On Saturday night, the Wolverines’ game against Illinois pitted two of the best setters in the country against each other as the Michigan volleyball team’s Lexi Zimmerman took on No. 6 Illinois’s Hillary Haen. The two had been rivals dating back to high school.

Michigan’s setter got the upper hand as the Wolverines took care of Haen and the Illini in four sets at Cliff Keen Arena. Zimmerman displayed her all-around game, recording a triple double by tallying 43 assists, 13 digs and 13 kills.

A week after suffering its first conference loss to No. 4 Penn State, the Michigan volleyball team asserted itself as a presence at the top of the Big Ten. In toppling the Illini — who beat the Nittany Lions earlier in the season — the Wolverines pulled even with Illinois and Northwestern for a tie atop the conference.

“Illinois is a great team,” freshman middle blocker Jennifer Cross said after the match on Saturday. “To get a win from them is really good for our team and it gives us confidence for next week.”

After losing its last four matches with Illinois, Michigan (5-1 Big Ten, 16-2 overall) finally got over the hump.

“We’re playing a great opponent who’s going to give you a really good challenge and I thought we stepped up to that challenge,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.

The Wolverines battled through the first set, playing through 13 ties and five lead changes before salvaging the set, 28-26, setting the tone for the rest of the match.

“We were very aggressive from the beginning,” Rosen said. “We jumped on them early and that fed the tempo of the match. I thought that made a huge difference.”

Rosen was impressed with the play of his back line, which included junior libero Sloane Donhoff, senior Maggie Busch and freshman Ally Sabol. Donhoff finished the game with 22 digs.

Up two sets to one, the Wolverines let go of an 18-12 lead in the fourth set. Although the Illini (5-1, 13-3) had the momentum and service, they stumbled with two straight service errors, spotting Michigan a 25-24 lead. The Wolverines sealed the victory with a cross-court kill by freshman outside hitter Molly Toon on the next point.

As for the game’s setter rivalry, Zimmerman enjoyed facing off against Haen once again. The two had been on rival club and high school teams in suburban Chicago in the beginning of their careers.

“It’s always fun when we play each other,” Zimmerman said. “We go way back, but whenever we see each other it’s always a battle.”

On Friday, the first game of the homestand, the Wolverines knocked off Wisconsin in three sets as Hunt led the way with 12 kills. Michigan sported pink uniforms during the game for breast cancer awareness and auctioned them off with proceeds going to the University’s Women’s Health Program.

“Our serve and pass game was very good and that helped us win,” Toon said after the Wisconsin game.

The Wolverines’ next game will be at home against Michigan State on Wednesday night. On Friday, Michigan takes on No. 24 Northwestern, one of the conference’s top teams.

“We’re trying to progress through the season,” said Rosen. “In the Big Ten, you have 20 matches and you just want to keep getting as many wins as you can.”

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