances.
“We played really clean,” said fifth-year senior Claire McElheny “We’ve been struggling with consistency. Something was bound to come together. We’ve had some things going one night and other things not going. But I feel like the last few games everything has come together, and we’ve started playing like Michigan volleyball. It’s a nice feeling.”
The majority of the match saw even play from both squads, with Michigan proving themselves to be the better team by producing in crunch time. All three sets were close entering the final points, but the Wolverines saved their best for last and convincingly pulled away each time.
In particular, Erwin and Cross closed each set with strings of kills that left Northwestern on its heels and unable to run its offense.
“We haven’t been very good at finishing games in the past,” McElheny said. “But in practice we’ve been working on closing and not feeling the extra pressure, which really helps, especially with a young team.”
Rosen added: “We’re playing really free right now. They’re not wrapped up in trying to play perfect, they are just being aggressive and going after it.”
The Wolverines’ stellar performance impressed the alumni who returned for a homecoming ceremony after the second set.
“The girls are really good,” said Darlene Recker, who played from 1993-97. “I feel like every year the team gets better, which is fantastic. It’s nice to finally sit and watch the game without being nervous about it.”
The Wolverines kept the nerve-wracking moments to a minimum with their dominant showing. They will need to maintain a high level of play as they enter what could be the most difficult two-game stretch of their season. Michigan will host No. 25 Michigan State on Wednesday before welcoming perennial powerhouse and current No. 1 Penn State to Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday.